Column: MH Combermere ON

This column contains articles related to the Madonna House field house in Combermere, Ontario, called “St. Joseph’s House” (or “the R.A.” for “Rural Apostolate”). (For entries related to the main house training centre in Combermere, see the column entitled “Combermere Diary.”)

Clothing a Village — by Bill Schroeder. A letter to the staff of St. Joseph’s House and Madonna House: There is an African saying, "It takes a village to raise a child." Here’s how I re-worked that saying: "If it takes a village to... (December 04, 2015)

Is Anything Here Real? — by Toni Austin. One day this past summer, a little girl of 4 ½ with curly brown hair and hazel eyes walked into our pioneer museum. She looked all around at the artifacts of bygone days, soaking up everything. Then... (November 20, 2015)

Notes from Near and Far: St. Joseph’s House, Combermere — by Carol Ann Gieske. What does St. Joseph’s House do? According to our mandate, our first responsibility is to "form a community of love" and "pray for the parish, the valley, and the diocese."... (October 21, 2015)

Our Topsy-Turvy Summer — by Sandra Novecosky. We have been plunged into the adventure of a major renovation of our home, and adventure it has been! We had to move out everything but the bare essentials, and we continue to do our usual work,... (October 03, 2014)

Notes From Near and Far: St. Joseph’s House — by Sandra Novecosky. Wonder what’s been happening since our 50th anniversary? Well, for one thing, we are planning for a major renovation of our house, which will be taking place this summer. The walls will be coming down, and the... (June 05, 2014)

The Blue Door Theatre — by Carol Ann Gieske. "Mommy, are they real?" the three year-old excitedly whispered as he watched a small shivering man, huddling before the old Quebec heater, exclaiming how chilled he was. The little boy watched fascinated as a drama... (October 31, 2013)

Four Months Later — by Martha Reilander. Every morning when I wake up and pull back the curtains by my bed, I look out the window and I’m cheered on by ‘the communion of saints’.... (October 24, 2013)

Times to Remember — Here are some memories from the 50th Anniversary Memory Night from staff who served in St. Joe’s.... (October 15, 2013)

How It All Happened — by Posie Douthwright. I first came to St. Joseph’s House in 1973. I was very poor, living with my husband and 2-year-old daughter Becky in a semi-converted pig barn in the nearby hills. We had a romantic back-to-the land... (October 14, 2013)

The Greatest Gift — by Fran Bush. The following interview excerpts give a glimpse into a love and friendship that is over fifty years old and still going strong. The story begins in the late 1950s, when a friend brought Fran Bush to the... (October 10, 2013)

Unless a Grain of Wheat Falls — by Jo-Anne Paquette. While I was thinking about this article today, I bumped into a young woman on the road, riding her bike. She stopped and we spoke, and as she was about to ride off she said, "I... (October 08, 2013)

In Thanksgiving — by Bishop Michael Mulhall. Bishop Michael Mulhall presided at the Mass of Thanksgiving at Canadian Martyrs in Combermere. This is his homily. It’s wonderful to mark, especially with Mass, the 50th anniversary of St. Joseph’s House with its history... (October 03, 2013)

St. Joseph’s Throws a Party (50 Years of Love) — by Sandra Novecosky, Current Director of St. Joseph’s House. Our 50th anniversary celebration at St. Joseph’s House was like a family reunion because of moments like this: "I suffer so much, Sandra." Monica, (not her real name), called to... (October 01, 2013)

Parties, Lectures, and Shopping — by Sandra Lynch. When I was a working guest in Madonna House, back in 1970-71, I wondered what the local people in the lovely village of Combermere were like. I wanted to meet them. As it turned out, I... (June 18, 2013)

So Many Prayers — by a staff worker at St. Joseph’s House in 1974. This month we had the opportunity to visit many of our friends in the valley. We felt strengthened and blessed to discover how many silent prayers rise up to... (June 13, 2013)

Let Every Guest Be Received As Christ — by Samantha Baklinski. There is a sign at the front door of St. Joseph’s House that reads: "Let every guest be received as Christ." The first few times I visited there, I was curious about that sign. What did... (June 11, 2013)

Gifts from Strangers — by Brenda Read. In the early days of Madonna House and into the ‘70s, one major work of St. Joseph’s House was selecting, preparing, gift-wrapping, and distributing Christmas gifts for people in the area who would otherwise not have... (May 30, 2013)

My Way of Praying — by Sandra Wood, a former director of St. Joseph’s House. Here’s a glimpse into the life of a staff worker of St. Joseph’s House in 2003. Usually only God sees this sort of thing. I’d like to begin this... (May 28, 2013)

Growing Up Near St. Joe’s — by Christina Milan. My earliest memories of St. Joe’s are of the toy box and being bounced on the knee of Marie Therese McLaughlin. That toy box held endless wonders for me while the adults chatted. And the bouncing... (May 21, 2013)

Helping at St. Joe’s — by Toni Austin. In the fall of l961, I was assigned to work at old St. Joe’s to help with the preparations for Christmas. I was a young working guest from Toronto, twenty years old.... (May 16, 2013)

Memories of the Early Days — by Trudi Cortens, first director of St. Joseph’s House. "Nothing is alien to the apostolate except sin," Catherine often told us, and that left her, and us, wide open to take on just about any kind of work to... (May 14, 2013)

Our Good Neighbours — by Lorna Tonack. My memories of St. Joe’s stretch back to the spring of 1980, when my husband Carl and I moved to Combermere from Edmonton, Alberta, with our two young daughters. We were a young family hoping to... (May 07, 2013)

Fifty Years of Friendship — by Melanie Murphy. There is movement in the quiet village of Combermere. Cars line Highway 517 on both sides as far as the eye can see. Clusters of people and vehicles are also gathered on the southeast corner where the... (May 02, 2013)

Notes From Near and Far: St. Joseph’s House, Combermere — by Carol Geiske. Though it has been a time of staff changes, the rhythm of our life, of course, continues. Mass, lauds, vespers, communal adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and our Saturday home Mass, keep us praying together for... (November 26, 2012)

A Retreat House for Priests — by Fr. Blair Bernard. And He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest a while." (Mk 6:31) In the mystery that is Madonna House, visitors from all walks of life pass through our... (February 15, 2012)

Notes from Near and Far: St. Joseph’s House, Combermere — by Alma Coffman. Life at St. Joe’s is never dull. One day, I was making a birthday cake, and when I turned the cake out of the pan, I knew I was in trouble. The bottom was still gooey, unbaked... (September 25, 2008)

We Can’t Move Trees — Interview of Jo-Anne Paquette by the editor. Jo-Anne is the director of St. Joseph’s House, the MH mission house that works in the Madawaska Valley, the area where Combermere is located. St. Joe’s, as it’s called, is on the highway... (October 09, 2006)

St. Joseph and the Windowpane — by Tom Kluger. At Madonna House we try to live the life of Nazareth, the quiet, hidden life of the Holy Family: Jesus, Joseph, and Mary. As far as quietness goes, St. Joseph was definitely the most silent of the... (September 25, 2006)

Notes from Near and Far: Combermere, Ontario — by Emmanuella Kim, St. Joseph’s House, Combermere. St. Joseph’s House is our mission house for the local area. Emmanuella, who is from Korea, is a new staff worker. It is a few months since I moved to St. Joseph’s House.... (December 30, 2005)


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