The Cana Colony welcomes about 30 families each year. Photo courtesy Cana Colony

Simple ways help families renew

By  John Wilson, Register Correspondent
  • September 15, 2023

In the woods along Lake Bennet just west of Combermere, Ont., there is a circle of cabins overlooked by a small chapel. The campground, known as Cana Colony, is a destination for Catholic families looking for a week of faith, fun and fellowship.

The consecrated members of nearby Madonna House have run this family apostolate for decades. Camp registrar Christina Milan said the goal of the camp is to offer families a chance for renewal.

“It is a way of entering into nature and being with other families while also having that time to really focus on the restoration of their own family life through their encounters with one another,” said Milan.

The camp consists of eight cabins, a chapel and a large cook shack for meals. The cabins are simple and without electricity or running water. The rural and rustic nature of the campground, said Milan, provides families a chance to detach from their ordinary lives

“It’s a type of fasting by embracing the simplicity,” she said. “Being away from the activity and the distractions of our modern age, it’s a way that families are restored in community and in nature that is very special and unique.”

Catherine Doherty, the foundress of Madonna House, established Cana Colony in 1952, after meeting with Pope Pius XII the year before. In 1957, Doherty acquired the current grounds of Cana.

Michael Mercugliano, who has been attending Cana Colony with his family since 2001, described the impact the apostolate has had on his family, comparing it to the life of the Holy Family.

“It all goes back to that little simple way of Nazareth,” he said. “Whether it’s when everyone is going to the lake or sitting down and eating a meal together in the cook shack, we’re living our little Nazareth and enjoying family time.”

The schedule of the week at Cana Colony is very simple. The majority of each day is left open for the families to spend together. While Mass is offered each morning, as well as a communal rosary each evening, families have the rest of the day to themselves.

Mercugliano mentioned the fun his children havve at Cana.

“From spinning each other around on floats on the lake to blazing a trail through the woods, they absolutely loved it from the first year we went. They just couldn’t wait to go back.” 

A priest and two lay consecrated members of Madonna House also reside at Cana for the week, accompanying the families and offering opportunities for spiritual direction or a simple chat.

The camp welcomes over 30 families each year.

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