In 1947 Catherine and Eddie moved to Combermere, Ontario, amid the woods of Canada, to begin a new life and to engage in rural mission work. They lived in a small house they named Madonna House, in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Although life there was rigorous and hardly comfortable, people came to the rustic setting to join in, much to Catherine's surprise. She welcomed them warmly and, together, they prayed, ate meals, sang and worked, peeling vegetables, chopping wood, cleaning and sorting donated items, and all the while learning from Catherine how God can permeate even the smallest task when it is done out of love for him.
Catherine spoke and wrote about the Gospel in simple words, everyday language that people could understand. Her words were complemented by her life, which showed clearly how to live what she was talking about. It was a simple, clear way to connect the Gospel with everyday, ordinary life. The genius of Catherine's spirituality, then and now, is that it can be applied to anyone's life situation, whether they be a learned theologian or a waitress, a medical doctor or a school child.
“Do little things well for the love of God,” she told people. “Every task, routine or not, is of redeeming, supernatural value because we are united to Christ. We must be recollected and stay aware of this truth.”
It was through such seemingly mundane tasks, performed with the motivation of love for God, that the world could be restored to Christ, she maintained. As people came to join her, Madonna House began to live out as a community a Gospel way of life, even in the most ordinary tasks. Slowly, the tiny apostolate grew and, at the request of various bishops, Catherine opened field houses in their dioceses around the world. Thus, the humble, hidden life based on the Holy Family of Nazareth spread.