Combermere Diary

by Paulette Curran

What a wonderful autumn it has been—the mildest one I remember. We didn’t even have a hard frost until mid-October. It may be the first time we didn’t have to pick most of our tomatoes green.
It certainly made the late autumn outdoor work more pleasant—work which included harvesting, apple picking and juicing, making sauerkraut and pickles, slaughtering and meat cutting, putting the gardens and fields “to bed,” composting, and raking.
The walking and hiking amidst the fall colors was great. Plus, we were offered a couple of “leaf tours.”
We took this word from the commercial “leaf tours” in the area. These bus tours drive through areas that have especially colorful maple and other leaves and stop at places of interest. Our gift shop is one of the stops for some of them.
Back to our leaf tours. There was one for the residents of Our Lady of the Visitation, where we care for our elderly, and one for the rest of us on Thanksgiving Day. (Info. for Americans: Canadian Thanksgiving is in October.)
The first event of this time frame was the meetings of our associate priests, deacons, and deacon wives. (There are a few associate bishops, too, but none came this year.)
The meetings are a retreat of sorts and include talks and sharings, Masses, a penance service, and opportunities to visit with one another and with us.
They are also an opportunity for the making and renewing of the associates’ Madonna House promises. This year only one was due to renew: Fr. Anthony Akpanessian. Fr. Anthony, who currently lives in Toronto, is from Nigeria.
Speaking of priests, we are also involved in the formation of future priests. Our winter spiritual formation program for men discerning priesthood has begun under the new leadership of Fr. Denis Lemieux.
This year, there are six: Kolby McNulty and Dustin Schomaker from Nebraska, Jeremiah Barker from Vermont, Andrew Tobin from British Columbia, Caleb Sterzer from Winnipeg, and Anthony Hamon, our neighbour from Combermere.
And classes have begun for our working guests as well: The Fundamentals of the Spiritual Life, taught by Fr. Denis.
Remember last month when we told you about the acceptance of our new applicants and had a photo of four of them? Well, there are actually five. Maria Kim was unable to be present at that time as she was awaiting her visa in Korea. It finally came through, and she is now with us.
She was officially accepted at supper on October 14th, the Foundation Day of Madonna House Toronto, making the grand total of both our applicant classes eleven. A Korean guest, Won Mi, who is the farm cook’s assistant, volunteered to bake Maria the traditional cake with the cross on top.
Another big event that I want to tell you just a bit about happened away from here—the celebration of the 50th anniversary of our mission house, Marian Centre Regina.
We already told you about the house in the November issue, but the actual anniversary celebration was on October 15th. A few MH staff attended including Mary Beth Mitchell and Beverly Maciag from the founding team; Nancy Topping, a recent director of MCR; and Larry Klein, director general of men.
At that reception were available 400 copies of the November Restoration, a special issue about that house.
That those newspapers were there was the result of prayer and the determination and work of Bonnie Staib, our circulation manager.
For the paper was due to arrive from the printers on Friday, October 14th, and the celebration (in Saskatchewan) was on the 15th!
To ask the printers to get it to us earlier was problematic since they had a shorter work-week due to Thanksgiving being on Monday. But we could ask God. So we prayed.
One providential plus was that Nancy could not fly to Regina before Thursday.
On Tuesday, earlier than normal, Bonnie phoned the printers to find out when the paper would be ready for us. Wednesday! And they knew nothing of our special need!
So Bonnie rearranged her day, picked them up, and packed 400 copies in a suitcase to go with Nancy.
Another beautiful thing happened in connection with timing. Archbishop Donald Bolen was installed as the new bishop of Regina on October 14th, the day before the 50th anniversary celebration.
The MH staff of Regina and the visiting staff attended the installation, and the next day, their brand new bishop was the main celebrant at their special anniversary Mass.
Archbishop Bolen is an associate bishop of MH and has had a long association with our community and spirituality. He is from Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, where we opened a house when he was a child.
He later volunteered in Marian Centre Regina and came to Combermere as a longterm working guest before he went to the seminary. He has spoken of the deep influence Madonna House has had on him.
Here’s an interesting story about how people get to know Madonna House. A number of weeks ago Gloria Lawton, who works in the gift shop, met an art teacher from Ottawa who was a customer there. She told him about our artist, Patrick Stewart, who was in Edmonton at the time, and suggested he contact Patrick.
She also gave him a copy of the booklet, Visions on the Mountain: The Madonna House Artist, Catherine’s vision of art. He contacted Patrick and came to see him, and they had a great visit. Soon after that, he brought 27 students for a tour of MH and a visit to Patrick’s studio.
They stayed in the nearby town of Barry’s Bay, exploring the Catholic tradition of the area and doing some landscape painting at a local park.
What else has been going on?
We had our semi-annual begging letter bee in which we all got together and folded, stuffed and sealed the begging letters many of you received. Then later we had shorter bees to write thank you notes for the donations we received.
A company belonging to one of our Cana families painted the outside of St. Mary’s, our largest building. It looks great!
A number of us attended the annual pro-life Life Chain, an hour of lining up along the main street of town with signs, praying for the end to abortion.
May God grant each of you a grace-filled Advent and a joyous Christmas.