Combermere Diary

by Paulette Curran

The image that comes to me about our recent time is that used by Hans Urs von Balthasar in his book Heart of the World. It’s of time flowing by like a river, of time that we cannot hold on to, of time that just keeps flowing.

We’ve had one major event after another—each intense, full, with its own work, ceremony, emotions. We prepare for it, live it, and then, time flows on.

The first of our MH events was the annual meetings of the directors of our houses and a few others from Combermere, meetings which last 2 ½ weeks.

This is a holy time, a time of support and discernment, a time for the directors to be together, a time of looking at what is happening in Madonna House and its missions in the light of the Holy Spirit, a time of seeing what changes need to be made. It was the first of these meetings to be led by our new directors general.

Helen Hodson, who had been slowly dying, died just before the meetings. So, for what I think is only the second time for a funeral, the directors from the various houses were able to attend.

Barring the unexpected, we will be telling you about Helen in our next issue—about this English woman who struggled with cancer for ten years and who, among other things, painted icons and gave Ignatian retreats.

Then we celebrated the 50th anniversary of priesthood of two of our priests: Fr. Bob Wild and Fr. Tom Zoeller.

The heart of the celebration was the Mass and reception, and these were beautiful, a beauty that came, I think, not mainly through anything specific, but through the awareness of the awesomeness of 50 years of priesthood.

Fr. David May expressed that in his homily when he read Catherine Doherty’s piece giving the vision of priesthood: “What is a Priest?”

There were probably 30 priests on the altar, and since both Fr. Tom and Fr. Bob were spiritual directors, some of their directees also came. Both priests also went “home” for a second celebration with their families and friends.

This next event was the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the foundation of MH Combermere. This celebration was a simple one, a fun one—an afternoon picnic with the directors just at the end of the meetings. It was, among other things, an opportunity to visit with the directors, who aren’t around much during the meetings.

There were several events besides the usual picnic-type things. One of the directors, Hugo Isaza, led whoever wished in salsa dancing. Veronica Dudych taught a group a Congolese song, which they sang in the evening.

And on display were photos, by year, of everyone who has ever made promises in Madonna House, a display which was put together for our 50th anniversary.

In the evening, we heard a tape of Fr. Eddie telling of the early days while we watched slides of them. We also saw some current slides of some of our houses, which the directors had brought with them.

One world-wide event which we also celebrated was the 100th anniversary of the appearance of Our Lady of Fatima. We had a special Mass, breakfast, and rosary procession, and we saw a DVD of the Fatima story.

Moreover, interspersed with these events (and our usual work!) were other smaller events.

Carol Ann Gieske and Helen Porthouse put on a puppet show of a Russian story at a local grade school. More than two vanloads of people went to Ottawa for the annual March for Life. (We also had a book table at their dinner.) Two or three people attended the New Evangelization Summit in Ottawa.

We had a presentation by a local physiotherapist about the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis and a DVD about song birds and how they are endangered by the modern world.

We also heard a beautiful witness talk by a Catholic man with same-sex attraction, a member of the organization called “Courage,” who, after a conversion experience, is living a faithful, chaste life.

Among our visitors were a few members of the Marian Missionaries of Divine Mercy (a new community), and a small group of university students who drove here all the way from Texas.

And, believe it or not, all the above isn’t all our news. The weather, too, was an event, for we experienced a flood.

The combination of a winter with a lot of snow, an early mild spell causing a fast melting, and some heavy rain, caused it.

I hate to use the word “flood” because it conjures up, in my mind at least, all those images of roofs peeking out of a sea of water. It wasn’t that bad! But the Madawaska River, on whose banks we live, was way higher than anyone here can remember.

Moreover, every stream, lake, and pond was full, full, full, and over-full, and the usual paths of melting snow, such as roadside ditches and culverts were filled with rushing water. Plus the water found itself new paths.

The sight of all this water plus the fallen trees and branches from the snowstorm just before Holy Week, has made for interesting walks, even along the roads.

One day after lunch, for just a few minutes, we went to see the drama of galloping water at a nearby log chute which survives from the time when logs were transported by water.

The river didn’t overflow its banks, thanks be to God, but the ground was, still is, saturated with water, and this ground-water caused serious flooding of the basements of seven of our buildings, including the main house. (For a time, the water was coming into the main house basement at the rate of a gallon a minute.)

Sump pumps and wet vacs and a huge effort mainly by the men kept the basement flooding under control, but the water still did damage, especially to dry wall.

In the MH Publications basement office, to give just one example, a 60-foot section of wall had to be replaced. Plus, our docks, which were almost submerged in the high water, also need repair.

All in all, the flooding has made a lot of extra work for the men’s department. (And they still haven’t finished cleaning up the fallen trees and branches lying around after the heavy April snow storm.)

Now the water is receding and, except for the men doing flood-related repairs, the flood, like all our other events, is over. The river of time flows on.

In the flow now, besides the work, seasonal and otherwise, and just living, is the beauty of early summer. May God bless each of you and may he give you many incidents of summer joy.