Posted March 25, 2013 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (March 2013)

by Paulette Curran.

Here in Madonna House, January—after Epiphany at least—is a relatively quiet and uneventful time of year. And probably it seems even more so, coming as it does right after the festivities of Christmastime.

So having feasted—on song, Christmastime liturgies, festive foods, and decorations and having enjoyed ice skating, ice hockey, skiing, jigsaw puzzles, card games, walks, hikes, visiting with one another, and all the other things we do with unstructured holiday time—we have re-entered the Nazareth of ordinary time.

One of the things that change after Christmastime is that there are fewer working guests. Many who plan to leave around December will stay through Christmas, and so, right after the holy day, an exodus begins.

Other visitors trickle in gradually afterwards, but numbers usually remain low for a while, and this is especially noticeable in the dining room and chapel.

For those visitors who are here, there are classes on Wednesday mornings. Fr. Paul Burchat is teaching them from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, and after that class, one of the staff teaches them about a facet of Madonna House spirituality as part of a series of talks called, "The People of the Towel and the Water." Last week, for example, Scott Eagan spoke about apostolic farming.

Applicants, too, continue their Friday afternoon study time, and we staff will soon begin our annual six-week study groups on Friday afternoons. (More about that next month.)

One huge work project of the men’s department these days is the renovation of Vianney House, our residence for visiting priests.

The work is so major that, in preparation for it, everything, and I do mean everything, had to be moved out of the building. (Needless to say, we will not be receiving priest visitors until the job is finished.)

One nice result of moving everything out is that, instead of just storing the pictures and other wall-hangings, we have hung some of them on the walls of various other buildings. And so, those of us who rarely go to Vianney House are, for a time, able to enjoy the art work in such places as St. Mary’s dining room.

Peter Gravelle and Patrick McConville are overall responsible for these renovations, and they hired a local friend fulltime. Plus a number of the other men staff and working guests are working on specific parts of it.

Darrin Prowse, for example, has taken down and is re-building walls, and Ralph Edelbrock is planning the electrical work.

The entire building is now gutted, and in the next while, it will be re-wired, re-insulated, dry walled, and painted; and the heating system will be re-worked and the stairs reorganized (making them less steep and therefore more knee-friendly).

Three of our staff—Fr.
Denis Lemieux, Neil Patterson, and Martha Reilander—traveled by train to Halifax, Nova Scotia, to take part in the tenth annual Rise-Up Conference organized by the CCO (Catholic Christian Outreach).

(CCO is a movement of lay missionaries and students whose missionary field is Canadian universities. Fr. Denis found them "incredibly committed to preaching the Gospel.")

Our team manned a book table, which, besides selling our books and other materials, was a wonderful venue for what Catherine Doherty called, "the chit-chat apostolate."

The staff chatted with whoever came by, listening to them and telling them about Madonna House. Martha was impressed with "how open and willing the young people were to hear about MH and to talk about their own journey of faith."

And, as always happens at such conferences, our staff were delighted to see and visit with former working guests.

Fr. Denis and Martha also took part in a vocation panel where each gave a short witness talk.

Meanwhile, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the Rise-Up for western Canada was taking place, and three of the staff from our western houses attended: Michael Amaral and Veronica Ferri from Marian Centre Regina and Joanne Kuntz from Marian Centre Edmonton.

Back at home, Dr. Moira McQueen, director of the Canadian Catholic Bio-Ethics Institute, who also teaches moral theology at St. Michael’s College in Toronto, gave us a day of presentations on some end-of-life topics. (Moira’s family came to our Cana Colony twice around thirty years ago.)

In the morning, she spoke about Catholic ethical principles and in the afternoon, she covered such topics as withdrawal of treatment, prolonging life, palliative relief of pain and suffering, and advance care directives. In the evening, there was a question and answer session.

Several staff traveled to give talks and retreats. Jo-Anne Paquette gave a talk to the Christian Mothers group at St. Hedwig’s Parish in the nearby town of Barry’s Bay. Fr. Denis Lemieux and David Guzman gave the annual diocesan men’s retreat.

Fr. Tom Zoeller and Associate Deacon Bob Birch gave a retreat in Sudbury for permanent deacons and their wives. The theme was "Year of Faith: Living Life with Jesus," and Deacon Bob witnessed to how Madonna House has helped him to do this.

Recent visitors here included three members of CCO and three members of Shalom’s Toronto house. (Shalom is a new international ecclesiastical community based in Brazil.)

And in conclusion, here are some news in brief: One of our former longterm guests, Saenel, was baptized in Korea. As part of her holidays, Margarita Guerrero attended The New York Encounter, a cultural event on the theme of Freedom organized by Communion and Liberation, one of the new ecclesial communities.

A few of the staff, including two or our directors general are currently making a ten-day silent retreat.

May the rest of your Lent be a time of grace and blessings and, at the end of it, may you know the true joy of the Resurrection.


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