Posted June 18, 2013 in MH Combermere ON:
Parties, Lectures, and Shopping

by Sandra Lynch.

When I was a working guest in Madonna House, back in 1970-71, I wondered what the local people in the lovely village of Combermere were like. I wanted to meet them.

As it turned out, I met my husband in Madonna House, and nine years after our marriage, after having lived in several other places, we moved to Combermere.

I knew I couldn’t hang out at Madonna House or attend their Masses, but I did have their local field house, St. Joseph’s House, and my beloved "madonnas" who lived there.

Throughout the thirty years that my family has lived in Combermere, the ladies of St. Joe’s have been our good neighbors, being both a resource and a support for our journey of loving God and raising our children.

The first time I stepped inside their house as a new resident, I knew I was going to love living in Combermere. The baptism of a local child was being celebrated, and the room was crowded with friends and family; kids swarmed everywhere.

Music danced in the air as local legends Joe Peplinskie played his fiddle and Blanche Lepinski, the piano. It was friendly; it was fun.

This was the first in a long line of family events hosted by St. Joe’s that we attended, including All Saints Eve and St. Nicholas parties and Our Lady of Guadalupe plays.

St. Joe’s has always been a great place to shop. With their low prices and many free things, they make available an abundance of items which have helped many families with restricted incomes.

Shopping there is also a social event. Chatting with friends and strangers while shuffling through a bin of used clothing is wonderful for moms who spend a lot of time at home with their children.

Holidays can be lonely times for those who don’t have extended family in the area. So an invitation to a Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter dinner at St. Joe’s was always welcomed. That was also a time to get to know a little better the staff workers and the other people from the area who were also invited.

The "madonnas" also taught us something abut spontaneity and good humor. There were, for example, the Christmas tree bonfires held some time in late January, when neighbors would bring their dried-up trees to add to the blaze.

We watched the sparks flit in the air while singing 1950s rock and roll songs, and our spines tingled as Patrick McConville recited "The Cremation of Sam McGee" by the Yukon poet, Robert Service.

There was also a care for the spiritual development of those in the local area who were interested. Fr. Sharkey, a Madonna House priest, taught dynamic scripture classes at St. Joe’s, and prayer meetings and our millennium parish meetings were held there.

Then there was a unique meeting with Catherine Doherty and some of the new families who had moved into the area thinking we would form covenant communities. That evening, Catherine changed our lives. Emphasizing our responsibility to be active members of the local parish, she told us not to "chase rainbows."

The women of St. Joe’s live a life of service to God and our community. They do it cheerfully and with good humor. They do it compassionately and matter-of-factly; they do it discreetly and in the middle of the night. They are our good neighbors. Thank you, Catherine, for your vision of "field houses."


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