Combermere Diary

by Cathy Mitchell

by Cathy Mitchell

“From my heart has sprung a beautiful song. It is my whole life I am giving to the King.” These words are from our final promise hymn, sung on September 8th, when Fr. Brian Christie and Loretta Fritz made their final promises “forever according to the Madonna House spirit and mandate.”

In an ordinary year, they would have made them on June 8th, the Feast of Our Lady of Combermere, but this is not an ordinary year. This year, because of COVID, the date ended up being shifted a number of times.

Normally, too, all of us would have been at the promises Mass together with family and friends of those making promises.

So the date for finals kept shifting—in hopes that travel and gathering in large numbers would be possible. That did not happen, so it ended up being September 8th. Fr. Brian came home from our house in England and Loretta came from MH Toronto in time to isolate before entering into our community. Fr. Brian is staying on, as he was transferred here.

From all reports, the Mass was beautiful but only some of us were able to attend and witness the promises.

Final promises were not the only celebration that day. September 8th, the birthday of Our Lady, is the day we receive applicants, those entering into formation for this vocation.

Toward the end of supper, our traditional dessert of chocolate cake with white icing and a cross was brought out. Elizabeth Bassarear, the DG of women, explained the symbolism of the cross on the cake.

When we embrace a life of following the Lord Jesus, we embrace the cross and as we follow him, Jesus reveals its sweetness.

This year Laura Dramis, who is from New Jersey, was received as an applicant and was presented with “The Brown Folder.”

When Fr. David Linder, the director general of priests, blessed the Brown Folder, which contains our Constitution, Little Mandate, and other writings of Catherine which embody our spirituality, he said he was moved not to bless the folder per se because the words inside it are already blessed.

He blessed Laura and each of us, that we be open to receive and live these words.

Fr. Brian and Loretta are not the only staff who have had to isolate on their return to Combermere. Staff who spend time in the hospital, those who go to visit sick relatives and especially those who have come in from the U.S.A. or other countries must isolate for 14 days.

Those who have entered the country receive regular phone calls from the Public Health Department making sure they are remaining at home in isolation.

This means that many of us are involved in making sure meals and other necessities are delivered to them, being sure to keep our distance when we do this. Strange times we are living in.

Many of you may remember that our diocese of Pembroke was without a bishop for over a year, but on July 3rd Bishop Guy Desrochers was installed at St. Columbkille’s Cathedral.

Though he couldn’t visit us at first because of COVID, he finally was able to come last week. Our directors general received him, talked with him, and gave him a limited tour.

A number of us were able to meet him at an outdoor tea on our patio. Much of the visit had to happen outside as the bishop is not in our “bubble,” but thankfully the weather cooperated. It was a very joyful meeting.

The day of Bishop Guy’s visit coincided with our annual chicken bee, at which we kill and process and freeze these birds. Unfortunately, he arrived too late to help out, but we were sure to extend an invitation for next year!

Whoever of us could participate, did. We were surprised after supper that evening with a wonderful treat of ice cream.

The Young family have been dear friends for years. The parents, Bob and Jean, have both died, but the friendship continues with their children, who decided we needed ice cream. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Earlier in the month, St. Raphael’s Handicraft Centre hosted an evening presentation called “Sheep: Generosity to Humanity,” given by Mary Davis, who has worked with wool for many, many years. It was a superb presentation and Mary was filled with joy at sharing something so close to her heart.

She gave a bit of the history of wool and talked about the differences in wool from sheep in varying climates throughout the world and the uses of sheep not just for wool but also for milk, cheese, and meat. Mary then gave us a demonstration of both the drop spindle and the spinning wheel.

There were displays of all the stages of wool from the fleece to the finished knitted, crocheted, felted and woven products.

Mary also told us about how in the early days of Madonna House, staff gathered lichens and plants and made natural dyes for the wool.
In another article in this issue, Scott Eagan tells about the abundant harvest from our gardens. This year, wild mushrooms were amazingly plentiful as well—so much so that those of us who can identify them have been a bit overwhelmed with the number of people simply picking them and offering them for evaluation.

We were asked that if we are not familiar with mushrooms: Do not touch or pick them but instead go on a mushroom hunt with someone who is trained. This was a gentle reminder that though mushrooms are delicious, some varieties are poisonous.

Fr. Murray Kuemper gave us a talk on Pope Francis’ encyclical, Laudato Si. Among other things, he reminded us how important it is, especially when there are questions or controversy, to do a proper reading and interpretation of the document.

After a hot dry summer, we have been having a lot of rain. One of the benefits is that the ban on outdoor fires was lifted and our potters, Raandi King, Diana Breeze, and Gudrun Schultz, with great help from our brother Darrin Prowse, have been able to fire their pottery in the outdoor wood-fired kiln.

They are learning from each firing, and this was the best yet. They were able to get the right temperatures, and the effects of the heat and ash on the glazed pottery brought delight to all who were present when the kiln was opened.

With all the rain, the skies have shown us some dramatic beauty. One evening during supper, most of us hurried to the front room windows and outside into the light drizzle to witness a brilliant rainbow.

It was the brightest one many of us had ever seen. The reflection was even in the river, and a second paler rainbow appeared along side the main one.

Yes, the heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows forth the work of His hands (Ps 19). May ours eyes be opened more and more to see that glory which God sets before us.