Amy and Kathryn

Combermere Diary

by Patricia Lawton

Life here in Combermere has been filled with colorful events and encounters since we last visited with you.

But let’s begin with a ceremony which is very simple but also very important to our community, and one which brings us joy.

That event, that ceremony, which takes place on September 8th, the Nativity of Our Lady, is the acceptance of new applicants, those entering into a period of formation for becoming members of Madonna House.

This year we only have two, and one of them, Kathryn Nugent, had to leave for a few days just before the 8th for a family emergency. So only one applicant was accepted at the scheduled ceremony. (Kathryn was more simply received when she returned.)

At the ceremony, Amy was formally accepted by our directors general and presented with “the brown folder” containing essential writings of our foundress Catherine, and we were all presented with a cake with white icing topped with a plain black cross, symbolizing the sweetness of the cross, which is the Madonna House vocation.

Over Labor Day weekend, we held our tenth annual Heritage Fest, a celebration of the treasures and practices of the past and of handicrafts.

As usual, visitors filled the site both afternoons.

In the pioneer museum, Toni Austin, Sushi Horwitz, and local elder Hubert Perrier gave explanations of the artifacts, answered questions, and chatted with folks.

People admired the old spinning wheels, the loom, the antique wood stoves, the historic farming implements, the antique sleigh with the warm buffalo-skin blanket, and the many household items that were used by people of this area in its pioneering days. Some tried out the player piano.

Our foundress Catherine Doherty would have been thrilled to see all the people there.

About this museum, which she opened in 1967, she said, “It came to me that a pioneer museum could capture for future generations memories of the past, and of the pioneers; giants of courage, hard work, and faith.

“They might have been very small and ordinary people according to worldly standards, but they were giants in my book.”

Meanwhile, there was lots of activity in St. Raphael’s Handicraft Center, where people could try their hands at various crafts, such as felting, woodcarving, quilling, and copper chasing. And more.

Eliana das Chagas and guest Anthony Hamon taught people how to make small bicycles and ants out of wire, and Bonnie Staib let them help make colorful designs using a Turkish paper marbling technique called “ebru.”

Diana Breeze and Gudrun Schultz demonstrated pottery and Gretchen Schafer, weaving. Susanne Stubbs wrote children’s names for them in calligraphy.

Outdoors, under canopies and in booths, other events were taking place. Little ones patiently sat still for face painting by Meaghan Boyd, Christina Milan and Amy Barnes.

Balloon-artist Terry Newcombe joined us once again, this year delighting us with pin-ball balloons. Local musicians Patricia and Howie Hazelton, along with our own Janine Gobeil and Sofia Segal, provided live music on fiddles, penny whistle, and guitar.

Beekeeper, Andorra Howard had a honey booth which included an observation hive. There she gave explanations, and people could ask questions and taste the golden nectar. (The hives this year produced 1,000 pounds, making this a truly bumper crop.)

On Sunday oohs and aahs were heard when the outdoor kiln was opened following a firing, revealing the lovely pottery.

Visitors took turns at the butter churn and ice-cream maker and then tasted the results.

Young ones “helped” Teresa Reilander and Joanne DeGidio, in pioneer costume, do the laundry in the early wooden washing “machine,” pushing and pulling cranks to agitate the load and turning the rollers to wring out individual items.

Carol Ann Gieske, Helen Porthouse, and Joo-Eun Lee put on three marionette shows of a story written by Carol Ann, an adaptation of two scripture stories, that of the Prodigal Son and the Good Shepherd. Even with the rainy start at the Sunday show, people gathered to see the show.

Meanwhile, the gift shop, small shop, and bookshop did a brisk business.

Since our last column, school has started, and we hosted the proctors and residence assistants (RAs) from Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay for a day of formation.

The RAs and proctors are generally full-time upper-year students who assist the dean of students in encouraging community life and are house parents for the residences.

Among other things, they were given a tour and a talk on communication skills by Mary McGoff.

Fr. Denis Lemieux gave a day of recollection to the faculty and staff at the same college, and Fr. Bob Wild gave the deacons and their wives of our Pembroke Diocese a retreat based on Pope Francis’ letter, “On the Call to Holiness”.

In preparation for the municipal elections, we invited some of the candidates to come visit and answer our questions.

Fr. Michael Weitl, Frank Brick and Ana Sofia Corona Gaxiola had a give-away table at the Vianney Vocation Fair in Peterborough.

Shortly before the new class joined them, the first-year applicants made a trip to Algonquin Park to hike and visit the excellent visitors’ centre. That same Sunday the rest of the community enjoyed a final summer picnic at St. Mary’s.

Due to a hotter-than-usual summer and rain that finally came, we had a bountiful harvest this year, and there have been regular work bees to help bring it in.

For example, we had bees to harvest the potatoes and beets. Also, sixty of us participated in a chicken bee where we killed and processed well over a hundred chickens.

At St. Emma’s, where we can the food, many hands were on deck to put up or freeze tomatoes, peaches, beans, and apples, apples, apples! Day after day, the call went out to anyone who could help at the farm even for an hour or two.

But our harvest contained one sad story about our blueberries, on which some Canada geese feasted. We erected barriers at the river edge, and creative “geese patrols” were put into action.

We took turns shooing them away, and a vehicle drove slowly along the shore honking the horn! But we started these things too late; the geese ate about half our crop.

One evening, following the painful news about Cardinal McCarrick, the report on the Church in Pennsylvania, and then the report of the former nuncio, Archbishop Vigano, we all gathered for a holy hour to pray for this situation.

Later that week we had a staff meeting to share our sorrow, concerns, and thoughts on how to respond to the situation.

Suggestions on how to respond included stating the importance of staying united in love and attentiveness to one another at this time of pain and division in the Church and the call to pray, fast, and be very faithful to the sacrament of the present moment.

Each season has its own beauty, both in nature and in people. May we always see in one another the hidden presence of the Lord himself, in season and out.