Madonna House

Combermere Diary (July-August 2015)

by Paulette Curran

As sometimes happens in this part of the world, springtime was cold and late; in fact for most of it, it hardly felt or looked like spring at all.

As sometimes happens in this part of the world, springtime was cold and late; in fact for most of it, it hardly felt or looked like spring at all.

Then all of a sudden, the first week of May, the weather warmed up, got hot actually, and in just a few days, all of nature burst out and rushed to catch up.

Within just one week, buds burst into tiny leaves that quickly grew to almost full size. Grass seemed to spring up over night; dandelions, the same.

What happened with fiddlehead ferns says it best. They never went through their curled up fiddlehead stage when they are soft and edible. Within 24-hours, they were almost full-grown.

It was, to me, a symbol of the Resurrection. And it happened during the first week of our annual directors’ meetings. I think it was a symbol of what happened during the meetings, too.

Yes, it was directors’ meetings time, the time when the directors of all our mission houses gather together along with the leadership here in Combermere. To do what? Mainly to “listen to the Spirit” together.

I didn’t attend the meetings, but all the staff are given the notes of them to read, and that’s the word that came through to me loud and clear.

I wonder how many reports of annual leadership meetings are as free of statistic-based evaluations and concrete planning as these were.

There was a concern, not with plans and figuring out, but with fostering the growth in holiness of all of us, and this was discussed with love and deep respect for our freedom and dignity.

Our foundress Catherine Doherty used to tell us that what we do matters, but not much, but who we are matters tremendously. She must have been smiling down on her spiritual children.

It had been a difficult year for many of the houses. How could it not have been with the times we are in? Yet, so much hope was expressed in the meetings, not hope that things will change for the better in the near future but hope in the power and love and care of God.

One director said, “All the darkness of the world, the pain, suffering, the struggling that we were sharing at the beginning of these meetings and yet the word of hope—having to encourage one another, reminding each other that underneath all this there is great beauty … . What we are doing for the world is blessing it, calling down the Holy Spirit.”

Another director from a very difficult house, said, “I have been strengthened by these meetings in a way I didn’t expect. Today’s words have given me strength, in all the examples we have shared of the reality that God blesses our houses with. He really allows us to be a light to our neighbour’s feet in the midst of our failures as we stumble along.

“I have come to realize this year, the power of the Mother of God and that she will be the victor, and the amazing humility of our God that he will allow this woman to conquer … . She is at our meetings, this presence, hidden but very strong.”

And on the last day of the meetings, Susanne Stubbs, director general of women said, “At Mass today, we’ve been reading St. John’s Gospel as it is the Easter Season. All we need to know is there.

In the world you will have trouble, but be brave. I have overcome the world (John 16:33) and Whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you (John 14:13).

Meanwhile, the rest of us, those not attending the meetings, were praying for them and going on about our daily life. And, as always, there were community-wide events during the meetings. On our Foundation Day, the anniversary of the founding of Madonna House, we had our annual picnic with the directors.

It was, among other things, a good opportunity to visit with individual directors who didn’t have a lot of time to visit with us otherwise.

Another event which occurred during the meetings was the 40th anniversary of the death of Fr. Eddie Doherty on May 4th. We celebrated with an evening of sharing stories about him.

Then as they do most years, each weekday, the local director of a different house gave a description of his or her house and told stories about it at our after-dinner spiritual reading. It’s a good way for the guests to learn about our houses.

We have many statues of Our Lady, most dating from the time of Catherine, standing in a row on top of the library shelves, and this year Teresa Gehred, head librarian, had an idea of a way for us to learn about the various titles of Our Lady.

Each evening during May, one person briefly told us the story of one of the statues right after supper.

In a simple ceremony Susanne Stubbs (director general of women) and Mark Schlingerman (director general of men) presented the two new local directors, Maureen Ray of MH Windsor and Hugo Isaza of Marian Centre Regina (both are Canadian houses) with a key, a symbol of their authority.

Then on May 14th, a number of us—staff, priests, applicants, guests and local directors—attended the annual National Right to Life March in Ottawa. The staff of MH Toronto and St. Joseph’s House were also there. This year saw the biggest number of MH people at that march yet.

These marches are a great opportunity to publicly witness to the sacredness of every human life. And for MH staff, they are also an opportunity to visit with local friends and former guests who attend the march in numbers. One person said that all she did was sit on the grass, and lots of our friends came by to say hello or chat.

Fr. Denis Lemieux has a new book published by Justin Press: Idol Thoughts: The Captivity of the Mind and Its Liberation in Christ.

A few of us attended Rom Maione’s funeral in Ottawa.

In the September issue, we will cover our Promises Day, the day members of MH make for the first time or renew their commitment to God in the MH vocation. It missed coverage this month by just two days.

In this summer season, may God grant you the peace that only he can give.