Posted March 22, 2011 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (March 2011)

by Paulette Curran.

As I write this column, we are deep in winter. The Christmas festivities are over, and we are in a relatively quiet time of year.

Yes, Christmas. It seems a little strange to be writing about Christmas in the March issue of the paper, but the practicalities of layout and printing require us to put together the paper well ahead.

Christmastime was lovely. It was wonderful for a few days, in the words from the Byzantine liturgy, "to lay aside all earthly cares" and focus on one of the deep truths that is so much of the time hidden beneath our more obvious pains and struggles: namely, that our all-powerful God came to us as a lowly Child to save us.

We celebrated this truth, as always, with Masses, song, food, decorations, open houses at both the farm and St. Joseph’s House, etc., etc., etc.

And now we are back in Ordinary Time, both liturgically and in our daily life.

I wrote the previous words on a quiet Saturday afternoon. Then, Sunday evening at supper, we were told that there had been a tragic car accident involving two of our sisters. Joan Bryant and Marg Stobie, whom many of us had seen just that morning, were dead.

At the time of this writing, two days after the accident, all we know for sure is that it was a single car accident and that the car suddenly went off the road, rolled, and crashed into a tree. Joan and Marg were probably killed instantly.

Those who saw Joan on Sunday morning said she had been excited and happy. She was on her way to attend her nephew’s wedding and to spend a week of her holidays with her family.

But all was not good news even then; she was going to tell her family that she had just been diagnosed with lung cancer. Marg was driving her to the bus in Lindsay, more than two hours away.

Needless to say, the whole community is in shock and is grieving.

It will be a few days before we have the funeral. Meanwhile, life goes on. Besides the fact that our ordinary work continues to need doing, Catherine would tell us that continuing to do "the duty of the moment" would help to heal our grief.

Most of the rest of our news this month seems to center on young people, in one way or other.

Fr. Paul Burchat began teaching a series of classes on the Catechism of the Catholic Church for all the guests, and Fr. Denis Lemieux (who wrote the four-part series on technology for Restoration) is teaching a series of eight classes, "Introduction to Scripture," to the men in the spiritual formation program.

Six staff—Renée Sylvain, Dawn Kobewka, Trina Stitak, Janet Bourdet, Fr. David Linder, and Peter Anzlin attended a Rise Up Conference in Montreal. It was put on by a group called CCO (Catholic Christian Outreach), whose ministry is to university students, to help empower them to share the Gospel with one another.

Each year, they put on a conference in a different part of Canada, and this year it was in relatively nearby Montreal.

Madonna House was invited to be a presence there, to have a book and display table, and to share something of our life and spirituality. It was also a wonderful opportunity for us to make contacts, to share the riches of our spirituality, and to visit with former working guests attending the conference.

The main work of our team was to "hang out," and they were delighted by the one-to-one conversations, at how open and interested the young people were and how deep they wanted to go. They were also surprised and touched by the number of bishops attending.

The staff did a few other things there as well. Peter Anzlin gave a testimony to a group of about 25 about failure.

After a talk by Fr. Frederique of the Emmanuel community, people were invited to do some street evangelization, and Fr. David Linder volunteered. The volunteers were given a 30-minute teaching on how to do it, and right away they were sent out into the streets of Montreal.

Fr. David found it a bit nerve-wracking, but he ended up talking with a young unchurched woman who knew little about Jesus but was very open to hearing the Gospel. This experience filled him with joy.

The whole team found the conference to be very worthwhile.

One of them, Renée, was one among the early members of CCO when it began in Saskatoon, and she was very happy to see how the ministry has grown and is now at so many universities.

At St. Mary’s chapel, we are putting up icons and pictures of various saints, one at a time as they are finished. Our newest one is an icon of St. Columbkille, patron of our diocese, written by Marysia Kowalchyk. (In the Eastern tradition, icons are said to be "written," not "painted.") Marysia also had one of her icon’s on the cover of the November issue of the Canadian missalette, Living With Christ, and still another, this one of the Presentation, is now at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom, a local school of higher education, as a memorial to Paul Sanders and Janine Lieu, two students (and former MH working guests) who died in an accident.

Other former working guests, Andrew Paul and Naomi Lobo, came from Ottawa along with a few family members and Arlene Becker and Martha Shepherd of MH Ottawa, to celebrate their engagement with a blessing ceremony in our island chapel.

Here are a few more items of news:

Renée Sylvain gave a talk in Ottawa to a group called "Friends of Madonna House," Mary Davis, our head gardener, gave one at the local Horticultural Society, and Helen Porthouse gave another to Theology on Tap in Belleville.

Recent visitors included four Jesuit scholastics and a Coptic family from Egypt.

Blessed and grace-filled Lent to each of you.


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