Part 3 – Our Gift Shop, Book Store and Pioneer Museum

The Gift Shop

The next stop on our tour is the Madonna House gift shop, where everything for sale is donated and all of the proceeds go to the poor. The gift shop has a wide variety of items, including antique glass, jewellery, china, silver, brass, Canadiana, religious articles, collectible sewing accessories and fabrics. Crafts made by Madonna House artists are also for sale, including pottery, paintings, candles, woodenware and items crafted from wool from our sheep. The gift shop was opened in 1964.

Early on, Catherine made the decision that the proceeds from the shop would only be used for the poor—especially those in the missions. Nothing would be used for the running of Madonna House in Combermere. Customers loved the fact that the money from their purchases was going to the missions. Some bring donations to one door and buy something at the other.

Begging is part of the spirit of Madonna House Apostolate and Catherine began begging for merchandise for the shop from friends and benefactors. As donations come in MH members who work in the shop endlessly sort, fix, polish, and restore them. They also make numerous crafts that are sold in the Shop.

How Donations Come

Most of the time we don’t know the story behind donated gifts, but once in a while we find notes tucked in the parcels which explain:

“Enclosed you’ll find a ring, the only valuable thing in my possession. I hope you can sell it for the poor. Please pray for me and my family and our heart-breaking troubles.”

“This cranberry-glass water jug is over 70 years old. We are happy to help the poor in this way.”

“I am feeling a very strong call to simplify my life and my surroundings. It feels good to divest myself of status symbols and conversation pieces.” (This person sent two diamond rings, one dinner ring, and two gold bracelets.)

“I hope my paintings sold well” (from the renowned Canadian artist William Kurelek).

Thank you Letters from Missionaries

Through our contacts with missionaries, spiritual bonds are formed between Madonna House members and numerous apostles to the poor in many parts of the world. The following is from a missionary in Haiti:

“Thank you for the funds raised in your Gift Shop in favor of people affected by the recent hurricane which destroyed our diocese. Famine followed from the crops being destroyed. How to feed 60,000 families every day? We promise you to act in the best interests of the poorest.”

Small-Shop Madonna House

The Pioneer Museum

Just a few steps away from the Gift Shop is our Pioneer Museum. Opened in 1967, it houses an extensive Canadian collection, representative of life in this country’s early days. The displays of hand-made tools, cobbler and farm implements, kitchenware and the hundreds of authentic artifacts from pioneer homes speak with pride of our ancestors’ way of life. Built of 100-year-old logs (hand-hewn by experts in the Madawaska Valley), even the building itself is a colourful illustration of our rich pioneer heritage. Every item is the gift of a generous benefactor interested in preserving the history of the valley.


The Book Shop

Our used book shop is just across the parking lot and is a treasure trove for book lovers, containing thousands of donated works. A wide variety of subject matter is found in our holdings ranging from the great classics of literature and spirituality to historical and children’s books.