Madonna House Apostolate
|This article relies on references to primary sources. (May 2012)|
The Madonna House Apostolate is a Catholic Christian community of lay men, women, and priests dedicated to loving and serving Jesus Christ in all aspects of everyday life. It was founded in 1947 by Catherine Doherty in Combermere, Ontario and has established missionary field houses world-wide.
Staff workers of the Madonna House Apostolate live in voluntary poverty. Donations of clothing, food, goods and money come from a variety of sources enabling them to live out their promise of poverty, and better identify with the poor whom they serve. As a celibate community, the men, women and priests live in separate dormitories and generally work in separate departments, but gather together for all daily meals and religious services.
Believing that "work is prayer," the members of the Madonna House community live a simple daily routine beginning with a brief prayer service, followed by a day of work, and ending with Mass and dinner. Work at the main house generally consists of the day-to-day maintenance of the community, care of a farm, and the sorting and distribution of donations to the poor.
The spirituality of the Madonna House Apostolate is summarized in The Little Mandate, a "distillation" of the Gospel message of Jesus Christ brought forth by the apostolate's foundress.
Some members of the apostolate live in poustinia, meaning a small, sparsely furnished cabin or room (the term poustinia has its roots in the Russian word for "desert"). For these few staff workers, their voluntary life as poustiniks is somewhat like that of a hermit, though less strict.
Madonna House welcomes guests into their community, allowing anyone to come and join their daily routine of work and prayer for varying lengths of time at their training centre in Combermere.
The main work of the Madonna House Apostolate is serving the poor — both the physically and spiritually poor. Donations sent to the community are redistributed locally and internationally. Through their missionary field houses, Madonna House staff workers serve the needs of the poor in many ways, from "prayer and listening houses" to soup kitchens.
The apostolate maintains a non-profit publications department, Madonna House Publications. It publishes the works of Catherine Doherty and other members of the community as part of its mission to spread the Gospel. The Madonna House monthly newspaper, Restoration, has been in continuous publication since 1947.
Madonna House is a "public association of the Christian faithful" under the authority of the bishop of the Diocese of Pembroke, and faithful to the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church. (Cf. Code of Canon Law, 298–320)
The community is overseen by three "Directors General" — the Director General of Men, the Director General of Women, and the Director General of Priests — each of whom is elected by the respective segment of the community for 4-year terms.
The apostolate also has several international missionary "field houses", each under the authority of the bishop of the area (and set up at his invitation). Each field house has a "Local Director," appointed by the Director Generals. Local Directors gather yearly at the main house for several weeks of meetings and retreats.
Members of Madonna House are known as "staff workers." After a 2-year period of applicancy, staff workers make year-long promises (not vows) of poverty, chastity and obedience. These promises are renewed yearly, and after seven years staff workers generally make lifelong final promises to the community. Staff workers can be distinguished by the large silver rounded cross they wear on a cord around their necks, bearing the Latin words pax caritas (for "peace" and "love").
In addition, the apostolate also accepts priests, bishops and deacons from outside the community as "Associate Priests" — although these priests do not participate in the day-to-day workings of the apostolate, they do wear the pax caritas cross, strive to live "the Madonna House way of life," and meet yearly at the main house for retreats. (There is no corresponding "associate" status for lay people.)
The apostolate's headquarters in Combermere, Ontario includes the Pioneer Museum, a log barn housing historic pioneer artifacts. Items include household items, kitchenware, tools, cobbler and farm implements.
Besides the main training centre in Combermere, Ontario, the Madonna House Apostolate also maintains missionary "field houses" in the following places:
- Edmonton, Alberta
- Vancouver, British Columbia
- Combermere, Ontario
- Ottawa, Ontario
- Toronto, Ontario
- Windsor, Ontario
- Regina, Saskatchewan
- Whitehorse, Yukon
- Rimouski, Quebec
- Catherine Doherty, foundress of Madonna House
- Eddie Doherty, co-founder of Madonna House
- The Little Mandate, "The Madonna House way of life"
- Restoration, the Madonna House Catholic newspaper
- Our Lady of Combermere
- Friendship House
- Joseph Raya
- "About Madonna House". madonnahouse.org.