by Helen Porthouse.
By autumn time, these summer events in Madonna House will have become memories for us, like the green leaves on the trees.
Worldwide events, too. One worldwide event occurred on July 22nd, when Pope Francis landed in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day. He said that the youth are the future… but not the youth alone. The elderly too are the future. "A people has a future if it advances on both sides."
Our summer program for young adults, organized by Patrick Stewart and Sara Matthews, included treasures from both the young and the elderly—and from the middle aged as well.
The first week, the theme was "Christ, the Fire Within," and it spoke to a young woman guest from the area of Texas recently hit by destructive wild fires. While working in the strawberry patch, she said she was suddenly struck by the fact that God’s fire can uproot and purge away to make room for new and healthy growth.
Another woman guest, who also worked in the gardens, said she found God in the flies, when she discovered that she could offer up for others the irritation they caused her.
The second week’s theme, "Church: Into the Fire," inspired Jeannine Biron, (82 years old) to connect fire to a line of the Little Mandate of Madonna House, "Sell all you possess."
She spoke about "selling" her character defects to God, who makes the "payment" with the fire of his love, which we then pass on to others. Her talk moved many of the young people who listened to it.
More than 40 people, staff and working guests, from age 20 to 80-plus, packed into a room in St. Mary’s for a poetry evening hosted by Sofia Segal. Some shared their own poetry.
Frank Brick, a guest, recited his poem/prayer about his experience preparing vegetables after supper. He said cutting veggies is like cutting out in us what resists God.
Another guest performed a Slam poem (a form of dramatic poetry begun in the 1990’s) about coming to trust God to find her a husband.
At the Saturday evening seminars with the directors general, visitors asked some well thought-out questions, which included the following subjects: love and how it is lived out in Madonna House; advice for guests who are leaving; and homosexuality and gay marriage.
Father David May, Susanne Stubbs, and Mark Schlingerman answered these and other questions, giving insights into how to follow God in a secular world.
The summer program ended with a dance at which young and old alike danced Irish style and other square dances.
The Cana Colony family camp has also ended after a wonderful summer of many graces, though not without some stove and power break-downs.
Most of these break-downs happened the week Larry Klein was part of the host team. Fortunately, Larry is skilled and experienced in maintenance and was there to fix things.
Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier from Rimouski, Quebec, one of our associate bishops, visited for five days. He was the first guest at Vianney House, the priests’ guest house, after its renovation.
The archbishop blessed the house and wrote in the guest book: "…I thank the Lord and Our Lady of Combermere for the men who have worked on the restoration of this oasis of love, prayer, rest and brotherhood. May they be blessed, too, as I ask St. Michael the Archangel to protect this house."
Catherine Doherty’s grand-daughter (George de Hueck’s daughter), Sharon, and her family from Mobile, Alabama, visited here for several days. It’s always a great gift to have Catherine’s blood family here with us.
On August 15, the feast of the Assumption, Catherine Doherty’s birthday, and the day we celebrate 25th and 50th anniversary of promises, we began with Mass.
The celebrant, Fr. Kieran Kilcommons, said what a joy it is to be in our Mother’s house.
The main house and St. Mary’s, including of course the chapels, were decorated with baskets of beautiful flowers, and there was a photo on display of the golden jubilarians, Sherman Everson and Beverly Maciag, taken on the day of their First Promises, with the words from Catherine: "Think of your vocation as the glory of the Cross."
There were photos of the silver jubilarians on display as well. Susanne Stubbs, the director general of women, said of the six women that they have all grown into spiritual mothers. Mark Schlingerman, the director general of men, thanked the two men for their faithfulness and service.
We also celebrated Sherman and Beverly with a sharing night. At this gathering, Sherman shared that he grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan where it was rough going during the Depression.
Later, as an adult living in Edmonton, he got to know Madonna House through Marian Centre, and then as a staff worker, he spent many years of faithful service in their soup kitchen.
One day there he lost his temper with a difficult man and was throwing him out. The man said, "Take a break, or you’re going to have a heart-attack!" He was concerned about Sherman!
Beverly said she came to Madonna House from Dearborn, Michigan, in the U.S., to visit a friend and when here she felt she had come home. One of her experiences as a young staff-worker working in the laundry was pouring a bottle of India ink into a wash-load of the men’s white shirts. She thought it was bluing!
Asked for some final words, Beverly had three: "Forgiveness: That’s what our life is about, and that’s what holds us together. Surrender: Everyday, say yes. And Gratitude: It’s incredible that God called me to this life."
Sherman said: "God has been very patient and merciful to me and I praise him for that. I see what God has done for me and how much I needed the Church. MH is a great gift, a wonderful place."
Towards the end of the summer the main work became harvesting and processing the harvest for the winter. Fortunately, we had a number of guests to help us.
We are grateful for the harvest and for all God has given us.
We also pray to live out Pope Francis’ words to the youth and to all Christians at the end of World Youth Day. "Jesus Christ is counting on you! The Church is counting on you! The Pope is counting on you! May Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, always accompany you with her tenderness: ‘Go and make disciples of all nations.’"
P.S. We’re sorry to say that we probably won’t be having any columns from Fr. Pat McNulty for the next while. He is recuperating from heart surgery.
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