Notes from Near and Far: Ottawa, England and Victoria

by Shatzi Duffy, Nikola Kanachowski and Marilyn Grant

MH Ottawa

by Shatzi Duffy

Although she is much too young to brag about her age, at 79 years, AJ (Arlene Becker) is biking around the city, or rather was, until the snow came. She also listens to the people who come to us and lights candles for the numerous prayer intentions that flow into this house. (AJ, the founding director of this house, has been here since 1973.)

Catherine Lynch joined us in March and says that she is enjoying her time here. Although she has never considered herself a city person, she loves Ottawa. In her view, it has warmth, vitality and a vibrant Catholic presence. She is already well-connected in the city and is always gracious to our friends and visitors.

She and AJ attend a weekly exercise class called “Minds in Motion,” where they perform an hour of physical stretching followed by brain fitness exercises.

All three of us have been deeply involved in the Unbound Program, which included helping train prayer ministers for a weekend event in October.

Founders Neal and Janet Lozano presented the first conference in this city of their integrated approach to inner healing and deliverance. About 350 people attended, including some MH priests and staff. Catherine Lynch gave a stirring witness talk to the whole crowd.

Many of those attending testified to a deeper experience of freedom in Christ through this event.

We have also been able to integrate this approach into the prayer ministry of our house. AJ and I work as a team leading people through the Five Keys of Repentance, Forgiveness, Renouncing Lies, Authority, and Blessing. AJ is the intercessor and I do the interview, and we pray the blessing prayers together.

As I write this letter, I have just left the bedside of my 94 year-old father, who has recently been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and has weeks to months to live.

My siblings have decided to care for him at home with help around the clock. I was privileged to take my turn at “night duty” during my visit. I am so grateful to my siblings for the care they are taking of our father.

If we really surrender everything, including “father, mother, etc…” hasn’t God promised to give us the Kingdom? This letting go of my father is only one of the many experiences of poverty we live every day in our poustinia house, where Jesus continues to dispossess us from all we thought we had, even from ourselves.

Sometimes, however, we acquire a new possession. Shortly before Advent, I found some old, unused Advent candles at home, so we decided to keep the Irish Advent custom of lighting a candle in the window to let the Holy Family know that they are welcome here.

 

MH England

by Nikola Kanachowski

“Be bold and ask for your needs.” These were the words that our bishop challenged us with this year.

We responded by writing our annual letter to our friends and benefactors, standing in our vulnerability, and telling them openly about our financial and material needs.

Well, the response was overwhelming! Not only are our friends providing for our needs, but they are also responding by revealing their own vulnerability, sharing their life stories and burdens, and thus uniting themselves with us.

As I looked over the last few months in preparation to writing these notes, I was astounded at the richness of our life here.

It’s true that we are a bit hard up financially and that we have various material needs. Moreover, we ourselves are poor in number, lack certain personal gifts, and struggle with various defects of character.

Yet there is so much beauty in each other, in those who come to us, and in our way of life—not to mention the astounding beauty of our physical surroundings.

What a mystery it all is! It seems that without some form of poverty, we are unable to receive, let alone appreciate all that life (God) has to offer us.

“I am so grateful that you are living your life here in Robin Hood’s Bay,” someone told us recently. “It really helps me and gives me great consolation.” We have heard these and similar words from a number of our guests lately. Let me tell you about a few of these recent visitors.

Two young Canadians visited us for a week. One of them had spent a week in Combermere and wanted a spiritual start to her venture in wine-making in France.

It was great having them around, and they jumped right into working in our garden with Sara, washing windows, repairing doors, and so forth.

An Anglican vicar came to us for her third annual retreat, this time for two weeks. She came quite depleted from having experienced several losses in her family, and she received here exactly what she needed. Praise God!

Two new friends, a couple from Leeds, joined us for a day to help us replace the rotting boards in our raised garden beds. We had acquired new scaffolding boards, and together we cut and painted these boards with water-proofing.

They brought lunch for us, and we were able to share this with another guest who comes to us annually to make a poustinia and to take part in our life. The two men were taken with one another and enjoyed sharing stories.

We were also blessed with the presence of our own Fr. Robert Johnson from Combermere for three weeks. Fr. Robert had two weeks of holidays, made a retreat, and then led us in a mini-retreat on the Little Mandate.

Besides receiving visitors, we also did some outreach. We recently drove down to Hull to give talks to students at the Catholic Chaplaincy.

Sara Matthews is enjoying working with our parish with groups called Asylum Seekers and Whitby Street Angels and with the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Through these groups, she is developing deeper relationships with parishioners and meeting new people.

Let me end these reflections with a quote from a book called Interior Freedom by Jacques Philippe. “Hope can only be born in poverty. That is why poverty of spirit is the key to all real growth in love.”

 

Victoria, British Columbia

by Marilyn Grant

Here are just a few highlights of our news from the past year.

Much of last winter was about a refugee family as we at St. Andrew’s Cathedral Refugee Committee prepared with great hope and expectation to receive a Christian family from northern Iraq.

After choosing a family of ten, we worked around the clock to find a house and prepare it. We spent most of Lent cleaning and preparing the house and property, only to be told the family likely wouldn’t come for another year, maybe more.

In May, when the family was offered an opportunity to go to Australia, we encouraged them to join their friends there. With very heavy hearts we set about dismantling the house and selling furniture.

Despite that setback, after a summer break, we chose another family of seven from the same Nineveh Plain town and are currently waiting on government approval.

In the meantime, every available space we could come up with is jammed with household goods as we wait for “our” family.

In August, Emily Huston and I went over to the parish of Fr. Scott Whittemore (an MH associate priest) on Salt Spring Island to speak to some families about living Nazareth.

Fr. Scott had been using Fr. Blair’s book on Nazareth Family Spirituality, so our main work that day was to answer the many concerns and questions of the families who attended.

Although numbers were small, it was well worth the time and effort. Fr. Scott is a great host, and of course we enjoyed the change of scenery and ferry ride immensely.

At the end of September, I had the privilege of joining a local group on a Marian Pilgrimage visiting sites in Spain, Portugal and Lourdes.

It was exhausting and wonderful. I think I walked through more Holy Doors than I ever thought possible. Fatima and Lourdes were beautiful of course, but Santiago de Compostella and the Sagrada Familia were delightful surprises, as was Zaragosa, our last stop.

Our Lady was everywhere and despite (or because of) the difficulties we all experienced, she took good care of us. I am still basking in the graces of those days.