Combermere, Ontario, Canada

— Combermere, Ontario, Canada —

Madonna House is a community of consecrated lay men,
women, and priests. We are a family within the Roman
Catholic Church, dedicated to loving and serving Christ in
one another and in all men and women.
     Our main training centre is located in
Combermere, Ontario, Canada, a small village
about 200 miles northeast of Toronto, and about
125 miles west of Ottawa in the Madawaska
Valley. About half of the more than 200 members
live and work in Combermere, some at our train-
ing centre, some in other forms of our apos-
     The rest of our members serve in field or mission houses in
Canada, the U.S.A., West Indies, England, Belgium, and Russia. Each
house has its own mandate from the Bishop in the diocese in which
they are serving. Some of these houses serve the material needs of the
surrounding population, while others serve as “listening houses” and
houses of prayer. Catherine Doherty, our foundress, said, “loneliness
is the greatest poverty of our time.” In each of our houses, the most
important call is to form a community of love, to offer hospitality of
the heart and home.
     Guests seeking to experience Madonna House are welcomed to
live and work with the community for varying lengths of time.
The Beginnings of Madonna House
O      ur foundress, Catherine de Hueck Doherty, was
       born in Russia on August 15, 1896. Her parents
belonged to the minor nobility and were devout mem-
                                                              Eddie Doherty, one of
                                                              America’s       foremost
                                                              journalists, who had
bers of the Orthodox Church.                                  fallen in love with her
    Schooled abroad because of her father’s work, she         while writing a story
and her family returned to St. Petersburg in 1910,            about her work.
where she was enrolled in the prestigious Princess                 On May 17, 1947,
Obolensky Academy. In 1912, aged 15, she was mar-             Catherine and Eddie
ried to Boris de Hueck.                                       moved to Combermere,
    At the outbreak of World War I, Catherine                 Ontario, beginning a new
became a Red Cross nurse at the front, experiencing           rural apostolate they called
the horrors of battle firsthand. On her return to St.         “Madonna House.”
Petersburg, she and Boris barely escaped with their                Although life there was rigor-
lives from the turmoil of the Russian Revolution, hav-        ous and hardly comfortable, people came to the rus-
ing been nearly starved to death as refugees in Finland.      tic setting to join in it, much to Catherine’s surprise.
Together they made their way to England, where                She welcomed them warmly and together they prayed,
Catherine was received into the Catholic                                ate meals, sang and worked. They peeled
Church in 1919.                                                                vegetables, chopped wood, cleaned and
    Emigrating to Canada with                                                      sorted donated items, all the while
Boris, Catherine gave birth to                                                       learning from Catherine how
their only child, George, in                                                           God can permeate even the
Toronto in 1921. To make                                                                smallest task when it is done
ends meet, Catherine took                                                               out of love for Him.
various menial jobs and even-                                                               Slowly, the tiny apostolate
tually became a lecturer, travel-                                                      grew and, at the request of vari-
ling a circuit that took her across                                                  ous bishops, Catherine opened
North America.                                                                    field houses in their dioceses. Thus,
    Prosperous now, but profoundly                                           the humble, hidden life based on the
dissatisfied with a life of material comfort, she                      Holy Family of Nazareth spread. Today
began to feel the promptings of a deeper call through         Catherine’s vision of living the Gospel flows out to
a passage that leaped to her eyes every time she              those who visit Madonna House or its field houses,
opened the Scriptures: “Arise, go... sell all you pos-        and to those who read her many books.
sess...          take up your cross and follow me.”                Constituted as a "Public Association of the
                        Eventually, she did exactly that,     Faithful" under the authority of the Roman Catholic
                            giving away her possessions       Bishop of Pembroke, Ontario, Madonna House now
                              to the poor, keeping only       numbers more than 200 staff workers and over 130
                                enough to provide for her     associate priests, deacons, and bishops, with more
                                 son.                         than 20 field houses throughout the world.
                                      Consulting      with
                                  various priests and the         Catherine Doherty died in Combermere on
                                   bishop of the diocese,     December 14, 1985 at the age of 89. Since then, the
                                   she began a mission        cause for her canonization has been opened, and she
                                   among the poor in          may now officially be called “Servant of God.”
                                   Toronto in the early
                                   1930’s,    calling    it
                                  “Friendship House.”
                                  Houses opened in            Top right: Catherine Doherty, 1970. Middle: Eddie Doherty with
                                 Chicago, Harlem, and         Catherine in Combermere. Bottom left: Pope Francis.
                                other cities.
                                  In 1943 she married

Catherine Doherty describes Madonna House
             A Community of Love
“Madonna House’s main aim is to form a community of
love. The success of a mission is never in its works. It
rests, first and foremost and last, in the love that its
members have for one another.
     In order to form a community, you must first
make contact with the Trinity. No community can be
established among people if they decide that they do
not need Jesus or that they can make themselves God.
When we fall in love with the Trinity, we become part
of that eternal and primary community of love.”
                                                                  Our Lady of the Woods, our island chapel in Combermere

