Notes From Near and Far

by Anne Marie Murphy and Marie-Therese McLaughlin

MH Roanoke

 Celebrations are back! In Madonna House, they include liturgy, singing, food and people. We don’t take any of these for granted any more since our COVID experience.

So it was with great joy that we celebrated the 75th anniversary of Madonna House Combermere with a special evening Mass at St. Andrew’s, the downtown church. Approximately 120 friends and benefactors from all five Catholic churches in the city attended.

After Mass, the parish secretary/cook extraordinaire and crew, plus seven lay Franciscans, put on a wonderful reception. Two of our friends who read many of Catherine Doherty’s books sat at the book table so that we could circulate. Sales were very good.

This time also marked the end of the atrium (Montessori classes) for 9 – 12-year-olds that I am involved in. Each child had picked a work they had learned this year and presented it to the parents. Having never seen it done before, I was impressed by both the children and the response of their parents.

 Anne Marie Murphy



Life is full as it is in all of our houses. We are back to having our twice-monthly Saturday morning Masses. Our friends are so grateful for this intimate setting and meeting over brunch.

In every parish we have been having discussions on the questions for the Synod on Synodality. We attended two of these events at two different parishes. Very illuminating and stimulating.

A new law was passed locally that the homeless cannot sleep outside buildings downtown. We have really felt the effect of that law because daily and nightly more of the homeless are sleeping on our compound. There’s lots of drug use, too, so we are quite vigilant especially at night. We have lots of intentions for prayer.

We want to share with you an encounter we had with a poor man that really touched us.

Matthew is a young homeless man who lives in an alcove behind one of the churches in our neighborhood.

A few months ago, we found him on our front porch. He said he was waiting there until the line for lunch at the RAM (Roanoke Area Ministries) shelter behind us lessened. He said he has trouble being in a big crowd. We said yes to his waiting there.

The next time we encountered Matthew was the day of the big storm in early January. RAM was closed. Matthew rang our doorbell and asked for some food. We helped him out with some protein bars that a friend had recently donated.

Then he came by another day at about 3:00p.m. again asking for something to eat. We are not a food pantry. St. Francis House, which is beside us, offers a food program, and RAM offers a place for lunch and a simple breakfast.

I talked with Matthew telling him that RAM was still open and that they had snacks available. I told him that I enjoyed chatting with him. I also explained how we are a non-profit prayer house and how we rely on God’s mercy through our benefactors for food and all the needs of our apostolate. We had a good connection.

Later that night while locking the side door, I noticed on our little table, four cans of beans and a box of angel hair pasta.

On a piece of cardboard was written “Hi there, Matthew here! Here is some food for you from the little pantry. Thanks for the protein bars.”

With that one gesture Matthew, a beautiful and sensitive homeless man, confirmed our vocation that we are truly one with the poor. Alleluia!

Marie-Therese McLaughlin