Posted November 24, 2010 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (November 2010)

by Paulette Curran.

As I looked over the events of the past month or so in preparation for writing this column, two words came to me: gratitude and joy. They came especially in connection with four events: the acceptance of the applicants (our equivalent of novices), the harvest, Heritage Fest, and the Associate’ Meetings.

Perhaps the most joyous of the events was the acceptance of the applicants on September 8th, the birthday of the Mother of God. The ceremony was, as always, a simple one and took place during supper at the end of an ordinary workday.

Each new applicant was presented with what we call "the brown folder," a small collection of writings by Catherine Doherty giving the spirit of Madonna House.

Susanne Stubbs, director general of women, brought around a cake with a black cross sitting on a bed of white icing—a symbol of the vocation these people were entering, a vocation which our foundress, Catherine Doherty, said is the sweetness of the Cross.

This year there are three new applicants: Martha Reilander, Sara Matthews, and Michael Amaral.

So now including the five who became applicants a year ago, we have eight applicants. Most unusually in this international community, four out of the eight are from the local area.

The next joyous event was Heritage Fest, a weekend celebration of the crafts and way of life of the pioneering past of our area, a way of life which continues to be alive in Madonna House. It’s an event we put on for the people of the area, locals and vacationers alike.

All the shops (gift shop, bookshop, and flea market) were open and as an additional attraction, everything at the flea market was half price.

And here are just some of the events, displays, and demonstrations.

The museum featured wool carding by Jeannine Biron and spinning by Mary Davis. Plus, in the recreated parlor of bygone days, applicant Veronica Ferri played the piano, and when she wasn’t playing, someone pumped out music on the player piano.

Elsewhere, friends and neighbors—Janet Adams, Paul Shulist and Tim Baklinski—provided some more live music.

Out in the yard, Patti Birdsong and Cathy Mitchell had a wonderful bee display and gave out free samples of bread and honey. Herb gardener Andorra Howard had a display including a guess-the-herb challenge.

Alma Coffman demonstrated the art of butter making and Peter Bullen, that of ice cream making, and people took turns cranking the ice cream maker and churning the butter. Free samples of the results were given out, and you should have seen the length of the line-up for the ice cream.

Terry Newcombe, "The Balloon Man" from the nearby town of Barry’s Bay made balloon animals, flowers, aliens, swords, and a whole variety of creations for the delighted youngsters.

In the handicraft center, Gretchen Schafer, Peter Gravelle, Zoyla Grace and Mary McGoff were weaving, and Gretchen Schafer was on hand to help visitors try their hand at paper quilling.

Raandi King, Maureen Ray and Diana Breeze made pottery on the wheel. Raandi also did some basketry as did Beverly Maciag.

Anne Marie Murphy and applicant Tina Tan showed people how to dip candles and had a wonderful display of candles made here.

Deirdre Burch was crocheting delightful little sheep, Mark Schlingerman was wood carving, and Bonnie Staib, was book binding.

Helen Porthouse and Carol Anne Gieske put on a puppet show, and a pantomime horse put in an appearance.

Staff not participating in the demonstrations milled around and visited with people.

We were inundated with people of all ages, friends old and new. The atmosphere was just wonderful, and the whole event was a rousing success.

The ongoing event of autumn, one which engenders great gratitude, is the harvest—both the picking of it and the putting it away for the winter. These are both labor-intensive works, and most of the harvest comes in after the summer working guests have gone.

So the working guests who are still around plus whichever staff are able-bodied and can be spared from their usual work all pitch in as they can—the men mainly harvesting and the women mainly food processing.

There were three big work bees in connection with the harvest—two potato-picking bees and a chicken bee—all with many of us participating.

The fourth annual event that always brings us joy is the associate priest meetings.

We’ve gotten to know them more and more over the years, and so it’s great just seeing them again. Plus, at a time when the priesthood is so maligned, it is a joy to see these beautiful, faithful priests and deacons who are pouring their lives out is such a variety of ways. And it is a joy to be able to offer them this time of rest, restoration, and renewal.

This year, in connection with the fiftieth anniversary of Our Lady of Combermere, the theme was "The House of Our Lady: The Joys She Brings, the Sorrows She Shares, the Glory She Reveals."

During their three days, 25 priests, deacons, and deacons’ wives had conferences, a penance service, adoration time, Mass (of course), and time to be together and with us. And Fr. Peter Tammearu renewed his MH promises.

And here’s some more good news. A group which calls itself, "Ottawa Friends of Madonna House" has been meeting regularly for a year now. MH staff from both here and our Ottawa House have given talks at some of these meetings.

On a recent Saturday, twenty-two of them came to Combermere for a day of recollection.

Also spending a day here, as they have for the past two or three years, were the resident assistants and proctors at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, a local Catholic liberal arts college. (Resident assistants are students who are also house parents at their dormitories; proctors are their assistants.) They were here to get an exposure to MH spirituality and way of life.

They got more input from us as well. Fr. Tom Zoeller and Mary McGoff later went to the academy, Fr. Tom to give a talk and Mary a communications workshop.

Madonna House Publications has just come out with new editions of six of their books that were out of print.

Led by Ellie Pettersen, a few of the staff and one guest presented a dramatic reading of a couple of scenes from T.S. Elliot’s The Cocktail Party.

Jane Thelwell, a potter who has a studio and shop, came and gave five of our potters a four-day pottery workshop.

Fr. Murray Kuemper was chaplain for a weeklong Knights of Columbus leadership camp for youth aged 16-18.

Fr. Wild gave a day of recollection at Our Lady of the Adirondacks House of Prayer in Ellenburg, N.Y. The house was founded 34 years ago shortly after our house there closed.

As part of their celebration of their fifty years as members of Madonna House, our three jubilarians, JoAnne DeGidio, Linda Lambeth, and Theresa Marsey made a two-day pilgrimage to the Canadian Martyrs Shrine in Midland, Ontario.

Well, that’s the news for this month. It certainly was a time of grace and blessing, a time of reminders of how much we have to be grateful for.


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