Madonna House

Combermere Diary (December 2015)

by Paulette Curran

Some of our news this month didn’t happen in Combermere; it happened in connection with the pope’s visit to America and the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia.

No, I am not going to quote from the pope’s many talks or give you one more commentary. I’m just going to tell you a little bit about how we experienced these things in this area of backwoods Ontario.

For us, as for many of you, that mostly meant experiencing the pope’s visit through television. And, since we are not too far from the places the pope visited, it also meant hearing about it from people who were present in one place or another.

Linda Lambeth taped many of the talks from EWTN, the American religious television station, and evenings found varying size groups of us watching these tapes on our little-used TV set.

Then there was the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia, which five of us attended. Teresa Reilander, Margarita Guerrero, and Alex Do manned a Madonna House Publications book table, David Guzman came all the way from Marian Centre Edmonton, and Melanie Murphy chose to attend for part of her holidays.

When they returned, Teresa, Margarita, and Alex, all wearing World Meeting of Families knapsacks and T-shirts gave us a report about it.

The theme of the week was Love is our Mission: The Family Fully Alive, and over 100 countries and a variety of faith traditions were represented.

Our booth, one of several hundred displays by various movements, communities, organizations, etc., was open on both sides and well situated—by the largest area of free food and the rest rooms.

So they had lots of visitors, including many with Madonna House connections. Our staff heard many stories about how MH had touched people’s lives.

One visitor told of reading a life-changing article by Fr. Bob Pelton, “The Time Is Now,” in a 1985 copy of Restoration. This article led to her decision to adopt the first of what turned out to be a number of children. She also ended up beginning an adoption program.

Surprisingly, our group saw so many young people—Sisters, priests, families, members of new communities, that, said Margarita, “you’d think there was no one in the Church over fifty!”

All in all, “It was,” said Margarita, “a wonderful experience of Church and hope and a great preparation for the Synod.”

One exciting fruit of this World Meeting of Families was a family day in Ottawa. I had started to write it up in this column, but like that day, what I wrote grew, and it ended up being a small separate article. (See “Date Night” on this page.)

As some families had a time of renewal in Ottawa, so did some priests, this time in Combermere. For early October was the time of the annual meetings of our associates: bishops, priests, deacons, and deacon wives.

Our own priests always attend as well, but, even a couple of weeks earlier, we weren’t expecting Fr. Pat McNulty to do so. Well, he was even well enough to concelebrate at the Masses!

This year the theme, in connection with the upcoming Year of Mercy, wasContemplating the Face of Mercy, An Extraordinary Jubilee.

What else has been happening? Well, autumn and preparations for winter, among other things. The farmers slaughtered four cows and thirty-two sheep for our meat for the winter. They harvested the late vegetables: such as squash, beets, turnips, and kale, and, in preparation for next year’s crops, they stoned the fields.

Other men winterized the buildings and put away the outdoor furniture from both the outside of the main house and the gift shop. The gift shop staff closed the museum and transformed the Small Shop into a Christmas shop.

And, of course, there has been lots of raking by men and women, staff and guests.

The applicants researched the lives of the earliest saints and blesseds of Canada, and then they pilgrimaged to the place where some of these people and others were martyred: the Shrine of the Canadian Martyrs in Midland, Ontario, a couple of hours away from Combermere.

We once again had what we call a “fun run”—an afternoon of running or walking however much or little of an 8 kilometer (5 miles) walk you chose. Aliz Trombitas, just shortly before leaving for her new assignment in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, organized it.

The weather was mild and beautiful, and there was no limit on how little you could walk. So besides strong young runners and varying aged walkers, the participants included at least three people in wheel chairs, one with a walker, and two or so with canes. One of the wheel chairs went for 4 km.

Autumn, with its mild weather and its beautifully colored trees, is the best time of year for hikes, and Larry Klein has been leading one just about every Sunday afternoon. There have been other hikes as well, of course, and also, on Thanksgiving Day, we had the opportunity to take an hour or so off work for a drive through the autumn scenery.

On October 4th, some of us went to Barry’s Bay, our nearest town, to participate in the Life Chain, an annual hour of public prayer for an end to abortion and for the people affected by it, an event that took place across the United States and Canada.

We have had lots of working guests lately, including four Korean seminarians sent to us by their seminary. All the guests are taking Fr. Denis Lemieux’s weekly class on “The Fundamentals of the Spiritual Life.”

Four of the men staff went to a plumbing and heating trade show, a few people went on a studio tour (to the studios of local artisans), and Diana Breeze gave a talk to “Friends of Madonna House,” a group mainly consisting of former working guests.

Well, I guess that’s the news for this month. May God grant each of you a blessed Advent and a joyous Christmas.