In 2002 Madonna House received an invitation from Archbishop Adam Exner, OMI, to open a field house in the Archdiocese of Vancouver. Archbishop Exner spoke strongly of his desire that Madonna House be a presence of prayer in the Archdiocese, for the needs of the whole diocese – Archbishop, priests, religious and laity. He encouraged us to live out the contemplative aspect of our prayer life as a witness to all whom we meet.
Madonna House Vancouver was originally situated in South Surrey on the grounds of the Rosemary Heights Retreat Centre. As of October, 2007, we moved into the Kerrisdale area of Vancouver, and now live immediately across from St. John the Apostle Church. From this much more central and accessible vantage point, we are able to receive many more people and to make our apostolate visible to more parishes.
The spirit of prayer that Archbishop Exner reminded us of continues to be the foundation of our life in Madonna House Vancouver and the wellspring from which flows any and all of the works of service that we may be engaged in. In Vancouver, as in Combermere, we live a daily rhythm of prayer and work, trying always to make God present and visible in the very simple things that make up our days.
Our life of prayer includes the poustinia as well. We are blessed with a small house around the corner from where we live where we can go apart for 24 hours of prayer, fasting and solitude each week. This poustinia house is available for use by others who are in search of the same time of quiet prayer and fasting.
At the heart of our Madonna House spirituality is the gift of hospitality. Catherine Doherty spoke loudly and clearly about the terrible loneliness that afflicts so many today, in spite of our ever-growing access to communications technology. Many people find their way to our door, into our living room and into our hearts and prayers by their need for a listening ear. People join us for daily prayer and discover the oasis that the Liturgy of the Hours provides. Above all, people discover a place where they will be prayed with and prayed for in their need.
From the beginning of the foundation of Madonna House we have been given a great treasure in our foundress’s love of the Church and the teachings of the Magisterium. The Archdiocese of Vancouver, with its heritage of faithful witness to the Gospel over the years, is fertile ground for us to share our love with others who are eager to learn more about the gifts that the Church has to offer.
We are regular presenters with the Office of Religious Education of the Archdiocese as it incorporates our teachings on prayer and on the sacraments in its quarterly adult faith formation program. We offer monthly mornings of recollection during the school year, each year choosing a new topic to speak about and offer reflections on. We help with the parish RCIA programs here at St. John the Apostle and in other parishes when we are invited to participate by giving some of the teachings. For the last several years we have also taught in the parish based catechetical program for children (PREP). We are happy to receive invitations to give days of recollection to groups within the diocese and find that the different liturgical seasons of the year are often times when we are called on to share something of our Madonna House spirituality and life.
Both in Surrey and now in Kerrisdale, we have been able to grow a wonderful vegetable garden. This, by itself, could be a full-time apostolate as we meet neighbours and passers-by who look over the fence and stop to ask questions or just to admire the beauty and life that the garden brings to the city. It has also been a classroom of sorts for children of the parish catechetical program who join us in preparing the beds, planting the seeds and then putting the garden to bed at the end of the season. Needless to say, they keep a close watch on it over the summer as it grows and even harvest and sample some of the produce.
Catherine spoke to us of the chit-chat apostolate, and life in this city neighborhood offers us many opportunities to engage in that wonderful, simple way of relating. As we stop after mass and catch up on the news of our fellow parishioners, as we enter into conversation with those walking by – even the local workmen in the area are not immune to the contagion of conversation! And in all of those exchanges we pray that the love and the peace and the mercy of the Lord are communicated.
As much as possible, we share our unique Madonna House cultural heritage which holds a compliment of gifts from both the Eastern and Western expressions of our faith. In Lent we introduce ‘pysanky’ (Ukrainian Easter Egg design) to our friends; on August 15th, the Assumption of our Lady, we pray an adapted version of the Acathist Hymn; at Epiphany we invite our friends, neighbours and fellow parishioners to welcome the Three Kings with us, to bless their homes using the traditional Epiphany blessing and to receive a personal ‘word’ and gift from the King of Kings.
In all our duties of the moment, whether it be prayer, manual work, speaking or teaching we hold before us the needs of all who come to us and all for whom we have been asked to pray. We pray, too, for all of our benefactors who, through their donations, make our life and apostolate in Vancouver possible. We stand in awe of God’s mercy and faithfulness as He accomplishes His work in our own hearts and in the hearts of those whom we love and pray for.