MH Was in Our Diocese

by Bishop Noel Delaquis

Madonna House Gravelbourg was a small mission, what we call “a prayer-listening house” in a small town on the western Canadian prairie. It was in existence for 23 years, from 1975 until 1998.

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As an associate member of Madonna House, and as the bishop of Gravelbourg, Saskatchewan, for 21 years, I don’t want to miss this opportunity to publicly express the gratitude I have for Madonna House.

When I took pastoral charge of the diocese in 1974, one of my first challenges was the fact that the Precious Blood Sisters, a contemplative community, was going to leave the diocese. What to do?

We got in touch with the baroness Catherine Doherty and asked her to open a house.

After a visit to look at the place we were offering—a relatively big empty monastery—and after getting a better idea of the needs of this small diocese and its bishop, the generous Catherine decided to open a house by transforming the former monastery into a poustinia. That was in 1975, if my memory serves me right.

The presence of Madonna House in our diocese was a great blessing—a poustinia, a house of prayer, in and for the local Church.

Retaining something of the monastic life, the staff also visited people and had an open door, welcoming those who needed to talk and to seek special prayers. Madonna House was a good and timely fit.

The opening of Madonna House in Gravelbourg was an important decision on the part of Catherine for the diocese.

Madonna House was a witness to the importance of prayer for the good of any community and diocese. It is not always obvious that God must come first in all pastoral activity and for the spiritual welfare and growth of the diocese as a community of faithful.

Some people thought that the bishop was missing a great opportunity to transform an empty building (the monastery) into a facility that could bring in income and thus help the diocese financially.

I, however, thought that the best investment would be a spiritual one, in people who would remind us all of the priority of God: people focussed on God and in living a simple life in charity.

As the pastor of the diocese, I thought that Madonna House would also be a good example of a renewed faith community. I thought it could be an inspiration for the local communities or parishes, which for the most part, were small.

And so, we could all learn to be a vibrant faith community along the lines of the spirit of Madonna House, for the renewal and the animation, and for some sort of revitalization of the local parishes.

It certainly was a model and an inspiration for the pastor. Of course, for me personally, as I became more familiar with Madonna House and its spirituality and its spiritual dynamism, it was a great blessing.

As a matter of fact, I became an associate member five years later, in 1979. At the service of the entire diocese and getting to know that faithful more directly, I felt part of the Church. I felt the support of the Church and in some ways this was life-giving.

Becoming part of Madonna House was a way of being connected with a group of people—a spiritual family, shall we say—that was an expression of the newness of life that was necessary in those days of great change.

Where is the Spirit alive; where is it blowing? I discovered and discerned that Madonna House was a privileged base to be in touch with, a place where the Spirit is alive in the Church, and where I could receive the influence of that Spirit for the renewal of the Church at large.

May I express my gratitude to all the members of the spiritual family who spent some time in Madonna House Gravelbourg and, if I may, especially to JoAnne DeGidio, the faithful disciple since the beginning. And, of course, Patti Birdsong., who founded it with her.

May God be praised forever for Madonna House and for the spiritual renewal it brings in this world, and may Madonna House continue to preserve and spread the charism of the saintly foundress and the Madonna House spirit of renewal so necessary in the world.