Posted January 23, 2015 in Combermere Diary:
Combermere Diary (January 2015)

by Paulette Curran.

Our biggest news this month was the visit of Archbishop Luigi Bonazzi, the apostolic nuncio, the pope’s representative to Canada.

Like the staff of Maryhouse, our house in the Yukon where he visited not long ago, we found him to be a warm, loveable, Spirit-filled man, and we thoroughly enjoyed his visit.

He continually reached out to people. When he arrived, the first thing he did was to stop and greet everyone he met as he walked from the parking lot to the main house.

Then after a simple, low-key lunch, Fr. David May (director general of our priests) and Teresa Reilander took the archbishop on a tour. 

The first stop was the farm, where he met each of the staff and guests as well as several of the animals. Having grown up on a farm in Italy, he was very interested in everything and asked lots of questions. He ended his farm visit by dropping in at the tea break where he spent the time interacting with people.

The next stop was St. Raphael’s handicraft center where the nuncio chatted with each of the staff and applicants as they demonstrated various crafts.

Then he visited the gift shop, the small shop, and the statue of Our Lady of Combermere. He was again at Fr. David’s table for supper, this time with three of the second year applicants and Fr. David Linder, one of their directors of training.

Immediately after supper, Archbishop Bonazzi went into the kitchen to thank the cooks and encountered a room full of women beginning to do the dishes. He thanked the cooks for supper and said, ‘I’ll give one kiss for all!’ Kate O’Donnell, who is in charge of dishes, was the recipient.

He also checked out the basement, where the men were preparing the vegetables, and he grabbed a knife and chopped one of the cabbages.

After that, he met with the directors general.

He next morning was Sunday, and Archbishop Bonazzi was the main celebrant. Included in his opening words was the following: "I learned something from Mother Teresa. She recommends that a priest celebrate the Eucharist as if it’s his first, last, and only one."

We don’t have enough room for much of the homily but here is a short quote:

"This is the first rule, so to speak, in Christian life… to let God come to you, and to let him give to you, to enrich you. We are doing many things for the Lord, but what matters is what he is doing for us."

The nuncio had breakfast with the St. Mary’s community and returned to the main house just as we were finishing our meal. Susanne presented him with a basket of gifts which we had made including cheese, jam, candles, books, cards, calendar, and a small, cute felted sheep.

Among other things, he said he had intended this time with us to be one of resting and vacation for himself and that he was enjoying everything with simplicity and peacefully.

Among other things in his closing words, the nuncio reached out to the Korean staff and guests.

Then he said, "I was just saying to Fr. David that I have seen your presence in the Yukon and that there should be many more experiences like the one in the Yukon in the different dioceses in Canada because with your presence, even without speaking, you are proclaiming the Gospel. So we ask for this [for vocations]."

After breakfast, the tour of MH continued. The nuncio visited the cabin where Catherine lived and the place where we store incoming donations and where he was told how we live on donations and how we deal with them. Then, since it was beginning to snow, he left earlier than he had intended.

As he was heading for his car, our three Korean guests ran over to thank him and to say goodbye. He gave each of them a little gift, a blessing, and a hug.

We had another special visitor this past month as well. Tony Melendez, whom some of you may have heard of, came to give a concert not too far away and ended up giving us one as well.

Tony was a thalidomide baby who was born with no arms. He loved music and learned to play the guitar with his feet. At World Youth Day in 1987 an incident happened that changed his life.

He had been asked to perform there, and when it was over, Pope John Paul II embraced him and told him, "Give people hope."

He had been looking for direction for his life and this was it. He now goes around the world playing his guitar and singing, leading people in songs of praise, and telling about his life. He is filled with praise and gratitude to God, and his word to everyone is, "If God can transform my life, he can transform yours."

We had been expecting only a concert, but we were soon caught up in prayer. It was a very moving and prayerful evening.

Each of these visitors, in very different ways, brought us life and joy and a special presence of God. We are very grateful.

Another exciting thing that bears mentioning is one that happens every week.

It’s very simple, really—something almost anyone could do.

Once a week we are "attending" what we are facetiously calling "The Basement University." It consists of an educational movie—kind of a way to relax and learn something during the long winter months. Why "basement"? Well, that’s where our DVD/video machine is located.

The topics have certainly been varied: the Canadian experience of World War I, the beginnings of the planet earth, chemical effects of addictive drugs on the brain, ways of helping prevent Alzheimer’s, the ways various peoples have gotten water in the desert.

Another fun event was "the fun run" (a sort of, well, very sort of, Madonna House variation of a marathon) organized by Aliz Trombitas.

On that Sunday afternoon, you could walk or run, alone or with someone else, anywhere from 500 meters to 8 km. You could say it was a Sunday walk or hike with a difference.

The difference, well, differences, were: water stations and distance markers along the way, visiting together over hot chocolate and other treats afterwards, and prizes—not for the usual reasons prizes are given.

My favorite was awarded to applicant Pascal Richard for "the most original route." He made a wrong turn by mistake and walked a different route by himself.

Well, those are our main news items for this time.

In conclusion, let me wish each and every one of you a blessed and graced New Year.


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