18 Feb Nitty-Gritty Beginnings
by the staff of MH Missouri
Have you ever wanted to know what it is like to begin a new mission of Madonna House? Here is a glimpse.
by Patrick Stewart, director
Greetings from Marian Acres – Madonna House, seven miles north of Salem, Missouri! In this, our first Restoration article, Raandi, Paul and I will each tell you something about our life in this our newest Madonna House mission.
We begin with words of gratitude to all the Madonna House staff, especially Tom White and David Williams, who did so much to prepare this property, buildings, and land for the start of the apostolate. And our biggest thanks go to Betty Summers and Muriel Herbrand who lived and prayed, built and dreamed on this property for thirty years and who willed it to Madonna House in 2016.
Tom and David had a hot meal waiting for us when we drove in on the evening of October 23rd. After the meal and a quick orientation tour of our sleeping quarters, we were off to a much-appreciated rest.
Over the next three days, Tom and David familiarized us with the property and buildings (main house, St. Rose cottage, St. Martin de Porres two-story cottage, St. Raphael’s cottage/craft room, Holy Family Chapel, St. Joseph’s workshop, and our St. Francis Poustinia.)
Tom drove Paul around town to introduce him to the different merchants and tradespeople we will be dealing with, and David introduced me to the office and the workings thereof.
We went to daily Mass in Rolla and Cuba, towns about 45 minutes north of here. Our own parish, Sacred Heart, is without a pastor and will remain so likely into the summer. An order priest drives 3 ½ hours each way on the weekends for our Sunday and feast day Masses. So much to take in!
On Saturday afternoon, the 27th, between 60 and 70 friends from the parish came to say goodbye to Tom and David and to meet the three of us. Young and old, families and individuals, even three priests from the diocese just north of ours came to express their gratitude for Tom and David, for Muriel and Betty, and to begin a new friendship with us.
Our MH associate, Fr. James Finder, came the night before and, despite having to make a medical call two hours away that Saturday morning, was with us for much of the open house.
Tom and David went to the Saturday evening Mass and there had a chance to bid farewell to more friends. They were up early Sunday, packed up their last things (into the van we had rented for the trip down) and were on the road by 7 a.m.
We attended our first Salem parish Mass at 9:00, met Fr. Do, saw several familiar faces (names will be added to faces soon) and joined many of the parishioners for coffee, sweets, and some very good catechesis in the family center afterwards. These people have been well-formed in their faith and have deep bonds of friendship.
Please join us in our prayers for the next pastor and for those lay people carrying extra responsibility for the integrity of the parish in the meantime.
Then we set our sights on readying our new home for the upcoming visit of our directors general and our meeting with our bishop, Bishop Rice. Bedrooms, books, furniture, kitchens, sheds, walls, chapel—what to deal with first? Bedrooms and chapel moved quickly to the head of the list.
We decided that Raandi, Paul and I would share the main house—and it is well suited for that with bedrooms at each end of the building—Raandi taking the north end, and Paul and I taking the south.
Raandi’s bedroom, Muriel’s originally, had morphed into an overflow office and book-storage room. It was obvious how to set it up again as a bedroom, but it was lots of work moving three filled bookcases, a desk, filing cabinet, etc. out and the bedroom furniture in.
From my 2016 visit and photos from Tom of Holy Family Chapel, we were able to formulate plans to quickly and simply enhance the feel of holiness in that space.
Now two icons written by Marysia Kowalchyk, the Infant made by Janet Lukos, two icons from my parents’ home, the poorly-painted Holy Family statue repainted ivory white, and the wall behind the altar also repainted welcome you into the sacred space.
by Paul Mitchell
It has been three weeks since our arrival and life is like everywhere else in Madonna House. Lots happens in a day, let alone in weeks. I will give, I suppose, a first-impressions view.
The first thing that sticks out to me is the chapel. It’s a nice chapel but when the Blessed Sacrament came into it, the value and feel went up exponentially. I have never experienced this before.
The time before my coming to Salem was a trying one. People kept asking if I was excited, and I could not give an answer.
Salem is giving me a chance to re-group with all that is happening inside. In all the homilies at Masses and the day of recollection, I have heard many words spoken to me. I will mention one. Poverty.
It is a hard thing when I come to see another layer of the poverty inside me. Unfortunately or fortunately, I cannot pick and choose the kind of poverty I see. In connection with this, I have heard the word “acceptance” at a number of different times and places. There are many different voices in the committee in my head that go against this, but I am being given the opportunity to live out this word, poverty. This is what I have to offer at the moment for the beginning of this new apostolate.
Thank you, Lord, for letting us ease into the apostolate in Salem, for time to listen to God, to one another here, to the directors general and to all back in Combermere and in our other missions.
There is physical poverty in and around Salem, and it seems to me much more rural even than Combermere and the Madawaska Valley, the area that Combermere is in. But every thing is going to be all right; the victory has been won!
by Raandi King
First, a word about my brothers, Patrick and Paul. As people in Madonna House know, they are kind, generous, and fun to be with. They are also much more liturgically astute than I, and really good at making dessert.
Watching them make friends everywhere we go and seeing their attentiveness to each person we meet—at the parish, in the supermarket, at the other churches we go to—encourages me to be more outgoing as well, and for this I am grateful.
Each week we have to decide what to do about daily Mass. A round trip is a three-hour commitment, and usually it means leaving at 7:15 a.m. or returning at 8 p.m. Two days a week there’s no Mass at all within a two-hour-drive each way.
There is a blessing hidden in this, it seems to me. We can be one with the many Catholics who cannot get to daily Mass, we are meeting people in another diocese, and we can experience an increased hunger and gratitude for the Eucharist.
Other random thoughts. We are making our way through rooms and buildings, culling the already-massively-culled. Thank God for the upcoming parish rummage sale! We have 36 containers of vanilla in liquid, powder, and bean form!
Paul and Patrick enjoy spotting species of birds outside our dining room window. These birds show up for lunch at the same time as we do. Our daily schedule is currently very flexible. Please God it will remain somewhat so.