Posted April 12, 2011 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (April 2011)

by Paulette Curran.

Madonna House funerals, however hard, are always times of grace and blessings, and Joan’s and Marg’s was no exception. One of these was the outpouring of love and support from friends and neighbors.

This happens with all our funerals, but this time, perhaps because the deaths were so sudden and tragic, it seemed like everybody we know, from near and far, felt our pain and wanted to help and support in any way they could.

We were so touched by all the phone calls, emails, cards, letters, Mass cards, and flowers, by people asking, "Is there anything I can do," and by the many donations including baked goods and other food for the reception. And by the many people who came for the wakes and funeral.

I can’t tell you how much this meant to us. Thank you so much. We thank you, too, on behalf of the families of Marg and Joan.

Both families are large and some of them at least, live in or near Toronto, and a number of people from both of them were able to attend and participate in the funeral in various ways.

Each family also had a memorial service near their home a few days later, and a few people from MH attended each of them.

Then slowly, life quieted down. Then lots of us got the flu. Seems like every winter it comes around, usually more than one variety of it, some worse than others, some affecting a greater number of people than others.

This winter, there were three, possibly four strains of flu or virus, and almost everyone got at least one variety, most of us, more than one. At the beginning of winter, a number of people got what seemed like a cold, but the cough afterwards went on for weeks afterwards. Then there was a 24-hour stomach virus, and thirdly, a respiratory flu.

One big challenge was finding substitutes for essential jobs. We’ve gotten more flexible over the years, God takes care of things, and it does all work out—even if some of the solutions are a bit unusual.

Like farmer Chuck Sharp doing the farm cooking. The kitchen staff were hard-hit, and there was just no one else. Fortunately, he is a good cook.

And fortunately, we "take turns" getting sick; we never all go down at once.

Most, though not all, of us were back up in time for our winter staff study program. This year we are studying Catherine’s Russian roots—different aspects of it in several different groups.

Among our resources are tapes of spiritual readings from years ago. Catherine would read from a book and using it as a springboard, teach us Russian spirituality. So for six weeks, we will be delving into these treasures.

There’s lots of creativity and spirit of adventure around here, and recently two of the men took advantage of our abundant winter natural resource: snow.

Darrin Prowse and Steve Héroux built a quinzhee—a combination of an igloo and snow cave. First you make a big pile of snow, then you let it sit for a couple of hours to pack together naturally, and then you dig it out. They camped in it overnight and said the temperature was just below freezing inside—which was warmer than it was outside, and they had good sleeping bags.

Elizabeth Bassarear and Teresa Gehred couldn’t resist trying it as well, a couple of nights later. They managed, though by then the sun had taken its toll, and the insulation wasn’t quite as effective as it had been.

Apparently quinzhees are not as unusual as we had thought. The very next day, the daily newspaper, The Ottawa Citizen, carried a full-page, illustrated article about quinzhees, which were first made by the Athabascan Indians of Alaska. (One big advantage of them is that, unlike igloos, they can be made out of any kind of snow.)

Remember a while back when we told you about the major renovations of St. Goupil’s, a building that contains a large women staff dorm, an office, the laundry, and the sewing room? (Plus the men’s basement work area which wasn’t affected by the renovations.)

Well, the move back has begun with the laundry (partially back) and the office (all back). The rest will hopefully soon follow.

We had a day of recollection on the Feast of the Presentation, the World Day of Consecrated Life.

We celebrated the anniversary of Friendship House Harlem (an earlier house founded by Catherine in the African American ghetto in New York City). The anniversary occurs close to Martin Luther King Day, and as always, the two days are for us a time to remember and to educate a new generation on African American history and culture and a part of our own history.

Spiritual reading for a couple of days was from Catherine’s days in Harlem, and Andorra Howard wrote and directed a short but powerful pantomime about racism and its healing.

Andorra also put up a display, "Voices of Hope," about some of the people who heroically laid down their lives (literally or figuratively) for peace, justice, and human rights in recent years—such people as John Howard Griffith (U.S.A.), Immaculée Ilibagiza (Rwanda), Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma), Nelson Mandella (South Africa), Ghandi (India), Martin Luther King (U.S.A.), and Tagashi Nagai (Japan).

The St. Mary’s community saw the movie, Boycott, about the Alabama bus boycott, an important event in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Fr. Tom Rowland attended the Southwest Liturgical Conference in Salt Lake City. He helped begin this conference 49 years ago.

Fr. Robert Johnson and Ann Marie Murphy gave the women’s diocesan retreat, and Carol Ann Gieske staffed the display and book table. Over fifty women attended, some from as far away as Montreal.

Andorra Howard, our herb gardener, and applicant Gudrun Schultz attended a conference on herbs, and some of the office staff (Mary McGoff, Charmaine Treige, and David Williams) attended a seminar on how to deal with recent changes in the legislature affecting charitable and non-profit organizations.

Melanie Murphy of St. Joseph’s House Combermere and Margarita Guerrero of MH Roanoke staffed a display booth at a FOCUS (Fellowship of Catholic University Students) conference in Baltimore, Maryland.

Well, that’s all the news for this month. May God give each of you a graced and blessed holy season.


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