Madonna House

Combermere Diary (November 2015)

by Paulette Curran

Early autumn is a beautiful time of year in this area, and the past few days have been unseasonably warm—more like August than mid-September. Also sunny. Ahhhhhhh! Weather doesn’t get better than this.

The harvesting and food processing continue and along with it the building of the extension to the farm house.

Due to a late frost, our apple harvest was poor this year, and the gardeners have been going here and there gathering the apples generous friends whose apple trees were not affected by the frost, are giving us. A big thank you to all of them.

Beekeeper Andorra Howard and helpers extracted honey. When they finished around 2:30 a.m., they had about 800 pounds.

Speaking of bees, there is the other kind besides the kind that makes honey—the work bee, which consists of many people working together to get a job done. Recently we have had two of these: the potato harvesting bee and the chicken bee.

I don’t know how many potatoes we got, but at the chicken bee on September 8th, around 70 people processed 200 birds.

Then that evening, we switched gears completely, for it was the evening of the official acceptance of the new applicants, those who are beginning their formation to become members of our community.

The ceremony is a simple one, and this year, Susanne Stubbs began it by formally introducing Joanne Dionne as the new director of training for the women applicants and thanking outgoing Victoria Fausto for ten years of doing this work.

The new applicants were soon plunged into their new life with a meeting with their director general, a day of recollection, classes, and training in various areas of work.

Another big event of early September was Heritage Fest—a sort of fair put on by the staff of the gift shop, museum, and handicraft center and other individual staff who do various kinds of crafts. It’s a fair celebrating crafts, beauty, and the ways our ancestors, even some of grandparents, lived.

Catherine Doherty would have loved Heritage Fest. She put together the pioneer museum so that future generations could touch the past, and she set up the handicraft center. How important these things are, especially at this time when so many spend so much time in virtual reality.

There was so much going on at Heritage Fest that I hardly know where to begin in telling you about it all.

You could see and touch real bees (safe ones, drones), taste their honey, and learn about bee-keeping from Andorra Howard.

You could see and learn about the train kiln Darrin Prowse made for Raandi King and see the pots that were fired there.

You could get sketched by Patrick Stewart or watch him sketch someone else. You could watch Mark Schlingerman carve and learn about ebru, traditional Turkish paper marbling, from Bonnie Staib.

Lots of the displays were inter-active, and the children especially loved them. You could help make ice cream by cranking an old-fashioned ice cream maker. You could card and felt wool, make rope, carve wood, and even try potting at a wheel. You could also make music by pumping the player piano in the museum.

There were also some modern touches: Your children could, for example, get their faces painted, and if they came on Saturday, get an animal made out of balloons.

And was there anyone who didn’t watch the puppet show by Carol Ann Gieske and Trina Stitak if they happened to be around when it was performed?

Well, that’s a taste, just a taste of some of what happened at Heritage Fest. Just add to your imagining of it some live music, people visiting with each other, and a festive, family atmosphere.

Now, here’s some really good news: Any of you who has been reading Restorationfor more than a few months is familiar with Fr. Pat McNulty’s column, and many of you know that he has been seriously ill.

One Friday a few weeks ago, we were told that he would probably die over the weekend and would certainly not last the week. We prayed for him and grieved and prepared for a funeral.

Well, he didn’t die! Gradually, he began to eat more than just ice chips—first a little ice cream, then some softened cheese and gradually other foods.

To our amazement, he started showing up for things: Mass or a meal. You’d also see him in the hallways of St. Mary’s, driving his electric wheel chair himself and, once in a while, you’d see him at the computer.

This past Sunday, he concelebrated Mass in a wheel chair and put in an appearance at the 90th birthday party of a friend who lives in the area!

More and more, though he is still very weak, he is getting back to being his old feisty self. What can we say but “alleluia” and “thank you, God” for whatever more time we have with him.

Now for some more ordinary happenings: Andorra Howard, along with several hundred other beekeepers, attended the annual conference of the Eastern Apicultural Society at the University of Guelph. Anne Marie Murphy and Mary Davis attended the Twist Sheep/Wool Festival in Quebec.

Larry Klein and Raandi King gave a presentation on physician assisted suicide, suggesting that we write letters. The Supreme Court has recently overturned the law which made it illegal in Canada, and the plan is that a new law giving specifics will be worked on in a year’s time.

Fr. David May gave us a talk and summary of Laudato Si’, Pope Francis’ new encyclical on the environment.

Among our visitors, one of note was Brother Marc Piret, the founder of the new ecclesiastical community, Tiberiade, in Belgium. He and his community are friends of MH Belgium.

A group called, “Ottawa Friends of Madonna House,” spent a day here as did the resident assistants (house parents) of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy. The latter came for a Madonna House experience.

Speaking of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, our local school of higher learning, Fr. Zach Romanowsky has been appointed as their chaplain.

These days we are praying for the Pope’s visit to Cuba and the U.S. and the World Meeting of Families. Four of our staff attended the Meeting and we’ll be telling you about that next month. And of course we are praying for Europe and the refuges.

You, too, are in our prayers. May God give you, pressed down and overflowing, whatever graces you need at this time.