               Becoming a Prayer                                                      Begging
“We touch God with one hand and touch our neigh-
                                                             “We are beggars for the Lord, first for the poor, and
bour with the other. This means we become cruci-
                                                             secondly for ourselves. We beg for everything—
form. A cruciform man is a symbol of prayer. The
                                                             money, clothing, food, whatever we and those we
only true communication is that which exists between
                                                             serve need. We beg because we are in love with a
two crucified people.”
                                                             Beggar who is God. It also identifies us with the poor
                                                             of the world who are Christ.”
“The Madonna House spirit is the spirit of Nazareth...            The Gospel Without Compromise
of a family, the Family of Nazareth, which was a com-        Catherine had a vision for living the Gospel in every
munity of perfect charity and love.”                         situation and aspect of life. No part of the Gospel is
                                                             abstract, she would say. “The ordinariness of the rou-
  Loving God and Serving One Another                         tine of daily life is the warp and woof of living the
                                                             Gospel without compromise, of restoring the world to
“A Christian is a person who has fallen in love with
                                                             Christ. A carpenter works with wood. A computer
God. Now anyone who loves God must truly love
                                                             technician works with technology. A cook feeds the
humanity. Not humanity as a whole, but each indi-
                                                             hungry. One who launders or sews, clothes the naked.
vidual person. Being in love with humanity means
                                                             Spirituality can be incarnated in whatever we do,
serving in every dimension in which men and women
                                                             because Jesus Christ the Son of God was incarnated.
                                                             We live the Gospel with our hands, our minds, and
     To explain a little of what I mean by service, I have
                                                             our hearts, as we go about the tasks of our daily lives.
called us ‘people of the towel and the water,’ who imi-
                                                             We discover the holiness of the little things done well
tate Christ washing the feet of the disciples.”
                                                             over and over again for the love of God, whether it is
                                                             sewing on a button or writing a letter or milking a
                                                             cow. Our vocation is to do the little things well for the
                                                             love of God. And it is truly the vocation of anyone
                                                             who would follow Christ”.
                                                                  The simple life of Nazareth that Catherine envi-
                                                             sioned has many facets. But in our lives and activities,
                                                             it is fidelity to the ordinary, daily things of life, ‘the
                                                             duty of the moment’, that leads to sanctity and the
                                                             restoration of the world to the Lord who created us
                                                             and it.

                                                                 “It’s not what you do that matters,
               Our main house in Combermere
                                                                    but what you are.” — Catherine

“The Little Mandate”
                       Our way of life.

    Arise — go! Sell all you possess. Give it directly,
    personally to the poor. Take up My cross (their
    cross) and follow Me, going to the poor, being                             Poustinia
    poor, being one with them, one with Me.                    Poustinia is now commonly known through-
                                                               out the world as a result of Catherine Doherty’s
    Little — be always little! Simple, poor, childlike.        book, Poustinia: Encountering God in Silence,
                                                               Solitude and Prayer, which is considered a
    Preach the Gospel with your life — without com-            modern spiritual classic. “Poustinia” is a
    promise! Listen to the Spirit. He will lead you.           Russian word meaning “desert”.
                                                                    At Madonna House it refers to a room or
    Do little things exceedingly well for love of Me.          cabin, sparcely furnished, where one goes to
                                                               pray and fast in silence and solitude for 24
    Love, love, love, never counting the cost.                 hours. Members and long-term guests go to
                                                               the poustinia with the permission of a spiritu-
    Go into the marketplace and stay with Me.                  al director to pray and fast for others and their
    Pray, fast, pray always, fast.                             own special intentions. As with everything in
                                                               Madonna House, the good of the whole com-
    Be hidden. Be a light to your neighbour’s feet.            munity is considered in choosing the time of
                                                               poustinia for each individual.
    Go without fear into the depth of men’s hearts.
                                                                    In poustinia one reads the Bible and fasts
    I shall be with you.                                       on bread and tea. However, “no one can tell
                                                               you what to do in poustinia”, says Catherine.
    Pray always. I will be your rest.                          “You are there with God and He speaks to
                                                               your heart.”
                                                                    In Combermere, the accent is on commu-
                                                               nity life, on the “poustinia of the heart”, that
                                                               solitary place within each person where one
                                                               meets God. In many of our houses, however,
                                                               poustinia rooms are available to anyone desir-
                                                               ing to take time to stand before the Lord.
                                                               Frequent poustinias also enable the staff in
                                                               those houses to bring the needs and intentions
                                                               of those they serve before God.

