Notes From Near and Far

by Shatzi Duffy and Kay O’Shea


Madonna House Rimouski, Quebec

by Shatzi Duffy

At the beginning of the pandemic, there was no Mass in our churches. Then one day our bishop, Archbishop Denis Grondin, arrived and to our surprise, offered Mass in our parking lot.

When the second lock-down started, we decided to repeat the experiment, inviting ten friends at a time (the government limit at that time) and various priests from around the diocese. It was an uplifting experience for us, for others, and for the priests. From time to time, we also had adoration in the parking lot with a group of young people.

After one such evening, a neighbor who says he is an atheist, came to ask, “What were you doing last night? Having Mass?”

“Yes, along with adoration.”

“Is that why everyone was on their knees?”


“Well, I thought of you. Here is a little rubber mat that you can kneel on when you are having prayers in your parking lot.”

Another time during a parking lot Mass, we noticed another non-church-going man come out on the balcony of his apartment to observe our liturgy. Every time we made the Sign of the Cross, he did the same, and he stayed on the balcony during the entire Mass. Eventually, we met him in person. He is the father of a young family, and he said he would like to bring his newborn son to church to have him baptised.

Our final gift came from the ingenuity of love. We have changed the status of our private Madonna House chapel to an oratory so that people can come to pray, even if all the churches in Rimouski are closed.

In order to do this, we had to “build a wall” between the residential part of our house and the chapel area. Some people come to pray regularly for the diocese, the Church, and the world.

We prefer, however, to build bridges than walls. Because I know that our New Age friends like the stars, I invited them to go on a search for the star of Bethlehem. Even though the weather is so cloudy here that stargazing is difficult, the 40-minute drive to the Heights of Rimouski gave us ample time to talk about the Church and their lives and to share our beliefs.


MH Vancouver

by Kay O’Shea

Several months ago, a friend gave us a year’s subscription to Zoom, a most generous gift. And so, we zoomed our monthly morning of recollection, which before COVID, we held in our parish hall.

Although we were seeing our friends only on the computer, this went very well. We knew most of the people who tuned in, and they shared deeply.

Trying to think of other ways we could serve people through Zoom, Emmanuella Kim came up with the idea of having a craft/story evening once a week.

We contacted our friends, and the idea got set in motion. Anywhere from six to twelve people joined us, while relaxing in their homes and knitting, darning, carving, coloring, or just listening to a few stories with time to reflect on them.

We started with the book, Not Without Parables, by Catherine Doherty, a book which contains stories from Russia, from Friendship House in Harlem, from Madonna House Combermere, and some “How” stories, e.g. “How Pride Became Humble.”

After we finished Catherine’s stories, we turned to another book by a Madonna House member, Jude Fischer’s Be Always Little: Christian Fables for Young and Old.

Both books were a big hit. We found out that adults, as well as children, love to be read to. The stories touched their hearts; they shared their insights, a gift for everyone listening. Towards the end of the evening, we got to see each other’s crafts.

One of our friends knits hats for her grandchild. Another crochets dishcloths. A third has carved a “comfort” bird, made of very light wood that one can hold in their hand. Someone else made a Christmas village out of cardboard; another baked cookies to give away at Christmas.

When we thought we would skip one session because it was a holiday, our listeners were visibly disappointed. So, we changed our minds.

Before Advent began, I asked everyone if they would like to hear something by Caryll Houselander. All were in favor, so we read her beautiful chapter on Advent from The Reed of God. I saved a few parts until right before Christmas.

Then before Lent, I read some poems by Jessica Powers.

We have had these evenings once a week for three months, and they have been such a joy for us and our friends. It’s been such a simple way to connect during this COVID time.