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

by Paulette Curran.

Summers in Combermere can be cool, but not this one. This year, so far, the weather has been, and continues to be, unusually hot and dry. Thanks be to God we are able to irrigate, but even so, our crops are definitely under stress. We are praying for rain for us and for all the farmers who need it.

It goes without saying that this is a very busy time of year for us—as it is for other farmers, shopkeepers, and people taking in visitors, giving tours, and running summer programs of any kind.

Our first and biggest event of summer was June 8th –Promises Day, the Feast of Our Lady of Combermere—the day when some of our members make or renew their promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience "according to the Madonna House spirit and mandate" for one year, two years, or forever.

It is the day when the second-year applicants become members of the community.

It is one of the highest feasts of our year, a joyous day, and a day with lots of visitors, for as with a wedding, which first and final promises resemble in some ways, family comes from near and far.

This year the families of those making first promises were from near, relatively speaking. All three new staff are from Ontario. And those of the finalists came from far: Belgium and Korea.

Promises were made or renewed in four languages—English, French, Korean, and Hungarian, and the words in some of the banners and signs were in English, French, and Korean.

One song was in French. Several staff who had been in our Belgium house sang a beautiful, very appropriate song. ("Je n’ai d’autre desir que t’appartenir")(I want nothing more than to belong to You.)

Emmanuella Kim and her mother and Joo Eun Lee wore Korean dress.

And Jocko d’Ursel, in a beautiful, traditional gesture, surprised her parents (and us) by going to them for their blessing just before making her final promises.

One added feature this year was the presence of the bishop of our diocese: Bishop Michael Mulhall.

His homily was about promises as a beautiful example of handing on, passing on of the faith—in our case, the MH spirituality and way of life, to the next generation. (He had just administered the sacrament of Confirmation at a parish—another example of handing on the faith.)

"Your community is becoming younger today," he said, "and how beautiful for us to see this! I cannot control my own aging, but God is making the community younger."

At the beginning of July, our household certainly seemed—well, did—become younger, almost overnight. For that is when our summer program for young people began. You could feel the surge of energy, the new life.

These young people are quite the international group, possibly the most international yet.

Besides Americans and Canadians, so far, they hail from Slovakia, England, France, Ireland, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Korea, Burundi, Nigeria, Israel, and Réunion (a small island in the Indian Ocean). Plus a priest from Guinea in Africa is visiting for a month.

The summer program, which consists of living our life plus some extra talks and activities, officially began with what we call, "The Saturday Evening Seminar." This is a time when guests can ask questions of the three directors general, and these sessions feed hearts and minds so much that, though they are really for guests, many of the staff attend them as well.

In the first two sessions, questions were asked, among other things, about vocation and commitment, the new evangelization (What is MH doing for this?), what is the cross for poustiniks and what is the hardest thing about being a director general of MH.

The second event of the summer program was a picnic. We had perfect weather for this—not too hot for once—and people played soccer, volleyball, horseshoes, croquet, and cards or simply visited with one another.

In the evening, some sat around a bonfire playing or listening to live music. A number of people spontaneously danced, and we finished the evening with a couple of square dances called by one of the guests.

Talks by staff and priests are also part of the program.

Cana Colony, our retreat-vacation for families, is also in full swing. Hosting the first week were Joanne Weisbeck (who is the one responsible for Cana), Darrin Prowse, and Fr. Denis Lemieux, and host families—the D’Agostinos and the Ferraros (who are learning how to host). Alex Do is organizing the weekly cleaning.

This was the last week for the D’Agostinos. After many years of faithful service as a host couple, they are "retiring."

Summer is, of course, a time when the farm gets extra-busy, and in farming, you never know what you will be up against. One thing this year (besides the dryness) was an infestation of insects called "rose chafers." Besides roses, they love apple tree leaves.

So almost every evening for three weeks, a group of us would hand pick them off the leaves of the young apple trees and drown them. Then someone got the idea of trying Japanese beetle traps. They worked!

Here are some news in brief:

One of our iconographers, Marysia Kowalchyk, went on a pilgrimage to the Balkans to look at the icons in monasteries there. Deirdre Burch and Eliana Ribeiro das Chagas took a short course in encaustic painting.

Andorra Howard took a short course in beekeeping and also visited the beekeeping family of Gudrun Schultz (one of the staff.) Several people attended the study days at the Eastern Catholic Sheptytsky Institute in Ottawa. Diana Breeze took a week-long pottery course, and we had a display of the pots she made.

Patrick McConville and his mother went to Dublin for the Eucharistic Congress. His mother, age 91, is from Ireland and remembers the other Eucharistic Congress that was held there in 1932! Also attending the Congress were Cheryl Ann Smith and Nikola Kanachowsky of MH England and Diane Lefebvre of MH Belgium.

We had a lovely Corpus Christi procession with the people of our parish. Fr. David May gave a retreat to our four Western Canadian houses. A number of our guests have musical skills and talent and we had a lovely music night with an open mike and music ranging from classical violin to rap.

We had a staff meeting in which our "Outreach Study Group" presented their findings on the new social media. St. Mary’s is listening to a series of tapes on Vatican II.

Two visitors of note were Pilgrim George and Bishop Bill McGrattan, auxiliary bishop of Toronto.

I’ll end with a lovely vignette about the oldest member of Madonna House, Mamie Legris, age 96. This past week she was quite ill in the hospital. While there, she said to Linda Owen, the staff who was with her, "Here I am, asking this doctor to take care of me twice in one day! He must be so tired."

The doctor was amazed, "This woman is so beautiful," he said. "She is very sick, and she is worried about me!" Before he left at 8:00 p.m., he came to Mamie and said, "You have made my day."

May we all become so centered on everyone we meet—even when we are ill!


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