aftrernoon break at the farm by Tina Tan

Words from Our Working Guests

collected by Bill Ryan and others

Many, many young people spend time at Madonna House as working guests. Most of the graces they receive are hidden from our eyes, but sometimes they tell us before they leave. Sometimes they write soon after that, sometimes years later. Here are excerpts from just a few of the letters we have received over the years.


I was at Madonna House for one week in 2000, when I was 29 years old. Although I was not ready, nor did I realize it at the time, the gifts I was provided with at Madonna House have impacted my life.

As someone who struggled and continues to struggle with questions of faith, I want to thank you all for giving me “moments” of clarity and fulfillment.



Thank you for my ten-day visit to Madonna House. I had planned to stay longer, but God spoke to my heart in a new way.

After leaving you, I entered religious life as a postulant, a novice, and finally a religious brother. I received the habit and am writing to tell you my new name.

You were instruments of grace. Thank you for your faithful witness of an ordinary and committed life of discipleship.

Because of you, I went into religious life with basic “survival skills” of community life—like the value of the duty of the moment, making my bed in the morning; twisting the wet mop twice before squeezing the water out of it, and knowing the eternal value of daily tasks, because God became a man and did them first.

I am so grateful for the time I was with you! God bless you, and those he sends to you this summer—and always!



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 toilets.

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.



It’s been a month since I left Madonna House, and I continue to appreciate the effect it had on me in the two and a half weeks I spent there. I now am able to be in “the world” with joy and hope in Christ.

I’ve always worried that my faith was too cerebral, my belief too theoretical, that it was limited to what I read in books and valid only to the extent that it made sense to me.

At Madonna House I saw a faith lived so deeply and simply, it seemed to be second nature. It was amazing to see people’s faith so secure in the love of Christ.

The habit of prayer and the charisms of Madonna House have made Christ more real and present in all I do, whether in biochemical experiments, laboratory work in preparation for medical school, or washing dishes. I’ve even begun to clean our toilets at home.

Madonna House has shown me how beautiful the Christian faith is when it is lived authentically, especially in the context of communion and community.

I hope to bring this beauty into my own daily life—via my work in the lab, my studies, my friends and family, and my secular community.




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.



Back in 1979, when I was 23, I was a working guest in your community for three weeks. It was a time of searching.

Arriving at Madonna House, I entered deeply into your life, and it has remained a firm anchor for me in how to relate to God and to people.

I was given the tools necessary for the journey of life. Now I look back in wonder on what God has done.

Your Little Mandate is a way for me to go personally to the poor and feed them, knowing this very act will feed the giver-of-the-gift more than the gift itself could ever feed others.

Please accept my small gift [a donation of money] for the building-up of your community in the present day—a community that is needed in this world more than ever.



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 the 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.