Posted January 07, 2013 in MH Ottawa ON, and in My Dear Family:
Ottawa Beginnings

by Catherine Doherty.

In August 1973, Catherine wrote the following article to introduce the readers of Restoration to the Ottawa house. It was a new kind of venture—the first of our houses that did not perform a concrete work among the materially poor.

Madonna House has come to Ottawa. The director is Arlene Becker and her assistant is Diane Lefebvre. His excellency, Archbishop Joseph Plourde, has blessed the venture and given us this building which belongs to the archdiocese.

We are responsible for everything else, for which we are deeply grateful, for that’s what we asked for. That’s all we ask from every head of the diocese when we come to it.

We desire to be responsible for the rest, like oil for the furnace, gas for the stove, the telephone, and all the rest of it. We want to be beggars. That is to say, we simply want to ask, hoping that we shall receive what we need, which is very little.

As usual, people will want to know what we are going to do in Ottawa. Well, I don’t think we are going "to do" very much. Mostly we will "be". That is to say, we will witness to Christ with our presence.

The essence of Madonna House is difficult to transmit but perhaps this little introduction might help:

"The apostolate of Madonna House and its members are pilgrims in this world proclaiming the second coming of Christ when all things will be restored to him.

"Like all pilgrims, the members travel in poverty to find security only in Christ; journey in chastity to serve and love Christ in men; live in obedience to be concerned only with the Will of God."

Then again, perhaps, what we call our Little Mandate [words expressing the essential spirituality of Madonna House] will clarify who we are and what we want to be:


"Arise—go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly, personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their cross) and follow me—going to the poor—being poor—being one with them—one with Me.

"Little. Be always little—simple, poor, childlike.

"Preach the Gospel with your life without compromise. Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you.

"Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.

"Love—love—love, never counting the cost.

"Go into the market place and stay with Me. Pray. Fast. Pray always. Fast.

"Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbors’ feet. Go without fears into the depth of men’s hearts. I shall be with you.

"Pray always. I will be your rest."


No, we are not going to do anything, meaning that we are not going to teach catechism or enter into the field of social action or community action.

We just, I guess, will be—spending part of our day in prayer and another part in welcoming anyone who comes to visit us with the humble hospitality of our humble means. The house is open to talk about God.

Perhaps on some window—or will it be a glass door?—we will put up a sign: "God is spoken about here. Anyone is welcome."

Editor: Talk about an impossible task, a leap in faith! But this is the vision that Arlene and Diane and all who came after them have tried to live.

Arlene is still there. Martha came as a brand new staff worker when the house was nine years old, and she was formed by Arlene in her poustinik vocation.

For the past thirty years, she and Martha were together, sometimes with others, sometimes not. They developed a deep friendship, and somewhere along the line, they were made co-directors of the house.


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Madonna House - A Training Centre for the Lay Apostolate