                                                                 Madonna House Publications
                                                                 and Restoration Newspaper
                                                               The works of Catherine Doherty, her husband
                                                               Eddie Doherty, and other members of
                                                               Madonna House, are available at Madonna
                                                               House and through a mail order catalogue.
                                                               Our newspaper, Restoration, is published 10
                                                               times yearly and is also available through our
                                                               publications. A catalogue of our publications—
                                                               or subscription to Restoration—is available on
             Staff and guests sorting donations for the poor   request.

A Typical Day at Madonna House in Combermere
                                                                    of our way of life.
                                                                         At 6:00 p.m., we have supper consisting of a sub-
                                                                    stantial soup, a vegetable dish, cheese or grains. After
                                                                    supper we say the rosary together; then most of us are
                                                                    either cleaning vegetables, doing the dishes, or help-
                                                                    ing with some other service.
                                                                         By 7:30, on some evenings (when there is no class,
                                                                    work bee or other activity) there is free time until 9:00
                                                                    p.m. when we again gather for tea and chit-chat. At
                                                                    9:45, we go to our dorms and get ready for bed; we
                                                                    turn lights out at 11:15 p.m.
                   Autumn food processing
                                                                         This is the daily rhythm. Many would attest that
This is how one of our staff describes it:                          it is a healing, wholesome rhythm. The inner clock
                                                                    gradually starts to tick at a different rate from the
                                                                    harsh staccato of contemporary life. Thus quietened,
“Life at Madonna House has a certain                                we enter a new realm of great mystery and infinite
routine, which is the steady undercurrent                           depth: This is the realm of the human heart, at the
that carries us through good days and                               centre of which dwells the living God.
grey days, sustaining                                                    The true wisdom of Nazareth does not reveal
                                                                                                itself to us until we reach this
all things in a sea of                                                                          point of quieting where we
Divine Love.”                                                                                   can begin our “journey
                                                                                                inward”. The sustaining
Anyone coming to Madonna                                                                        rhythm of ordinary, simple
House is introduced to this                                                                     life enables us to become
routine:                                                                                        more aware of what exists
     We rise at 7:00 a.m. and                                                                   within us. With time, we
come together in our chapel                                                                     learn the great strength of
for morning prayer taken                                                                        Christian communal life.
from the Prayer of the                                                                               Those who make this
Church. Breakfast of cereal                                                                       inward   journey will bear the
                                                 Making music on the computer
(oatmeal), homemade brown                                                                         living Gospel on their jour-
bread, yogurt and tea fol-                                                                        ney through life. Listening
lows at 8:30. We go to our various work places at 9:00              to the Spirit, and in his power, they will incarnate
a.m. and stay there until noon. Much of the daily work              what the Lord wills for their own salvation and for the
is manual, providing for the daily needs of this large              salvation of our times, wherever they go.
family: laundry, carpentry, gardening, canning, paint-
ing, cleaning, cooking, maintenance, dishes, sorting
the donations that come to us for the poor, etc.
     We have our main meal at noon, followed by spir-
itual reading and discussion, usually from Catherine’s
writings. Work then continues from 1:00 p.m. until
5:00 with a break in mid-afternoon for tea.
     We celebrate the Eucharist at 5:15 p.m. The liturgy
is the culmination of the entire day. As Catherine said:
“We live our life between two Masses.” For us, life is
Christ, who said: “This is my Body, given for you; this
is my Blood, poured out for you. Do this in memory
of me.” This spirit of self-sacrificing love for God and
neighbour is meant to penetrate all of our life.                                   The dining room at our main house
Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is available as part

Program for Guests
Men and women in good health, usually between
20–35 in age, come to stay at Madonna House for
varying lengths of time. They come to share in the life
of a Christian family that practices the evangelical
councils of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and they
learn to incarnate the Gospel in simple everyday
activities and to listen, under spiritual direction, to the
voice of the Lord in their own life.
    Each person is asked to participate fully in the
daily schedule of work, prayer and recreation, and to
serve the poor in one another in accordance with the
duty of each moment. For some, our poverty is the
outhouses; for others, it is dormitory living, or no
privacy, or little free time.                                            Pottery making
    We recommend that persons wanting to come
spend at least a week at Madonna House, in order to
best profit from the experience. (We are unable to
accept guests on a weekend basis.) If you are interested
in coming to Madonna House as a guest please write
the appropriate Registrar of Men, Women, or Priests
at the address on the back of this pamphlet.

Lectures and Study
Madonna House offers year-round training in the
basics of our Catholic faith, Scripture, the Catechism
of the Catholic Church, the fundamentals of the spir-
itual life, topics related to the Gospel of Life and the
development of Christian culture. Guest lecturers are
a frequent feature throughout the year. Seminars are             Preparing vegetables for supper
offered. The practical skills of living in a faith-filled
way in today’s world are passed on daily by our staff in
the various departments of Madonna House.

