Notes From Near and Far

by Ruth Siebenaler

St. Joseph’s House

As the head gardener at Madonna House Combermere, I always have a winter assignment. This year I was at St. Joseph’s House, our mission house “down the road” that serves the local area.

This is my third time at St. Joe’s. My first time was 30 years ago; it was my first assignment, and I was here for a year.

Many things have changed over those years—such as a new (to me) director and staff and new friends and volunteers to get to know, a renovated house, new cats and chickens, a new wood stove, and a new me.

Many things are also the same—such as the clothing room and second-hand shop, the feastday dishes in the same cupboard, old friends to reconnect with, and most importantly the same spirit of friendship and love that we have with our friends and neighbors.

In the new year, we cut the number of days the shop is open to Thursday through Saturday and people come by appointment only. We continue to drive people for medical trips when needed. One neighbor’s car is in the repair shop, and we’ve been driving her to work.

We receive weekly donations of food that we pick up and pass on to those who need it. The root vegetables from the Madonna House farm have been very welcome for many people as the price of food is still high. We continue to help people financially when they have the need. These are a few of the things that fill our days.

For the Feast of the Presentation, our pastor Fr. John Burchat gave a homily about encounters with God. He encouraged us to think of the encounters with God we have had in our lives starting from our conception—Baptism, First Communion, and all the other special times throughout our lives.

I realized that St. Joe’s, like all our houses, are places of encounter with God. We meet him in the joy and difficulty of journeying with a friend toward the end of his or her life. We meet him in the gratitude of the person receiving vegetables from the farm.

We meet him in the loneliness of a person calling on the phone. We meet him in the joy of a family who are welcoming a new baby. We meet him in the pain of someone sharing about a difficult family situation.

We meet him in the delight of getting to know each other better. We meet him in the generosity of our friends and neighbors as they support us with their prayers and friendship.

I thank God for my time of encounter here and I pray that we can continue to recognize God in each and every encounter of our day.