Posted October 22, 2012 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (October 2012)

by Paulette Curran.

As I write this column in late August, summer is winding down. The weather is markedly cooler, as it usually is after August 15th, and the harvest and food processing are in full swing. Cana Colony and the summer program for young people are over, and many of those who were with us for the summer, have gone home.

It won’t be long before the vacationers in the area leave as well, and then business will slow way down at the shops.

One piece of good news is that our prayers for rain were answered, and for two weeks or so, it fell in abundance. It was amazing how quickly the earth started turning green again, which says a lot about the resiliency of God’s creation and about the life force deep within every living thing.

Some of the crops—such as potatoes and apples, which we really depend on—didn’t do well, but thanks to the faithful irrigating by our farmers, most did adequately. We even got record crops of broccoli and honey.

The summer program was great, and the staff seemed to enjoy it as much as the guests. Many evenings were filled with one activity or another.

We had a square dance and a music night. The old fashioned square dance, which included Irish folk dancing, was popular with young and old alike. (We are grateful to our local friends who provided the live music and did the calling.)

We never seem to lack for people with musical talent and ability, and the music night, organized by Sara Matthews, included pieces ranging from Gregorian chant to rap.

Of course, the music night was international, including a Hungarian song sung by Aliz Trombitas, a song in Korean and English, and "Molly Malone," an Irish folk song sung by Patrick Connell, a guest from Ireland, and a non-Irish guest.

The songs also came from different eras. Led by Eliana Ribeiro das Chagas, a group dressed in the clothing of the ‘60s sang "Blowing in the Wind."

Every week of the program had a different theme, and the one on prayer was, I think, especially rich and graced.

During that week, besides talks on prayer, we had a day of recollection ending with a Taizé prayer service, a teaching on Ignatian prayer, and the following week, an optional praise and worship service.

On a lighter note, near the end of the program, Derek Pinto showed a DVD that he had directed and made about two "experts"—our own Tom White and Martha Reilander—from the company, Brilliant Ideas, who came to solve some of Madonna House’s "pressing" problems—such as getting the compost from the kitchen to the compost pile. There’s probably nothing funnier than a light-hearted spoof about one’s everyday life.

Our Saturday Evening Seminar, an open forum in which the guests can ask the director generals questions, turned out to be exceptional this year, for many of the questions were especially deep and pertinent.

Some of them were: Are we as a Church doing enough for pro-life? What advice would you give to people who don’t have access to a priest they trust if they need spiritual direction?

What different kinds of loneliness have you experienced in your vocation, and how have they helped you identify with others?

Many saints "despised" themselves. What is the role of self-esteem in the life of a Christian?

I want a greater relationship with God, but I have a big problem with silence.

What do you, personally, love about your MH vocation?

What should we do when we are faced with legislation that conflicts with our beliefs as Catholics?

With all the negative things we see and hear about it and with our wounds, how can we see sex as a gift?

On Friday evenings, guests were given an opportunity to spend some time in silent prayer and to share with all of us what they have been getting from the program and their life here.

About just one of those sharings, Susanne Stubbs, director general of women, said, "If nothing else happened all summer, everything that went into the program will have been worth it."

Our one major summer feast, the feast of the Assumption, took place a few days after the program ended.

As our major feasts always are, it was beautiful, and it began on the vigil with the Acathist, a Byzantine Rite prayer service of praise to Our Lady.

August 15th has also, among other things, become the day on which we honor the jubilarians, those celebrating fifty years as members of Madonna House, and, to a lesser degree, those celebrating twenty-five years.

The day ended with an evening of sharing by the golden jubilarians: Toni Austin, Jeannine Biron, and Emily Huston.

(Emily came back from MH England for the occasion, and prior to the feast, the three women enjoyed a day together.

They picnicked and listened to a tape of Catherine’s talk from their final promises retreat and read together Fr. Pelton’s homily from their final promises Mass and Fr Gerard Bradley’s homily which appears in this issue of the paper.)

Each in turn told the story of her vocation and spoke about Catherine Doherty forming them. They also shared memories of Fr. Eddie and about "a challenge in MH that God used to bring you life." Finally, they were asked, "What do you think Madonna House offers to today’s world?"

How could the evening not have been beautiful? Each of the three women was so much herself and openly spoke from her heart. What a picture they gave by their very being of the simplicity, hiddenness, fruits, and beauty of our vocation!

And so, a summer of glimpsing God at work in a wonderful group of young people ended with glimpses of his work in older people, three women who have over many years, quietly and faithfully lived our vocation.

Here are some other pieces of news: Two people, Elizabeth Bassarear and Beth Holmes, traveled to places where they were formerly stationed and where we have closed houses in the past few years—Elizabeth to Brazil and Beth to Magadan, Russia.

In both places, it was a wonderful gift for them to see how deeply we are still connected with people there, how much we are still in their hearts, and how much it means to them that we returned for a visit, even briefly.

Raandi King, who does pottery, took a course in glazes, and three people, who have already have first aid training, took an update course in it.

At the women’s birthday party for Susanne Stubbs, the director general of women, the entertainment was individual women reading their favorite quotes from Shakespeare. Not surprisingly, they ranged from the "sublime" to the comical.

I’ll end with an incident that showed how directly God takes care of our needs. Just when we were almost out of fat, we received a donation of organic pork fat!

In this month of the rosary, may Our Lady keep you closely in her care.


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