Posted January 21, 2013 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (January 2013)

by Paulette Curran.

November, the general time-frame of this column, has been a relatively quiet time for us—the time between the harvest and Advent. The weather has generally been mild for this time of year, and so far our only snowfall has been a small one, which melted very quickly.

As always, on the Eve of All Saints Day, the "little saints"—neighboring children dressed as saints—paid us a visit and had us guess who they were. Afterwards, we gave each of them cookies and a picture of a saint.

All Saints Day is one feast we celebrate differently every year. This year, we were asked to "invite" a saint to supper. Then, at supper, we each told our table of six about "our guest." This was an enjoyable response to the pope’s suggestion in this Year of Faith to look at the lives of the saints and see how they lived their faith.

At the end of the meal, a few people introduced their saints to the whole dining room. These were certainly varied: St. Christine the Astonishing, St. Rene Goupil, St. Joachim, St. Rose of Lima, and St. Chad.

At St. Mary’s, they guessed who saints were from their symbols.

For All Souls Day, as has become our tradition in the past few years, we prayed the rosary at the cemeteries (the parish’s and our own).

One very enjoyable recent event was a music night—a type of presentation we’ve been having from time to time in recent years, for our young working guests love music.

They often gather around the piano in the basement in the evening and jam. It’s surprising how many of them play an instrument, and many of those who don’t, come to listen.

This music night (as all of them are, factually) was, as MC Sara Matthews told us in her introduction, "very Madonna House, that is, everything."

Well, not quite, but there was quite a variety: classical, rap, country, western, a Latin hymn, a poem recited to a guitar background, harp, pop, a song from Glory and Praise, etc. Most of the performances were by our visitors.

The heads of the women’s work departments had a day of recollection, and as part of it, they shared about their own MH journeys. Here is just one part of one of those sharings, by head gardener, Mary Davis.

"What a privilege it has been to work in the gardens these 50+ years; to be so immersed in creation and observe the incredible order of creation … how one thing affects another, how even the most minuscule microbe plays a crucial part.

"Creation is amazing that way, and God’s most perfect creation is man. We participate in that order and restoration as members of the Body of Christ."

Martha Reilander helped with a retreat called "Morning Watch" at nearby Mt. St. Patrick, a retreat geared to teens but open to others and which included all-night adoration.

Martha, who is from this area, used to be part of the group that put it on—the diocesan youth leaders—which was why she was invited. She gave a half hour witness/meditation on faith and her own journey.

Eleven people went to Montreal to attend the Mass of Thanksgiving for the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha at St. Joseph’s Oratory.

Three people, Fr. Ron Cafeo, Marysia Kowalchyk, and Janet Bourdet attended a five-day course on icon painting at the Sheptytsky Institute, a center for Eastern Catholic Studies in Ottawa.

And three others, Darrin Prowse, Chris Hanlon, and Peter Lyrette, took a first aid course.

Fr. Denis Lemieux is again giving classes on the Fundamentals of the Spiritual Life to our guests. And the applicant classes have included Exodus (taught by Fr. David Linder), Church History (taught by Fr. Paul Burchat), and the New Communities and Movements (taught by Mark Schlingerman).

The applicants have also been learning about some of the hidden day-to-day workings of Madonna House via tours of some of the men’s work departments: the HELP department (heating, electrical, lighting, plumbing), carpentry, and machinery.

By the time you read this, you will have sent and received your Christmas cards, but now in November, we are just starting to make them. Though we get some unused religious cards in donation, it isn’t enough for all of us. So we make them in various ways—probably the most popular is making them from old Christmas cards.

This past Sunday, Joanne Weisbeck gave a class in various ways of making them. (Our homemade cards are quite nice, as any of you who has received any of them can attest.)

The resident assistants (houseparents of the dorms) and their assistants (called "proctors") of Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy (a nearby Catholic post-secondary school), came for "a Madonna House day."

This included a tour; talks on Madonna House, Catherine Doherty, cleaning, and hospitality; Mass, prayers, and helping with dishes and what we call "veggies" (peeling and chopping vegetables).

We had a couple of work bees, occasions when as many of the community can do so, participate: a begging letter bee (to send out our letter, which some of you received), and a sugaring down bee (to convert some of our maple syrup into maple sugar).

More and more people are helping out in work departments not their own. One day, the ladies of the laundry spent the afternoon helping Patrick McConville put shingles on the roof of a storage building, what we call "the green garage."

Jo-Anne Paquette, Cathy Mitchell, and Beverly Maciag joined Arlene Becker and Shatzi Duffy (the staff at MH Ottawa) in attending a beautiful memorial Mass, reception, and sharing of memories for Martha Shepherd in Ottawa. It was obvious that Martha was well-loved by many, many people.

In conclusion, let me say that, though this may have been a relatively quiet time for us, we have been very aware that it has been anything but that in too many parts of the world.

One hidden part of our work is the offering of our prayers and suffering (large and small) for the needs of our families and friends, (including, of course, you, our readers) and for all the world. These days, the United States has been especially in our prayers—including, of course, the victims of Superstorm Sandy.

May 2013 be for each of you a time of grace and blessing.


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