by Kathy McVady, director of the Casa.
"Twenty years ago, the people of Winslow and the people of Madonna House began to love one another, and it was love at first sight. The past twenty years have been a time of loving one another. It’s been that simple and that beautiful. There is nothing greater in the world and nothing more divine in heaven than to love one another."
Fr. Émile Brière said these words in 1977 at the celebration of the twentieth anniversary of La Casa de Nuestra Señora.
By the grace of God, at this our fiftieth anniversary, May 17, 2007, Fr. Brière’s words continue to be true.
Yes, God, who is Love, has been building a house of love where he dwells in the love and friendship of the people of Winslow and the people of Madonna House for one another.
From the beginning, when Cathy Maynard, Theresa Davis, and Phil Knight arrived in Winslow and opened a new mission of Madonna House, people welcomed them with warmth, sincerity, and kindness. Very quickly, they began to experience the Mexican-American saying, "Mi casa es su casa," "My house is your house."
Even today when a Madonna House staff worker is assigned to Winslow, she is told, "You are so lucky!" Why? Because of the people of Winslow who take each of us into their hearts.
When Madonna House was invited by the bishop to open a house in Winslow, he asked us to assist in catechetics and to perform the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. That left us wide-open to respond to people in their various needs.
Our foundress Catherine Doherty taught us how to discover these needs. The first step a missionary must take, she told us, the first thing he or she must do, is listen.
Over the years we have responded to the different needs in a number of different ways.
One work that has been a constant is catechetics—beginning with Fr. Hoffinger’s "kerygmatic catechesis," going on to teacher training, and finally using the Montessori approach, called the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, which is what we are doing now.
The work with young people was not confined to classrooms. We have been involved with 4-H groups, recreation programs, teen band practices, the Search program, and among other things, a trip to Denver for World Youth Days in 1993.
And our work has not been restricted to young people.
Soon after our arrival, the Cursillo de Cristiandad (short course in Christianity) came to the area and became a means through which the Lord began touching people’s lives.
We were asked to participate, but even more striking was the development of local leaders. Men and women who would never have considered the possibility of public speaking were witnessing about God’s action in their lives and leading others to the Lord.
As some of the men struggled with the study aspect of the Cursillo, they asked Theresa Marsey, the director of La Casa at that time, if she would consider helping them with Scripture classes. She did. Scripture classes for women were also organized and these groups continued in one form or another for nearly forty years.
Then when the Charismatic Renewal entered our own lives, we shared what we were learning through it with the Scripture groups. We started prayer groups and both the staff and the members of the Scripture classes began to experience the power of the Holy Spirit enabling us to live out what we were studying in the Word of God.
In listening to the Spirit together, the lines between "teachers" and "students" began to diminish. We were all disciples together.
Visiting and listening have always been a large part in the life of La Casa. This revealed to us the pain in some families resulting from problems with alcohol and drugs. In order to better respond to these sufferings, we acquainted ourselves with the various twelve step programs.
These programs also became for us a vehicle to live our own Madonna House vocation in deeper truth and simplicity.
Music has also played a great part in our lives together as the gifts of individual staff members and the needs of the parish meshed. Music for the parish liturgies, for prayer meetings, for the Cursillo, and for the children has been a melodious thread in the Casa throughout the years.
These have been some of the building blocks God has used as he continues to construct this House of Love. But more important than the specifics of what we do, the Casa is all about people loving one another.
In marriage, the faithful love of the couple brings forth children. The "marriage" between the people of Winslow and the people of Madonna House has also brought forth fruit—several Madonna House vocations. Among the many blessings God has brought forth from our house, this has been perhaps the greatest.
So, as we celebrate these fifty years, we look forward to many more filled with the graces of God and the surprises of the Spirit.
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