Shortest Visit

1 Week

Longest Visit

1 Year

We welcome men and women, usually between the ages of 19-35, in good health, to come to Madonna House in Combermere to stay for varying lengths of time as guests. (The minimum stay is one week.) Our guests come from various countries as well as diverse cultural backgrounds. All agree to take part in the life of the community, with its balance of physical work, prayer, study, and recreation—the ordinary daily life of our family, whose primary focus is living out Jesus’ command to “Love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).

Guests take part in the life of this Christian family that lives in poverty, chastity, and obedience, and tries to incarnate the Gospel in simple ways such as listening to the Lord speaking through events, people, and circumstances. We invite you to experience this fullness of Gospel life—God’s presence in every moment of life—with its joys and challenges while sharing our Madonna House life.

There is no set fee for a visit to Madonna House. As we are beggars, we appreciate any donations our guests are able to offer. Our daily life includes:

  • Mass & Communal prayer
  • Eucharistic adoration
  • Family-style meals and dormitory living

  • Daily work along with community members
  • Recreation and free time
  • Personal spiritual guidance available

Guest Testimonies

Madonna House made me aware of my blind spot—poverty. One tends to become inured to the poor “who are always with us” and to insulate one’s self against their pain. When I realized that Madonna House was begging for the Lord as a sort of penance to identify with the poor throughout the world, I began to appreciate its using water sparingly, using orange crates as bedside tables, having meat only once a week, and the limits on computer time, phone calls, the absence of television viewing, etc. All this made me reflect more deeply on the spirit of poverty in my own life.


I found so much support within your community, and so much beauty in how, even though each member is totally an individual and totally unique, you all rely on each other and rely on the Lord and his Mother completely.


As a working guest, I found that a significant part of life at Madonna House is learning to carry out the duty of the moment: God’s will for the present moment—whatever he wants for right now—everything from doing dishes, to chopping vegetables, making your bed, going to Mass, or cleaning outdoor “jons”.
The duty of the moment, according to Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House, is “focusing our whole person—heart, soul, body, emotions, intellect, memory, imagination—on the job at hand.” What it boils down to is: loving God through our daily tasks and whatever it is we are doing right now. No daydreaming, wishing we were elsewhere or getting caught up in something other than what is right under our noses. It is a prayer, an encounter with God, a practice in doing his holy will—no easy task. But it leads to a greater appreciation of life, an incredible love of the Father and to holiness.
It also gives a zeal for life, a daily mission, and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.


There’s something so soothing for the soul being here and it really brings you closer to God to get away from all the noise and distraction of the outside world.


I learned a lot being here—about living in faith and trust, about the treasures of obedience and about the diversity in the Body of Christ.


I was 35 and had been living a rather adventurous life for the previous 15 years; I thrived on adventure and was a consumer of adventurous experiences—one of which took me to Madonna House. At that time of my life, the Holy Spirit was giving me a bit of a work-over. I arrived knowing very little about my Catholic faith, but there I learned much about it by living it with the members of Madonna House I had opportunity to attend daily Mass and to frequently receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation. I learned to integrate prayer into my daily life and to allow Jesus and Our Lady to be a more central part of my life. I learned to make many sacrifices out of love for the others I lived with. This living out of my Catholic faith allowed me to be more available to the work of God’s grace in my life, more available for him to direct me—eventually bringing me into the greatest adventure of my life: the priesthood.

Fr. S

I definitely crave the peace and God-focused communal living I experienced at Madonna House.


Working, praying, living my faith were all meshed together here. I could work, laugh, tell stories, and pray, all at the same time. It was quite exciting, really. What graces I was given at Madonna House! I became aware that the greatest gift I received here was love.

