07 Apr Notes from Near and Far: Russia and Vancouver
by Aliz Trombitas and Kay O’Shea
by Aliz Trombitas
This year, we have been reflecting on poverty, and God has been giving us opportunities to experience it.
Here’s one example. Last summer, as a way of living more poorly, we decided to buy cheaper vegetables and can them for the winter. Well, in our poverty (of knowledge), we didn’t check out whether or not the cupboard where we planned to store them was well enough secured to the wall or whether the shelves would be strong enough to hold our jars.
As a result, one day, at 10 p.m., that kitchen cupboard came crashing down. I had just enough time to move out from underneath. It felt like a disaster.
The next day the quote from Grace in Every Season, a book containing readings from Catherine for every day of the year, was: “Sometimes in life, you watch what looked like God’s work go to pieces. And you cannot do anything about it but watch.”
A few weeks later we took part in a Marriage Encounter weekend.
A Spanish priest from St. Petersburg came and gave the retreat, and eight couples and a number of single people participated. This retreat was very timely and well-received, and we are planning to invite this priest back.
In this situation, too, we experienced our poverty. As we were getting ready for the retreat, the women from the Nazareth Group which we are involved with (and which teaches about and encourages Natural Family Planning) started to open up and share about their struggles in their marriages.
Here we experienced our poverty when we were faced with our inability to help save their marriages.
A couple of weeks ago, we had a chance to go away for a weekend with the Borromeo Sisters from Krasnoyarsk and have some relaxation time together in Achinsk (a small town 160 kms away).
We enjoyed some community time together, went for walks, watched some movies, and experienced a real Russian banya (Russian sauna).
While we were away, there was a fire in the home of a couple of our friends. We felt devastated. This is a young couple, with very little money, a year-old boy, and a very small house with no running water. The husband was still working on finishing the house.
Thanks to the neighbors, the fire was put out and very little damage done. Here again we saw how little we could help.
But we took a day, drove over to their little village, and helped the wife clean the walls. She asked us to wash their laundry and with the help of some of our friends, who also wanted to help them out, we did it with joy.
As I am writing these notes, my fellow staff worker here, Catherine Lesage, has just started re-painting our chapel, the last part of the renovations we have been doing in our two apartments. We rearranged the chapel in order to make God’s Real Presence more central and to make more room for people to pray.
As we finish up our renovating, our making our apartments more spacious, welcoming, and peaceful, we are united with any of you who are undergoing transitions or renovations of any kind.
by Kay O’Shea
“Rain, rain, go away; come again another day.” It did. In early December, after two months (minus five days) of rain, we woke up to a blanket of snow. The snow continued falling all day, which made us think of Combermere, so much so that we told each other snow stories at supper.
Snow is unusual in Vancouver, but not this winter; this year, we have had quite a bit of it.
What else has been happening here? In November, we hosted part of an ecumenical group whose aim is to look at how the Holy Spirit is moving in the city.
One woman in the group has an open door for people to come in and talk, and one of the men provides hospitality for foreign students. The group was very interested in learning about us. We gave them a tour of the house and told them about our life in Vancouver. They prayed for us before they left.
We do a variety of things. One day we might be babysitting our neighbours’ three little children so the parents can enjoy an evening out, or Martha and Emmanuella might be shovelling manure with another neighbour, Leah, and friends so that Leah can have an urban garden.
Leah, who is an artist, has introduced us to people involved in the Vancouver Arts Colloquiam which has received a government grant to help people make gardens in the city. They may help us to form raised beds in our garden.
Leah, who loves Our Lady of Guadalupe, came over the other night with her little daughter, Amaia, to light candles in front of our picture of her. Over a cup of tea, Leah told us that after they had read our news/begging letter, Amaia said, “They are God-whisperers.”
We continue helping with RCIA and facilitating faith studies, both in the parish and in our house, with Catholics new to the Faith. We are in touch with old friends and continue to make new ones.
We have moved out of the apartment we were using for poustinia, but thanks to the generosity of a good friend, we are now able to use a room in her house for poustinia. So far, this is working out well.
Martha has been facilitating the WHEAT group (Women hoping, eating & talking) once a month at our house, and, for Christmas time, she also joined the parish choir.
Emmanuella and I started playing badminton at a nearby parish. Everyone there has been very welcoming. I have a little trouble with my serve, but the others are patient.
We had a Madonna House book table at the CCO Rise Up—a conference for young adults (ages 18-35) sponsored by Catholic Christian Outreach, a Canadian university student movement. A book table is a great way to make contacts, visit with friends, and tell people about Madonna House. Fr. Paul Burchat came to help from Marian Centre Edmonton.