Posted April 22, 2013 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (April 2013)

by Paulette Curran.

As I was looking over the events of the past month in preparation for writing this column, I was struck once again by the simplicity of our Madonna House life.

We live in a fairly isolated rural area, far from big cities, far from "where things are happening" in the eyes of the world. Much of our work is more or less routine, much of it manual. Even in church circles, we are not well-known.

But, we know that because Christ lived it when he came to earth, ordinary life, wherever it is lived, is holy, and it can be a means of our sanctification, of bringing souls to God, and of restoring the world to him.

As I write this, it is Lent. And Lent here was preceded by pre-Lent events. We had a traditional pancake supper, the opportunity for confession on Shrove Tuesday, and what we call "the Pre-Lent Event."

The Pre-Lent Event is our version of Mardi Gras. It’s a variety show including various kinds of acts, but mainly humorous skits about our life.

Several of the skits this year presented an imaginary look at the women doing the men’s work during an upcoming meeting of all the men in our apostolate. One of these showed several elderly women staff, tools in hand, including a blue print, arriving at Vianney House to work on the renovations!

Then it was Ash Wednesday—purple at Mass, our beautiful Lenten hymns, simple meals, and a Lenten book for after-lunch spiritual reading. And, we are making pysanky (Russian and Ukrainian Easter eggs) and Stations of the Cross on some Friday evenings.

Also during Lent, we are taking part in Forty Days for Life, that time of focused prayer and action usually in front of abortion clinics.

Unable to go to an abortion clinic, we have an optional gathering in the chapel to pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy a few evenings a week for an end to abortion and for the other life-related intentions of Forty Days for Life.

In Lent, we also have our staff study time: two hours on Friday afternoons. This year our subjects were taken from what is happening in the Church.

Because we are within the year of the 50th anniversary of Vatican II, each of four groups is studying a different document from this council.

And because Pope Benedict during this year of faith, asked all of us throughout the world to get to know the saints, we divided the 2000 years of Church history into seven different periods, and different groups are studying saints from each of those periods.

From these obviously vast subjects, we each select what we want to focus on and read about that, then share within our group what we have learned.

February 14th is the anniversary of the foundation of Friendship House Harlem, our foundress Catherine’s second house.

Located in what probably was at the time, the largest African-American neighborhood in America—Harlem in New York City—that house served the poor and was involved in the struggle for inter-racial justice, mainly in the 1940s.

So this anniversary is always an opportunity not only to look at our Madonna House history but also at African-American history and culture. (February also happens to be Black History month in the U.S.)

Almost every year, when she has not been in one of our mission houses, Andorra Howard, who is African-American, has organized a presentation in connection with that day, and this year was no exception.

This time, using narrative, song, and dance, the presentation centered on the faith of the African-American people throughout their history, the faith that sustained them. Did our visitors want to know more? "Ask the staff," Andorra told them. "Some of them took part in the Civil Rights Movement."

Also in connection with Black History Month, we saw the movie, Freedom Riders, a documentary about the Freedom Rides which were part of the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

February 14th was also the 50th anniversary of St. Joseph’s House, our mission house which serves our local area. They celebrated in simple ways on this, the real day, but the main celebration will be in the summer.

Fr. Tom Zoeller and Renée Sylvain gave the annual women’s retreat for our diocese.

Then afterwards, Margarita Guerrero, the housemother for the women’s guests, asked Renée to give the talks she gave there to the women guests, which she is doing. They had their first talk on Thursday evening, and as part of that presentation, the guests made maps of their lives, putting in their times of encounter with Christ.

We had a day of recollection on the Feast of the Presentation, the World Day for Consecrated Life. This is becoming an annual event.

Thanks to our local school of higher learning, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom Academy, we had the opportunity to attend two events: a talk by Dr. Eduardo Rialti (a professor from Italy) about Tolkien and a play put on by the academy, Agatha Christie’s Appointment with Death.

Last Sunday evening, we had an ice skating party, complete with music, hot chocolate, pretzels, and popcorn.

Thanks to the hard work of Darrin Prowse and helpers, we have had our skating rink (a small part of the wetlands between the island and the main house) open longer this year than usual. It has been well-used, especially for ice hockey.

Echo Lewis’ biography of Catherine Doherty for young people, Victorious Exile: The Unexpected Destiny of Katya Kolyschkine, has finally been published and is now available. It’s been ten years in the making, so this is quite an event. The staff have been giving it rave reviews.

Finally, here are some news in brief: the applicants had a three-day Ignatian retreat. A number of staff are making individual Lenten retreats as well. Vianney House renovations continue and are going well.

This is, obviously, an important time in the Church. By the time you receive this, we will, please God, have a new pope.

But these days, we are one with the whole Church, reflecting on the gift of the papacy of Pope Benedict. We are praying with him during this time of transition, for the Church and also for the cardinals as they gather to elect his successor.

During this Easter season, may the Risen Lord grant you joy.


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