Posted August 13, 2013 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (July-August 2013)

by Paulette Curran.

Every year in early May, shortly before the leaves come out, the directors of all our houses come home for 2 ½ weeks of meetings. This is usually the main event of this time of year.

Every year in early May, shortly before the leaves come out, the directors of all our houses come home for 2 ½ weeks of meetings. This is usually the main event of this time of year.

This year, in April, MH Combermere also hosted another set of meetings: For the first time in the history of MH, Mark Schlingerman, director general of laymen, called for a gathering of all the lay men staff, a gathering which he called a "sobor."

But back to the local directors’ meeting. The directors and elders of MH Combermere also attended, and it was a time for all the directors to share with one another, to be spiritually fed, and to discern prayerfully together where the Holy Spirit is leading the community.

This year, one of the main topics discussed was the New Evangelization, a call originally issued by Pope John Paul II in response to the Post-Christian world.

One aspect of this topic that was already "in the air" in Combermere came to the fore. And that is the challenging question of how to talk with people who think very differently from the way we do.

There was excellent input on this topic by two speakers, who gave talks to the entire community. They were Bishop Don Bolen and Margaret Somerville.

Bishop Bolen, who as a young man was a longterm working guest here and is now an associate bishop of MH, is currently the bishop of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He has a great deal of experience in ecumenism, having been, among other things, on the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity in Rome from 2001 until 2006.

He spoke to us about the New Evangelization.

Margaret Somerville, an ethicist and professor of medicine and law at McGill University in Montreal, a woman who has written and spoken much on life issues, spoke about euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide.

Her approach is to base her "arguments" on human rather than religious values and beliefs, so as to help non-believers to hear what she has to say.

Obviously, both speakers have much experience in dialoguing, and both shared their skills and wisdom with us. And they confirmed what we have been seeing: that in dialoguing with someone who disagrees with us on vital issues, it is essential that we accept, reverence, and love that person.

One event that gave us an opportunity to proclaim the culture of life publicly was the March for Life which took place in Ottawa on May 9th.

The march grows every year—this year over 20,000 participated—and so does the participation of Madonna House. This year, about 30 of us went—directors (the meetings were cancelled that day), staff, priests, visitors.

Margarita Guerrero and Loretta Fritz manned a book table at the youth rally and evening banquet (doing lots of visiting with the people who came) and Fr. Paul Burchat celebrated the Mass at the youth rally. Even those who stayed home were part of the day. They did a holy hour in solidarity with the march.

What were people’s impressions of the march? Here are a couple of comments:

An MH Priest: "This was my first time at the march. This year, I said to myself, ‘One more body on Parliament Hill will make a difference. Little things matter. My body is a little thing, but God uses little things for his purposes.’"

Another MH staff worker: "For me the March for Life is always an intense day of prayer, listening, and the chit-chat apostolate.

"Receiving every human person as if he or she were the most important human being on the face of the earth is one of the most pro-life things you can do. That is the constant work of the Madonna House Apostolate."

Here is a story from the March for Life:

David Douthwright, whose wife Posie works for MH Publications, is our friend and neighbor. Though David suffers from cancer—multiple myeloma—he continues to do everything he can for the pro-life cause, especially for a nearby pregnancy center . He very much wanted to go to the march.

His wife wasn’t able to take him, so Linda Lambeth, the department head of MH Publications, did.

She and Derek Pinto drove him to Ottawa. David proudly walked about 1/3rd of the march pushing his wheelchair, and Derek wheeled him the rest of the way.

Another event, one that took place on Pentecost Sunday, was also a celebration of life—a celebration of a particular life—that of Fr. Bob Pelton on the occasion of his 50th anniversary of priesthood.

This was the first time Fr. Bob was the main celebrant at a community Mass since he fractured his ankle in December.

Saying that during his last five months of convalescence, thanksgiving has become a theme for him, he began his homily by giving great thanksgiving for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

He went on to share how his conversion, which eventually led him first into the Catholic Church, then to Madonna House, and finally to priesthood, began through his praying for his high school team to win a football game! God certainly uses everything.

At the end of Mass, Fr. David May gave a word of thanks for Fr. Bob’s priesthood saying that, among other things, Fr. Bob was the first lay member of MH to be specifically ordained for Madonna House.

Fr. David also said that Fr. Bob’s life contained many "mysterious elements," one of which was his being sent after ordination for further studies lasting many years.

During that time, Fr. Bob once asked, "Lord, why?"

The answer came: "So that you might have a universal heart."

Fr. David continued, "So today, Fr. Bob, we thank the Lord that your heart has been, like His, pierced with the lance of love, so that you carry in your prayer so many. The Lord alone knows the heights and depths of that mystery at work in you."

Fr. David continued, "That phrase brings to mind a line from Catherine’s poem about priesthood: "The heart of a priest is pierced, like Christ’s, with the lance of love."

"The heart of a priest is open, like Christ’s, for the whole world to walk through."

Fr. Bob certainly needed a universal heart: He was director general of priests from 1984 until 2004.

We celebrated his anniversary with a picnic. There were, as always, lots of little touches: Janine Gobeil wrote a song for him which a group of us sang to him, and Linda Owen designed and baked a whimsical cake with a Pentecost theme, a cake whose decorations included cookie people and cookie flames.

Our last two items of news are about books—another way we have of evangelizing.

Fr. Lee Dong-Hun, a former visitor to MH Combermere, has translated Catherine Doherty’s booklet, Apostolic Farming, into Korean, and it is being published in South Korea.

Environmental issues are hot in Korea, and Fr. Lee plans to give copies of this book to environmental activists there. He sees this book as a way of bringing God into the world of environmental issues.

Fr. Denis Lemieux has a new book out, published by Justin Press: The I-Choice: Staying Human in a Digital Age. It’s a balanced and practical guide to using the new technology in ways that help keep us Christian and human.

And here are a couple of wee bits of other news. As part of the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of St. Joseph’s house, we had an evening of sharing memories of that house. We celebrated Joe Walker’s 90th birthday.

During this summertime, may God grant you joy in the beauty he lavishes in nature.

Fr. Denis’ book grew out of a three-part series on the new technology published in Restoration This series can be found online at in Archives—November 2010 through March 2011.


If you enjoy our articles, we ask you to please consider subscribing to the print edition of Restoration; it's only $10 a year, and will help us stay in print. Thanks, and God bless you!


Restoration Contents

Next article:
Milestones (July-August 2013)

Previous article:
Notes from Near and Far: MH Roanoke



RSS 2.0RSS feed

Madonna House - A Training Centre for the Lay Apostolate