Madonna House

Combermere Diary (January 2014)

by Paulette Curran

I have just returned from a morning at our Restoration mail-out bee. Whoever could be spared from his or her regular work participated, and we folded your newspapers, stuck labels on the envelopes, and stuffed the papers into the envelopes.

It’s simple, rhythmic work and a sociable time. I imagine it’s a bit like those old-fashioned quilting bees.

So know that, every month, many of us take part of getting our newspaper to you. As we work, we pray for each of you, and I can only speak for myself, but as I put each label on the envelope, I feel connected with you—you whom I know, certainly, and those I don’t know as well.

There are so many works within our apostolate. And some that take place frequently, most of us probably wouldn’t think of mentioning when people ask, “What does Madonna House do?”

One of these “unmentioned” works is retreats. I don’t remember a month in recent times when no one went out to give a retreat. Mostly it’s our priests, but sometimes it’s our lay members as well.

We receive invitations to give them through a variety of ways, but the invitation for one recent retreat at Christ in the Desert Monastery in New Mexico (given by Fr. Bob Wild), especially touched our hearts.

When the bishop of our diocese, Bishop Michael Mulhall, gave their retreat last year, they asked him if he had any suggestions for this year. He said, “Ask a Madonna House priest.”

We also serve at retreats in other ways than giving them. Recently, Fr. Robert Johnson was the chaplain for the annual Women of Bethany retreat in Ottawa, and MH Publications hosted a book table.

For Linda Lambeth, head of our publications department, who hosted the book table, it was an eye opener to see the hidden and not so hidden influence of Madonna House on these women.

Many of them had already read some of our books or knew about MH Ottawa or Combermere or had been here, if only for a tour.

“They were so happy to see us participating,” said Linda, “and they were delighted to tell us of their MH experiences.”

Three of us also participated in a weekend conference called Challenges in the New Evangelization sponsored by the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars.

Fr. Bob Pelton gave a presentation, a short story he had written about faith, and Mary Lynn Murray gave a short talk at a panel discussion. Fr. Denis Lemieux gave a talk on Our Lady and the New Evangelization, and Mary McGoff hosted a book table.

But however much we go out to do God’s work, it’s as true as it ever was that most of the time, we are at home doing very ordinary things.

These November days, when I am writing this column, the leaves are fallen and the snow has not yet come. The harvest is in and put up for the winter and the tools cleaned and put away. Some of the farmers, gardeners, and food processors are on their vacations.

The gardeners, the women who take care of the fruit growing, had some extra work this end-of-season. They and their helpers dug one hundred holes in preparation for planting blueberries in the spring.

Our strawberries—a fruit we have had available for special occasions—have had a problem with mold, and so we decided to grow blueberries instead.

This hole-digging was a huge project since each hole is one foot deep and three feet wide, and a mixture of different kinds of soil had to be put in those holes. Men and women worked together on this one.

Yes, strawberries are gone, and so are some of our trees. A number of the ones in our yards were dying, mostly of old age and were in danger of falling. So the bush crew has been cutting them down. Some of them, especially, are missed.

This gray time of year did have one planned fun day: what its organizers Aliz Trombitas and Beth Scott called “The First Annual Our Lady of Combermere Fun Run.” I suppose you could call it a Madonna House version of the marathon.

The full run was 8K (4.97 miles), but like everything else recreational in Madonna House, it was adapted so that just about anyone could participate. You could run or walk 1K, 2K, 4K or 8K or whatever. Thirty-six people participated.

A small crowd of those who didn’t run, led by applicant Stephen Tosterud resplendent in a clown costume, cheered them on.

Applicant Frank Brick ran over 10K because the sign marking the finish point had blown away. On the other end of the scale, several of those with limited walking ability did a very short part of it. Fr Pat McNulty, recuperating from his surgery, did 1K, but he crossed the finish line in his car!

On All Hallow’s Eve we enjoyed our annual visit from the local “little saints”—children whose families celebrate All Saints Day instead of Halloween and who dress up as saints.

As for us, we celebrate All Saints differently every year. This year, during the week we had been asked to put a quote from a saint on one side of a 3×5 card and the name of the saint, and perhaps a line or two about him or her, on the other.

At an evening gathering, organized by Melanie Murphy and Veronica Dudych, we guessed who said which quote.

A few “saints” put in appearances including Bill Ryan in an elaborate clown’s costume as St. Genisius, patron of actors, comedians, and clowns.

Catherine Thomas, a working guest from England, came as Catherine Doherty. Catherine with an English accent? “Now that I am in heaven,” she explained, “I speak perfect English!”

On All Souls’ Day, we prayed the rosary at the cemetery.

Remember in the November “Combermere Diary,” we told you about Raandi King learning about techniques of firing pottery? Well, since then, with the help of Darrin Prowse and Patti Birdsong, she did her first pit firing. The results were unusual and beautiful.

In order to reach young people on the internet, Madonna House has decided to have 7 to 10 minute segments produced for Roman Catholic Internet T.V., and we’ve asked Villagers Media to produce them.

They began recently by filming for a few days. They’ll be back: they’ll be filming during different seasons.

That’s it for the news this time. May 2014 be for you a year of many graces and blessings.