Summer Program

Summer Program (July and August)

In the summer, we offer a special program for young adults, with an overall theme which changes from year to year; each week covers a different topic related to that theme. These topics are elaborated in our daily spiritual readings, teachings and witnesses by the Staff, and a weekly class by one of our priests. A long-standing summer tradition from Catherine’s time has been the Saturday evening open forum, offering guests the opportunity to ask our directors general any questions they may have about faith, the spiritual life, the Church, Madonna House, etc.

There may be any variety of other activities from weeding bees at the farm to square dancing in the sorting building, from an evening of dramatic presentations to a day of recollection. Each summer is different, but we find that God touches the hearts of our guests through the varied activities as well as the nitty-gritty of our day-to-day work and community life.

Fall Program

Fall Program (October through early January)

Fundamentals of the Spiritual Life: Ten classes of talks, with study and reflection time after each talk.

Liturgy classes introduce the seasons of the Church year, and our customs in celebrating them. Learn to live the liturgical year in everyday life, beginning with Advent. Then enter into Christmas to receive the greatest gift – the Child born to be our Savior. Celebrate the full season into Epiphany, with rich traditions to feed both spirit and body.

Fall is the time of harvesting of our gardens and processing the produce, by canning, freezing and drying. Guests participate in these activities.

During Advent, guests may use free to time to learn a new craft in our handicraft department.

Winter Program

Winter Program (January through Easter Sunday)

Weekly classes on the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with study and reflection time after each class.

The liturgical journey continues, as we live Lent through rich daily prayer and spiritual readings for the season. Walk through Holy Week with the Lord Jesus, and celebrate the Resurrection, entering the Lord’s Risen Life to proclaim: Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen!

During Lent, you may want to try your hand at the traditional art of pysanky—a type of Russian/Ukrainian/Polish egg decorating—to “push back the darkness” of this world with the light and joy of the Resurrection.

January weather usually allows for an ice skating rink on the side of the river.

Spring Program

Spring Program (Easter week through June)

During this period we tap maple trees and collect the sap to make maple syrup, a cultural as well as practical experience.

We continue to celebrate the entire Easter season, right through Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost. Rather than having specific classes during this liturgically rich and festive season we try to live fully the boundless graces offered by Christ through his Church at this time.

These spring months also see us celebrating the feasts of Divine Mercy and the Most Holy Trinity, as well as Corpus Christi—the Most Holy Body of Christ—when we have a Eucharistic procession down the highway between two of our chapels.

For three weeks during the month of May we also welcome the directors of all of our field houses from around the world for their annual meetings, a time of rich sharing for everyone. Each director gives a witnessing presentation to guests (and staff) on the specific ways their house serves and evangelizes.

On June 8, the feast of Our Lady of Combermere, our Applicants who have completed their 2-year formation program and received permission to make their First Promises are received into the community at a festive Mass and are given their distinctive Madonna House crosses, as well as their initial assignments.

Daily Routine

Our Year-round Daily Schedule: 

All guests are asked to participate fully in our daily schedule of work, prayer, and recreation. The daily routine follows:

We rise at 6:45 a.m. and gather together for morning prayer at 8:00 a.m. Breakfast of porridge, yogurt, brown bread and tea follows at 8:30. We go to our various working places at 9:00 and stay there until noon. Most of our work is manual: laundry, carpentry, gardening, canning, painting, cleaning, maintenance, washing dishes, etc.

We have our main meal at noon, followed by spiritual reading in common, from various spiritual writers, current spiritual events, writings of the Pope, as well as those of Catherine Doherty our foundress. Work then continues from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. with a break in mid-afternoon for tea.

We celebrate Mass at 5:15 p.m. The liturgy is the culmination of the entire day. As Catherine loved to say, “We live our life between two Masses.”

At 6:00 p.m. we have supper, usually consisting of soup, a vegetable, cheese or grains. After supper we clean vegetables, wash dishes, or do other chores. By 7:30 p.m., there may be a talk or dorm gathering, or free time. At 9:00 p.m., we gather again for tea and conversation. At 9:30 p.m., we go to our dormitories and get ready for bed.