Madonna House

Combermere Diary (April 2016)

by Paulette Curran

Because Easter is so early this year, I am writing this column during the last week of Lent, even more ahead of time than usual.

Spring is just beginning, and that includes, among other things, the works of early spring such as pruning the apple trees and collecting the sap of the sugar maple trees and boiling it down into delicious maple syrup.

In the kitchen and bakery, Easter preparations are well underway—the making ofkoolitch (Russian Easter bread), paska (a Russian cottage cheese dish, which is a symbol of Christ) and buns. Andorra Howard is the koolitch baker this year.

And we have been making pysanky—beautiful, intricate Ukrainian Easter eggs. (Legend has it that if this Lenten tradition ever dies, evil will overcome the world.)

Lent is a quiet time for us and a holy one. This year, a part of that holiness, a part which started a few months before Lent, is that we have been in the process of electing all three of our directors general—of laymen, women, and priests.

For in all three “departments,” of Madonna House, the third and maximum number of terms for the DGs has come or will come to an end during 2016.

The first election, as we’ve said before, was that of the laymen, and their new director, Larry Klein, is already in office.

The second was the women’s election, and we too have our new director, Elizabeth Bassarear. She won’t be taking office until November 2nd. Finally, the priests elected their director general: Fr. David Linder, who will be taking office on July 25th.

In our community, the election of a director general takes much time, prayer, and listening, for we elect, not through a democratic process, but through what is calledsobornost, a Russian process, which our foundress, Catherine Doherty, taught us.

Sobornost means unanimity, and it is a way that requires deep faith. We will tell you more about it when the time comes for the director of women and that of priests to take office.

Here are some more news. Susanne Stubbs, the current director general of women, and Elizabeth Bassarear visited our two staff on the island of Carriacou in the West Indies. They were there when sobornost in the women’s election was achieved!

Our applicants had afternoon tea with our staff who reside in our wing for our sick and elderly. It was a time of their getting to know one another, and the elders told them stories about the early days of Madonna House.

Fr. Louis Labrecque and Doug Guss attended a seminar on maple syrup production.

A number of us attended a concert by the Redeemer University College Choir from Ancaster, Ontario.

A longterm working guest, Patricia Gill, who is a hair dresser, gave a class on hair-cutting to those interested.

Michelle Schaeken, an applicant who works in the gift shop, had been sorting and researching (for purposes of pricing) nursery rhyme Wade Whimsies—collectible miniature figurines that have been coming in boxes of Red Rose Tea for many, many years.

She put up a display and hosted an optional evening in which we ended up reciting nursery rhymes together. Since most of the North Americans among us had grown up with these rhymes, it was a fun time of nostalgia.

Kathy McVady and Fr. Zach Romanowsky gave the annual diocesan women’s retreat, this year entitled, Becoming Apostles of Mercy. Over fifty attended.

Marian Heiberger accompanied them with a book table, and Linda Lambeth and Patricia Lawton manned another book table at the annual Lift Jesus Higher Rally in Toronto.

We had a variety of optional prayer experiences available this Lent. Andorra Howard led a Praise and Worship prayer meeting, and Paul Moore led an Eastern Rite Lenten prayer service—the Canon of St. Andrew of Crete.

As I write this column, the holiest time of year is almost upon us. Holy Week will be, spiritually and otherwise, very full and rich. Besides the Holy Week liturgies, we will be having a penance service, an evening of Easter egg dying, and on the evening of Good Friday, the Eastern Rite service of the Burial of Christ.

Then, of course, we will have the greatest liturgy of the year—the Easter Vigil.

Finally, we will celebrate in various ways that gradually get more simple, all of the Easter Season! For the fact that Christ is risen is the deepest, most glorious truth of our faith.

We will be well into the Easter season by the time you receive this newspaper. May the rest of it be a time of grace and blessing.

P.S. (written the Friday of Easter Week just before I finish the final corrections before sending the paper to press)

Let me give you just a couple more items of news:

On Holy Thursday, we had a major snowstorm, so much so that a few of us didn’t make it to the service. We had a very white Easter. This far north when Easter is so early, such things can happen.

At the Easter Vigil, Tea Laurila, a working guest from Finland, was received into the Church. We will tell you more about this next time.

On Easter morning, led by Fr. Zach Romanowsky, over twenty people took a pre-dawn hike to a lookout point to see the sunrise.

As an added holiness to a holy time, all throughout Holy Week and Easter Week, Lupe Zabaco was very slowly dying. One staff worker, a nurse, said she never saw such a peaceful dying.