Notes From Near and Far

by Martha Reilander and Hugo Isaza

Madonna House Arizona

by Martha Reilander

I’m on temporary assignment to our house in Winslow, Arizona, and I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve seen so far. Arrival here meant quarantine first, and so I spent time contently looking out the window at the beautiful desert. I watched the brilliant sun rise and set, learned the different phases of the moon, and grew a little more into silence.

Since we are limited in visiting due to the pandemic, I also spent time looking through the house’s photo albums as a way to meet our friends and neighbors.

In those photos, I saw the generations of Madonna House members pouring out their lives for love of Christ, as well as the generations of families in Winslow, especially here in the South Side neighborhood, people who loved and helped build this apostolate for over 60 years.

Winslow is such a warm family to enter into, even during the pandemic. Where else can you walk down the main street and hear someone holler at you from their truck, “Are you the new madonna?”

We say that a person’s eyes are windows to the soul. Well, when almost everyone you meet is wearing a mask, all you can see is their eyes.

I have to say, the eyes and the souls of the people here are beautiful. Eyes that are so sincere in welcoming me, eyes that are so open to sharing the joy and the pain of their lives. Eyes that weep at the loss of loved ones.

Then there are the eyes of Marian Moody and Julie Lynch, my Madonna House sisters, eyes that express such dedicated love and compassion for the people here, for the Lord, and for our life together.

Because of COVID, we were not able to have mananitas (morning songs to Our Lady) here in our chapel as we usually do on the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. So, we went to our parish, Madre de Dios, for a simplified mananitas followed by Mass. The love shown for Our Lady of Guadalupe touched me deeply.

Afterwards, we took a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and went around South Side singing outside the homes of some of our neighbors and giving them each a slip of paper with a line from Our Lady’s words to Juan Diego.

We also went to the local care home to sing outside the room of some long-time friends of the house, a couple who have been married for over 71 years. What a beautiful day!

Of course, there is much more I could say, but I’ll wrap this up by saying that I continue to delight in what I see here through the various desert windows, and I know now, more than before, that through them, I encounter Christ.


Marian Centre Edmonton

by Hugo Isaza

By the end of the year two of us were feeling at half-mast, and what we thought was a normal cold, we learned was really COVID. This was a shocking news for all us, for we had had all kinds of protective measures in place.

Immediately, of course, both of us went into a strict isolation. Then a few days later, the rest of the staff got their positive results from COVID tests. In one way, this simplified our life, as it would have been much more difficult to isolate from each other.

By the grace of God and the prayers of many people, the 12 of us living at Marian Centre had the same kinds of light symptoms. There were even some people who were asymptomatic for a while. This was an advantage as we were able to look after each other.

How to maintain morale and some semblance of community life with twelve people up and down with fluctuating energy? During the day, we each did what work we could, resting as needed. Breakfast and lunch were pickup meals.

For two straight weeks, we didn’t have to cook an evening meal, as our extended family (friends and volunteers) took turns bringing us prepared suppers. We scheduled 9 a.m. lauds and 4:30 vespers for anyone who felt up to it. Several evenings a week we watched movies.

After talking on the phone to someone, I was trying to report that we were suffering from “you know, the chicken thing!” “Being cooped up,” someone supplied helpfully. We tried not to take out our continuing fatigue, frustration, and discomfort on each other.

Officially we all were out of quarantine by the end of the second week of January. Little by little, we got back to our normal routine, even though some of  us are still experiencing some lingering effects such as fatigue.