Fr Zach and Marilyn

Notes from Near and Far

by Fr. Zach Romanowsky and Marilyn Grant

MH Winslow, Arizona

by Fr. Zach Romanowsky

My very first impressions of this place come, not from my assignment here, which began six months ago, but from my visit in October 2017.

Back then I really felt like “a fish out of water.” Everything seemed so foreign and unfamiliar. Now, after almost six months of living here, things are getting quite familiar. Moreover, I’ve learned that we are well-loved, respected, and cared for by the people here.

The great big skies and wide open spaces of this land are an apt image for the big, generous hearts of our many friends and neighbors.

I am thinking of all the people who bring us groceries. One of them said to me recently, “If there’s anything you need, anything, just let us know. We’re just a phone call away.” Her husband nodded emphatically.

Other generous benefactors include a family who live in Flagstaff, a city about 60 miles away, who come every Wednesday so that their children can attend our Montessori classes. Often, while their children are at class, they’ll take a spin over to the supermarket and bring us a pile of groceries.

Other friends give of their time. I am thinking of one friend and benefactor who financed and installed (with a little help from yours truly) new rain gutters and barrels for the Atrium (where Montessori classes are held) and the dorm. With the unusually large amount of rain and snow we’ve received since then, the timing could not have been better!

I am thinking also of the man who put in a new hot water heater in one of our buildings, and his buddy who, among many other maintenance jobs, helped us winterize our outdoor faucets.

I am thinking, too, of another man who patched our leaking roof, and still another who installed our new blue door. Then there are the men who take care of our vehicles. I could go on and on.

Every Wednesday evening a group of men meet here for prayer and fellowship. Most of them are members of the Men’s Covenant of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a group that began through our house over forty years ago and which meets on the first Monday of every month.

Three of the founding members are still coming. Being blessed as I am here in the house amongst women, (women who are truly wonderful sisters) it’s good to be with these men of faith on a weekly basis.

Their perseverance in prayer amidst many trials and difficulties and their faithfulness to the Lord over the long haul has been and continues to be a powerful source of inspiration for me.

There would be something gravely amiss with these notes if I failed to mention an upcoming major event that will greatly affect us all—the transfer of Theresa Marsey to Combermere.

Theresa has served here for many years, and she is deeply loved by many, many people. She will be exceedingly missed. We’ve heard more than one person say, “She’s like a mother to me. Her leaving is like losing my mother.”

We entrust Theresa to the care of Our Lady, the mother of us all, and send her off with our love, gratitude, and assurance of prayers.

Victoria, British Columbia

by Marilyn Grant

Though most staff who are not stationed in Combermere work at one of our houses, a few live our life in other ways. Marilyn works as a manager at Beacon Lodge, a special kind of apartment building. Another staff worker, Emily Huston, also lives at Beacon Lodge.

Here at Beacon Lodge—see her article posted on May 6th—the past year has been characterized by the collapse of several tenants and a dramatic shift in our residents. Several long-term neighbors died or moved on to care while others retired and decided to return to their families elsewhere.

Here is a story that gives a glimpse of the work of our hands this year.

George, one of our elderly tenants, had a heart attack. He left me a note telling me this and that he was taking the bus to the hospital!

When I visited him shortly after that he said, he’d had “good innings” so he didn’t mind dying. As he lay in bed expecting the end at any moment, he asked if we could talk about the afterlife.

The next day he said the doctors had given him 48 hours. So as we talked about God and heaven, it became clear that what he really wanted to know was whether he would see his loved ones if he got there.

While George lived at Beacon Lodge, he made friends with a number of other tenants, especially Patsy, who became like a niece to him.

While George was critically ill, Patsy stayed in the hospital with him. But with Patsy’s attention and care, instead of dying, George got steadily better.

So he was moved to a hospice for the dying. There as Patsy continued to accompany him, he continued to improve. After five months, George “graduated” from the hospice and moved into a nursing home where he is currently living.

George was so beloved by the hospice staff that they formed an honor guard to salute him as he departed. He was one of their few “graduates.”

I still visit George on occasion and keep in touch with him via Patsy, who calls often to keep me in the loop.

Meanwhile, Emily Huston and I continue to live our Nazareth lives here in this corner of Victoria. The dramas of aging and dying continue around us as neighbors come and go and we make new friends.

We are both involved in ministry at the cathedral parish. Emily visits the homebound and is sponsoring a catechumen in the RCIA. I sing in the choir and teach at the same RCIA.