Posted October 22, 2009 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (October 2009)

by Paulette Curran.

By the time you read this column, the trees outside my window will be ablaze with the reds and golds of autumn. Right now, however, they are richly green. For we are still in summer, though it is nearing its end.

A very full summer it was—what with the summer program, the farm, the gift shop, Cana, food processing, and the renovation of the women’s dorms at St. Mary’s, among other things.

In fact, there was so much to do that several staff were brought home for a few weeks from our mission houses to help out. (Summer is a relatively quiet time for most of our Canadian and American houses.)

And here and there throughout the summer, we have had some lovely events.

One of the highlights, perhaps the highlight was the Feast of the Assumption on August 15th. It is our only major summer feast, one that centers on the glory of Mary.

It is such a gentle, joyous feast, a day of just rejoicing in our Mother and in the lavish decorations of flowers, a day of a beautiful liturgy, of singing, of relaxing, and of celebrating women and numerous anniversaries of ordinations and promises.

This year for the feast, after an unusually cool, rainy summer, God gave us a special treat. Beginning on August 14th, the weather turned sunny and wonderfully warm, and it stayed that way for days.

August 14th was, of course, a day of getting ready for the feast—and doing the usual as well. While some of us prepared food for the feast, others mailed out the September issue of Restoration, and still others made lavish bouquets of flowers. These bouquets they put in the chapels and hung in baskets from the ceiling in the dining room.

That evening, the vigil, we sang the Acathist, a beautiful Eastern Rite evening of song to Our Lady.

Then on the Assumption itself, dressed in our feastday best, we had a beautiful liturgy and a festive breakfast.

In the afternoon, we celebrated our jubilarians, Paul Holland, Sandy Wood, Lupe Zabaco, and Albert Osterberger, who persevered for fifty years as members of our community. Only two of them were present, however. Lupe celebrated at Marian Centre Edmonton, and Albert died just two months before his anniversary.

Our celebration of jubilees is very, very simple. We had an afternoon tea during which their directors general said a few words about each of them. Among other things, they read poems Catherine had written to them, poems which revealed something of their hearts.

Three others celebrated their 25th anniversaries: Fr. Francis Boland, Elizabeth Bassarear, and Diane Davis.

The day finished with vespers and a special supper.

Smaller events included an open house at Vianney House, our residence for visiting priests.

Many of us hadn’t seen the building since its renovation, and it was great to see how simple but lovely it is, and how well fitted to its purpose.

It has a chapel, places of quiet and solitude, places for the priests to relax together, books, etc., etc. and a tangible sense of peace.

In Madonna House, priests, like our working guests and the families at Cana, come for a time of retreat, restoration, spiritual nourishment, and healing.

Then there was a drama night, which like the music night we told you about last month, was beautiful. With the assistance of Raandi King, Marysia Kowalchyk, who worked in theater before joining Madonna House, gave a few drama classes to whoever wished to learn or improve acting skills. The presentation was a fruit of those classes.

Each person, some of whom had never acted before, did a soliloquy or dramatic reading from a play of their choice.

Selections ranged from Shakespeare (4 soliloquies), to modern plays such as Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie.

Catherine Doherty, who had always encouraged drama, would have been thrilled.

Another wonderful event was a four-day visit including two talks by Elizabeth Nguyen, the sister of Cardinal Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan, cardinal of Saigon, Vietnam, who spent thirteen years in Communist prisons, nine of them in solitary confinement.

In prison, through the agonizing pain of isolation and abandonment, an agony which brought him to the brink of despair, the cardinal met the Lord on a profound level. Elizabeth shared with us how the cardinal was able to live his priesthood in prison, what was his secret weapon which enabled him to cling to hope, and what was the strength that protected him and saved him from total despair and insanity.

Needless to say, the spirituality and writings that came out of such a crucible are true and profound. I would highly recommend his books: The Road of Hope and Testimony of Hope (Pauline Books and Media, Boston).

Meanwhile the summer program for young adults continued. The theme of the talks was hope with a week each on hope for the family, hope in the Church, hope for the world, and witnesses to hope.

The program in this time frame also included a dance, a game night, a day of recollection, and for those who wished, a day’s pilgrimage to St. Anne’s shrine in Cormac, Ontario.

Now things are beginning to quiet down a bit with the summer program and Cana over and some of the young people leaving to get ready to return to school. And there definitely are signs that autumn is almost here.

At the farm, the incoming harvest is keeping the men picking and the women washing, chopping, freezing, and canning.

Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, the post secondary school nearby is getting ready to start their tenth year. As we did last year, we took part in the training sessions of their nine resident assistants. They spent a day with us, which included a tour by Victoria Fausto, a talk on house parenting by Michael Weitl and a talk on cleaning by Mary McGoff. Mary also went to their school to facilitate a communications skills workshop.

At the end of summer, we thank God for the harvest, not only of food, but of the many graces he has given both to us and our visitors during this season. How abundantly he continues to provide for all our needs!


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