by Marie-Therese McLaughlin.
These notes will be covering several months.
First of all, Roanoke had the coldest winter on record. According to our friends, the cold weather and snow were directly caused by MH staff workers arriving from Canada. Yes, you guessed it: our new one, Beth Holmes, stepped through our blue door as the first flakes of snow started to grace our lawn.
As at any Madonna House, our days have been full.
For one thing, we are seeing an increase in the number of people using the poustinia—including a few university students. It is always a blessing to have someone praying all day in the house.
One night, we hosted two young women who were in town with the Notre Dame Chorale who gave a concert at St. Andrew’s Parish. The chorale was terrific; they have even sung at the Vatican.
We continue to give talks and presentations about Madonna House. Among other things, we gave an Epiphany party to the RCIA from Our Lady of Nazareth Parish, complete with regally robed Magi.
We also gave an afternoon retreat to the Secular Franciscans, an Advent talk at St. Andrew’s Parish, and a morning retreat to the Eucharistic ministers and the Justice and Peace group at parish in Blacksburg an hour’s drive away.
These days the St. Francis Food Pantry next door has been inundated with families needing assistance. In fact, the numbers have doubled, and they have been running out of food.
To cope with the problem, they have had to limit the number of families being helped to the first 35 coming each morning.
Today, as I write, the homeless day shelter behind us is closed for three days because all those running it are sick with the flu. Usually the shelter is open 365 days a year, so this situation is very unusual.
Quite a few of our friends have had serious health problems over the past two months; many have been hospitalized.
We help out where we can, driving people to and from the hospitals and doing quite a bit of visiting.
Patricia Lawton accompanied one woman who was having a kidney transplant. Since that time, this woman has had many complications and interventions. She is now slowly recovering.
On January 1st, we had our customary open house to honor the Mother of God. This year we had a great turnout—seventy-five people throughout the afternoon.
Many of them brought home-baked goodies to supplement the feast-day foods we had put out. And in order to free us up to talk with folks and give tours to new-comers, the Secular Franciscans helped with the serving. It was truly an agape.
By the end of the afternoon there were still twenty-two people around who joined us for vespers. It was a wonderful, relaxed and memorable day for all of us.
As for our life within our Madonna House family, we hosted our sisters Cynthia Donnelly and Diana Breeze from MH Washington over Thanksgiving for a wonderful visit. And just before Lent, we took some time for retreat and renewal at a Trappist monastery in the area.
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