Cana Colony for Families
In a wooded lakeside setting, a short distance from
Madonna House, families come together in the sum-
mer to renew their Christian life in a simple and relax-
ing communal atmosphere. Each one-week session
includes daily Mass in our rustic chapel, conferences,
and recreation. Several primitive cabins are available
for the housing of families, and each family prepares
their own meals in a common cook-house. Please
write to us for more information or to make a reserva-
                                                              Playing baseball on a spring afternoon

Madonna House Priests
                                       As a child, Catherine offered her life for priests. Her
                                       reverence and understanding of this vocation has
                                       touched the many, many priests who have come to
                                       Madonna House over the years.
                                            More than 20 priests are permanent members of
                                       the Apostolate. Several have come from among the lay
                                       men of the community, while others received their
                                       calling after their ordination. The priests live and
                                       work as part of the Madonna House family—celebrat-
                                       ing the sacraments, teaching, praying, and giving
                                       spiritual direction to the staff and guests. They also
                                       serve abroad in the field mission houses.
                                            There is a house for priests in Combermere where
Ordination of a Madonna House priest   visiting priests can come to participate in the life of
                                       the apostolate and receive spiritual refreshment and
                                       encouragement. This often includes a retreat as well
                                       as the opportunity to work and interact with the com-

                                       Associate Priests
                                       As Madonna House has grown, many diocesan priests
                                       have asked to become associated with our apostolate,
                                       living out the spirit of the Little Mandate in their
                                       home diocese. We now have more than 130 priests,
                                       deacons, bishops and archbishops who are Madonna
                                       House Associates, spanning more than a dozen coun-
                                       tries. The associate priests are often in touch with the
                                       Madonna House field house in their area, or with the
    Transplanting at the farm          Combermere house. A yearly meeting of the associ-
                                       ates is held.

                                       Spiritual Formation Program
                                       for men considering the priesthood
                                       Madonna House offers a seven-month program of
                                       formation for men interested in the priesthood in the
                                       Catholic Church. The men live, work and study with
                                       the Madonna House community in a routine much
                                       like the one outlined for guests, but with the addition
                                       of special classes throughout the week. Spiritual direc-
                                       tion is also an essential part of this time of discern-

   At work in the carpentry shop

During the summer months, tours of Madonna House           item is the gift of a generous benefactor interesting in
   are given daily at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. (Large         preserving the history of the valley. (There is no fee to
   groups, please call ahead for reservations.) The tour      visit our little museum. It is open the same hours as
   takes about 45 minutes. In winter months please call       our gift shop.)
   ahead, or arrangements can be made upon arrival.
                                                              Directions to Combermere
   Gift Shop & Book Shop                                      Travelling by car —
   In 1961, Catherine had a dream: a gift shop—the pro-       From Toronto: Take Highway 401 east to Highway
   ceeds of which would go directly to the poor. As a         115/35 to Peterborough. Highway 28 north to Bancroft,
   special apostolate, it would be staffed by Madonna         Highway 62 north to Combermere, Highway 517 (Dafoe
   House members chosen for this work, and it would be        Rd) one kilometre to Madonna House.
   stocked entirely by donations. “Our Lady will be the       From Ottawa: Take Highway 17 west to Renfrew, then
   buyer”, Catherine insisted.                                Highway 60 to Barry’s Bay, Highway 62 south to
       The dream became reality: antiques, gifts, clothing    Combermere, and Highway 517 (Dafoe Rd) one kilometre
   articles, handicrafts (some of which are made at           to Madonna House.
   Madonna House) and used books have become ways of
   touching hearts and souls.                                 Travelling by bus —
       Thousands of people—through their donations,           From Toronto or Ottawa: Service via Greyhound Canada;
   generosity, patronage, and prayers—have helped sup-        phone (800) 661-8747 or see for sched-
   port projects in the Third World and made this apos-       ules and fares.
   tolate possible!
       The gift shop is generally open Tuesday to Saturday
   in the summertime. Winter hours vary. See our web-
   site (Closed Sunday
   and Monday.)

   Pioneer Museum
   Just a few steps away from the gift shop is our small
   Pioneer Museum. Opened in 1967, it houses an exten-
   sive 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. Every

   For Further Information
                                                                  Much more information about the Madonna House
   Please direct your correspondence to:                          Apostolate (including a photographic tour of
                                                                  Madonna House in Combermere) can be found at:
            Madonna House Apostolate
            2888 Dafoe Rd, RR 2                                     
            Combermere ON K0J 1L0                                 For more information about the Servant of God
            Canada                                                Catherine Doherty and her cause for canonization:

   Phone:(613) 756-3713                                           
   Fax:(613) 756-0211
                                                              All Content © 2014 Madonna House Publications, all rights reserved. Printed in Canada.

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Jan 2014
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