Posted April 24, 2012 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (April 2012)

by Paulette Curran.

Spring comes late in this part of the world, and as I write this column in early March, the ground is still covered with snow. But Lent has begun, days are getting longer, and though we have had a lot of new snow just this week, spring is not far off.

Fr. Louis Labrecque and his crew have already put the taps in sugar maple trees throughout the property, and any day now the sap will start running.

Gardeners Mary Davis, Janine Gobeil, Ruth Siebenaler, and Alex Do have finished their winter jobs and are now getting ready for the gardens. For the next month, Mary, Ruth and Alex will be pruning apple trees.

At the farm, Chris Hanlon has started the lettuce in the green house.

The usual Pre-Lent events have taken place: Lenten music practice and, on Shrove Tuesday, extra opportunities for confession and a pancake supper.

And, of course, there was the Pre-Lent Event, a variety show we put on every year as our own version of Mardi Gras.

The MC was our cat, Topaz. Well, actually it was Janine Gobeil dressed in a bright orange "cat suit" made from a candlewick bedspread.

As always the acts were creative and clever and kept us laughing the whole time.

The first one was put on by the guests singing, "We Are Guests," a take-off on "Be Our Guest" a song from the movie, Beauty and the Beast.

The skits included take-offs on various work departments.

Imagine, for example, a two gun laundress (applicant Martha Reilander). Well, actually, it was two spray stain remover bottles which she twirled before she "shot" Dirt (applicant Michael Amaral), who then did a passable imitation of Clint Eastwood in the movie, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

And now we are into Lent. Meals are simpler, the music and readings of every kind are about repentance, and we are doing our own individual prayer and fasting which we worked out with our spiritual directors.

At Madonna House, Lent is also a time for making pysanky (Russian and Ukrainian Easter eggs), and the Russian Easter foods: koolitch and paska.

This year, we also have the joy of a catechumen (Ka Yun) and the rituals for catechumens at some of our Sunday liturgies.

Lent is also study time for the staff. While the guests and applicants simply continue with their ongoing classes, the staff now have our six weeks or so Friday afternoon study time together—in small groups.

This year we were able to choose from quite a few varied topics. They included Cosmology, the World’s Greatest Paintings, Utopia and Terrorism in the 20th century, Canadian History. (These are all on DVD), French and Korean language study, a look at the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the MH Constitution, and DVDs on the spiritual and emotional challenges of midlife.

There’s another group that meets regularly for the purpose of sharing and growing and support, which I don’t think I’ve mentioned before: young staff, that is staff not in final promises. They are currently led by Beverly Maciag and Chuck Sharp.

Linda Lambeth went, by invitation, to Hamilton, Ontario, to attend the opening of the largest ever exhibition of the work of William Kurelek, a Canadian artist, now dead. (He had a summer home in Combermere and was a friend of Madonna House.) Trudi Cortens and Marie Javora from MH Toronto also attended the exhibit.

Upon Linda’s return, the library put up a display of books of Kurelek’s paintings and writings about them, and Linda gave an enthusiastic presentation about his life and work.

This Pre-Lent and early Lenten season have also been a time of retreats—both giving them and making them. I don’t ever remember when so many staff made individual retreats.

The whole house also had a day of recollection on February 2nd, the World Day for Consecrated Life, and shortly after that, the women staff had a half day of recollection in which we focused on living out our promise of poverty.

MH staff also gave retreats for our diocese. Last month, we mentioned the men’s retreat which two of our laymen gave. Well, Marysia Kowalchyk and Fr. David Linder gave the diocesan women’s retreat, and Fr. Denis Lemieux helped give one for youth.

Fr. Denis also led a marriage preparation weekend and gave two parish missions in our diocese.

At St. Mary’s, although it is still a work in progress, the new lift for the elderly and infirm was finally installed. (In fact, it was installed in the middle of our day of recollection. One gets outside workers when one can.)

There had been months of preparation to get to this point including cutting through an outside wall, taking out the bathroom outside the chapel and relocating it, and much plumbing and electrical work. And there’s still lots more to do.

Speaking of renovation and maintenance. St. Mary’s is painting the first floor walls. When they got to the kitchen, the cooks could no longer cook there. So all 37 members of the St. Mary’s community are eating at the main house, just as we ate with them when our dining room floor was being re-done.

Our three directors general recently went on visitation to our newest house—in Rimouski, Quebec.

Once a week, we are watching a segment of Fr. Robert Barron’s DVD, Catholicism, a wonderful series made in the States as a tool for evangelization. It’s great for the evangelized as well.

About a dozen proctors and resident assistants (dorm house parents and their assistants), all of them students, from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy (a nearby school of higher learning) spent a day with us just following our schedule.

They had requested this themselves as a time of spiritual input. The men worked at the farm and the women at the gift shop doing high dusting and polishing brass.

A few other miscellaneous pieces of news are as follows: Some of us attended a play, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, put on by the Academy, and two of our staff, Diana Breeze and Raandi King, gave us a presentation on euthanasia.

Linda Lambeth and Anne Marie Murphy did a book table of MH literature at a Lift Jesus Higher rally in Toronto.

The American Church is especially in our prayers these days as it faces a serious threat to its religious freedom, one that our non-North American readers might not know about.

The federal government, in violation of the Constitution, is attempting to require Catholic institutions (hospitals, schools, charitable institutions, etc.) to pay for health insurance policies for their employees, insurance policies that cover birth control, abortion-inducing drugs, and sterilization.

Blessed, blessed Easter and Eastertime to each of you. May the Risen Christ fill you with his joy.


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