Madonna House

When I Was a Child

by Catherine Doherty

My mother often served the poor as a nurse and midwife. As soon as I was old enough, she involved me in her works of mercy. I would carry medicine and supplies, and we would walk ten or twenty miles.

When we reached our destination, I would scrub the floor, clean the utensils she would need, fix the beds and generally make myself useful.

Then I prepared food for the family because often the woman was in labor. Mother attended to this, and I attended to all the rest. It was quite something, believe me.

I learned a great deal. In those days, aristocratic ladies and gentlemen didn’t exactly do those things; at least, none of our neighbours did. They all thought mother was slightly crazy. The memory of these trips is deeply embedded in my mind.

I learned identification with Christ in the poor as I grew up knowing this truth with my heart. This was my spiritual formation regarding the poor. Eventually it resulted in Russian spirituality at work in the slums of Toronto and Harlem and then in Combermere.


—Excerpted from Grace in Every Season, (2001), May 9, p. 132, available from MH Publication