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Posted November 26, 2012 in MH Combermere ON:
Notes From Near and Far: St. Joseph’s House, Combermere

by Carol Geiske.

Though it has been a time of staff changes, the rhythm of our life, of course, continues. Mass, lauds, vespers, communal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and our Saturday home Mass, keep us praying together for our families, our MH family, and the people of the Madawaska Valley, among whom we live.

We play together, too; whenever possible, Saturday is our family night. On those nights, we take walks, we bowl, we bike; we even play cards now and then. One Saturday evening in the fall, we all went out to harvest our grapes, a bumper crop this year, partly due to the fact that Peter Lyrette pruned the vines last spring.

Last winter, we did something different: we had a three-day retreat followed by a craft day and a cultural day.

For our cultural day, we went to Ottawa to tour three museums: the National Art Gallery, the Canadian Museum of Nature, and the Museum of Civilization.

Life here changed somewhat when our local director, Jo-Anne Paquette, was asked to go to MH Ottawa to assist one of our members who became ill with cancer. Then she was assigned there.

Soon Joanne Kuntz will be leaving, too, for her new assignment at Marian Centre Edmonton. And recently, we welcomed Sandra Novecosky who will, after a time of orientation and training, become our new local director.

On September 2nd, we had a farewell and welcome tea that was well attended by many of our friends and neighbors. It is obvious that Jo-Anne and Joanne are well-loved.

My assignment to St. Joe’s after twenty-two years in MH Toronto has been in some ways a walk back into my rural childhood. There are chickens and cats to feed, wood fires to stoke, large families to visit, and a social life connected to the parish, school, and related organizations.

Our apostolic outreach here is quite varied. Alma Coffman, along with Lupe Zabaco, an elderly MH staff worker from Our Lady of the Visitation at St. Mary’s, spends many Tuesday afternoons visiting our elderly friends.

Evenings, one or another of us often visit local families or people living alone. Trina Stitak and Joanne Kuntz work one morning a month at the food bank in Barry’s Bay. Trina is the St. Joseph’s House representative on the school council, and Joanne attends the CWL (Catholic Women’s League) functions at the parish.

Alma and Trina participate in the local horticultural society. Early morning hours sometimes find them making floral arrangements. This year, some of their efforts resulted in prize-winning exhibits at the annual horticultural fair.

Weddings, baptisms, First Communions, Confirmations, graduations, music recitals, anniversaries, wakes, funerals: we attend a lot of them as we participate in the life of the people in the numerous communities that make up the Madawaska Valley area.

Occasionally we get called on for emergency help in ways that remind me of the stories of Catherine Doherty’s early days in the area.

Jo-Anne Paquette, for example, assisted in the labour and delivery of twins.

We also help out occasionally when new moms are getting overwhelmed or shut-ins need help.

St. Ed’s rummage sale and St. Joe’s clothing centre keep us busier than ever. Sorting, cleaning, stocking, restocking are ongoing activities for three of us. The other two garden, can, cook, and answer the phone and door bell. Plus, during this dry summer, Alma had to irrigate the gardens to keep them alive.

Peter Lyrette has been sanding and painting up a storm. Among other things, he sanded and polyurethaned the big kitchen table made by Fr.Paul Béchard so many years ago. It looks like new.

And old St. Joe’s (now the clothing center) hasn’t looked this good in years. The blue window frames, doors, and benches make it look more welcoming.

These days, we especially have to look ahead. Feb. 14, 2013 will be the 50th anniversary of St. Joseph’s House. Melanie Murphy has been researching the history of the early days and has prepared a special mailbox for visitors to drop notes about St. Joseph’s House.

We don’t know yet what we’ll be doing to celebrate our 50th year, but God willing, it will be special.

 

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