Posted November 27, 2009 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (November 2009)

by Paulette Curran.

As I write this column, it is still early autumn, but in our part of the world, autumn, unlike spring, moves quickly. It is a beautiful time of year but also a reminder of the long winter ahead.

The harvest continues, and it is wonderful to be eating fresh fruits and vegetables, both our own and those which generous benefactors have given us.

Apples are our biggest fruit crop, and the gardeners have been picking not only ours but those of some of our neighbors who let us pick from their wild trees. Some apples we eat fresh, but most we make into apple sauce and juice, which we’ll be eating all winter.

This year was an exceptional year for honey—1100 pounds from only eight hives! Our bee-keepers tell us that weather conditions were "perfect."

And then there was our chicken bee, at which many of us took part in the killing, plucking, gutting, washing, and freezing. Most of the chickens will be used for soup for the sick.

Was it a coincidence that one of our most joyful autumn events occurred the evening of the chicken bee—the reception of our new applicants?

This year we have six going into formation—five women and one priest. (See Milestones and photo for names.) Fr. Blair is already an associate priest.

Our members come from across the world, but this year –a most unusual occurrence—three of the applicants—Veronica, Gudrun, and Beth—come from the local area.

Our ceremony for the acceptance is oh-so-simple. During supper, Susanne Stubbs, the director general of women, presented each of the women, with what we call "the brown folder." Fr. David May did the same for Fr. Blair.

In it are contained essential writings of our foundress, Catherine, writings giving the spirit of our apostolate. And as always, Susanne presented a cake with a stark cross on white icing—a cake symbolizing our vocation which is, said Catherine, "the sweetness of the cross."

The chicken bee they had worked on during the day was, not a symbol exactly, but a reminder of the sort of the simple life they were entering.

The applicants very quickly entered into their new life. They had an afternoon of recollection, and they began their classes: the reading the history of the apostolate after supper and their Friday afternoon talks and sharing time. On Sunday they were given the "Valley Tour" of the shrines and other points of interest in our area.

The applicants weren’t the only ones who moved this past week. All summer, in order to fulfill the requirements of the fire department, the men were renovating the dormitories of the women staff of St. Mary’s. Now they are finished—at least enough for the women to move back in. And none too soon.

The places the women were staying were needed for other purposes. Some moved out of the applicants’ dorm and the new applicants moved in. Others moved out of Loreto House just days before the associate priests needed it for their annual meetings.

At St. Mary’s the move back was marked with prayer and blessing. The members of that community processed from the chapel with Fr. Ron Cafeo who carried the monstrance with the Blessed Sacrament throughout the third floor.

They sang and prayed the rosary, and the new rooms and the persons who will be living in them, each in turn, were blessed. Afterwards there was a celebration in the auditorium.

A huge thanks to all the men who were involved in the renovations, especially Peter Gravelle, Patrick McConville, Steve Heroux, Peter Lyrette, Doug Guss, Tom White, Paul Mitchell, Darrin Prowse, and some guests and hired contractors.

Now they will be able to finish the work they’d begun on the men guests’ dormitory. So the men guests, in their turn, will be staying somewhere else.

Another beautiful and simple celebration was the confirmation of two of our Korean visitors: Sang Kyun and Yong Tae. They took the names of Francis [of Assisi] and Thomas [Aquinas].

At breakfast the two "confirmed bachelors," as Peter Anzlin described them, thanked us with the traditional Korean deep bow. At supper, they, along with some of the other Koreans, sang for us.

The past month was also the time of the annual meeting of our associate priests and deacons, and this year is special for them—their fiftieth anniversary.

Thirty attended, including priests, deacons, and deacon wives. The theme was "The Lord, the Center of Our Lives," and those attending tell us it was a grace-filled time. As always, we were very grateful to be able to offer this time of rest and renewal to our associates, and we in turn were blessed by their presence.

Their time here included Mass (of course), times of prayer, a penance service, adoration, and time to be together.

This year three of the associates made promises: Fr. Peter Tammearu made first promises (thus officially becoming an associate), Fr. Zach Romanowski renewed, and Fr. Tom Fleming made finals.

Last weekend five staff went to Toronto t o attend the opening of Distilled Life, an exhibition of paintings by Donna Surprenant at the Abbozzo Gallery in Oakville. (You can see the paintings on exhibit by visiting the gallery’s web site: www.

This is the second exhibit of Donna’s work by this gallery, and it was a very moving one because Donna, as we told you in previous issues of the paper, died last February.

About halfway through the afternoon the owner of the gallery asked Fr. Ron Cafeo to offer a prayer in honor of Donna.

Fr. Ron, who has a beautiful voice, sang the Byzantine Troparian of the Mother of God. A man who had not known Donna began to cry. Fr. Ron then prayed for the repose of Donna’s soul. Susanne Stubbs said it was quite wonderful to witness all this in a secular gallery.

There were 25 paintings on exhibit and 15 were sold by the end of the first day.

I’d like to end with some news about individual members of our community. Fr. Bob Wild left for Rome to take a course for postulators, and Fr. Robert Johnson has been named his vice postulator for Catherine’s Cause and will be housefather for our priest guests while Fr. Wild is away.

As part of their holidays, Mary Davis, Ruth Siebenaler, and Cathy Mitchell made an eight-day canoe trip. Viva LeBlanc, with Emily Huston of MH England, made a pilgrimage to Turkey and Greece.

And so our life continues, as we strive in our quiet, hidden way to love God and one another, and, amidst the growing forces of death, to build a culture of life.


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