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

by Pat Probst.

Today is the next-to-last day of January. As I write, a new snowfall is brightening the ground, and the sun is shining brilliantly. I am substituting for Paulette who is now recovering from the flu that felled most of us, beginning around New Year’s (though a few went down earlier). Timberrrrrr! Down we went.

Fortunately we didn’t all go down at the same time, but still, there were, of course, repercussions. Work was cut to a minimum, and when we weren’t sick, we needed to be flexible to fill in on the essential jobs where needed.

We cut back on other things, too. For the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, for example, we usually have a Byzantine liturgy which includes a lovely ceremony of throwing a cross into the river as a blessing for all the waters in the world.

But this year, both the main sacristan (Viva LeBlanc) and the schola (choir) director (Veronica Dudych) were sick. So this year no Byzantine liturgy and no blessing of the waters.

The kitchen was also hard hit, and so we also had no Epiphany bread; the traditional three pennies were put under our plates instead. And guests’ classes on the Catechism of the Catholic Church were delayed a week. Etc., etc., etc.

Then on January 10th, just a week after Fr. Duffy’s funeral, we received word that Archbishop Pierre-André Fournier of the diocese of Rimouski, Quebec, had died. We were stunned. He had had quadruple bypass surgery recently but had been recovering nicely.

The archbishop was an associate bishop of MH and had been close to us since he was a seminarian. One of his first acts as bishop was to ask for a house, which we gave him, and that house quickly became family to him. He visited them often.

Fr. David May and Fr. Louis Labrecque attended the funeral as did, of course, Jeanne Guillemette and Jocko d’Ursel of MH Rimouski.

They said the funeral was very moving and that two things really came out: the deep holiness of the archbishop and the fact that his spirituality was that of Madonna House. We will probably have an article or two about Archbishop Fournier next month.

Meanwhile, back in Combermere, the men are doing lots of repairs and projects. Tom White is reconnecting and simplifying the future generator set-up at St. Mary’s. Paul Mitchell is busy with furnace checks.

Fr. Louis Labrecque and the bush crew are cutting wood, and Darrin Prowse and the maintenance crew are stacking it to keep our woodstove fires burning.

Our car mechanic par excellence, Bryan O’Brien, has been replacing thermostats which regulate the circulation of water from radiator to engine in our cars. Douglas Guss is measuring water usage in preparation for renovating one of the septic tanks. Daniel Rabideau is making coffins.

Ralph Edelbrock repaired the clothes dryer and installed flood-lighting in the newly renovated adoration chapel. Darrin Prowse discovered significant carpenter ant damage in the Small Shop, and is working to fix the problem.

At the farm, Michael Huffman has had to thaw out the cows’ frozen water troughs and search for wood shavings for their bedding. The cheese-maker, Paul Moore, is making cottage cheese for the paska at Easter. Chuck Sharp and Michael renovated the seed drill.

Carpenter Peter Gravelle is planning for the summer building projects, and he and others, such as Doug Guss, are also helping in the care of the elderly. And so it goes with the men’s work.

The women, too, are doing a variety of things. Here are just a few of them. Mary Davis and helpers are busy cleaning and carding the wool from our sheep.

The head of the handicraft department, Anne Marie Murphy gave our applicants a tour of the handicraft building and spoke to them about Catherine’s vision of handicrafts. Anne Marie loves to spend her day off spinning the wool from our sheep into yarn to be sold in the gift shop.

Carolyn Desch, head of the gift shops and pioneer museum, and Mary McGoff, head of the office, talked to the applicants about little things done exceedingly well in hidden corners—and showed them the corners. Lots and lots of corners. Endless corners!

Fr. Denis Lemieux gave a parish mission in Chapeau, Quebec; and Fr. Blair Bernard and Paul Mitchell, gave the annual men’s retreat for our diocese.

Fr. David Linder recently returned from Krasnoyarsk, Russia, where he gave a retreat and a day of recollection. And Mark Schlingerman, director general of men, gave a talk to the applicants on the Russian roots of our apostolate.

Fr. Erbin Fernandez, a former longterm working guest and an associate priest, came all the way from Singapore on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of his priesthood. During his three-week visit, he renewed his Act of Consecration to Our Lady, which he had written himself based on the de Montfort Consecration. It was very moving.

Fr. David Maher, who is from Missouri, came with two priest friends for his first visit in many years due to illness, and made his final promises as an associate.

I see that this Combermere Diary is winding down, an opportune place to note that we are winding up again "Basement University," our weekly educational films, now that it is Ordinary Time once more. We watched films on monarch butterflies and fractals.

What will be next? No grass grows under our feet—though snow does!


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