Under One Roof
Ontario Knights help to reunite a family separated by the demands of caring for a severely handicapped child
By John Paul Meenan
Marie-Ange, the ninth child of Marc and Carole Jobin, came into the world in the summer of 2018, but, alas, not in the usual way. Carole’s uterus ruptured, depriving Marie-Ange of oxygen. As result, Carole nearly died from hemorrhaging and the baby was born with severe brain damage. Thus began a four-year odyssey and ordeal for the family in rural Barry’s Bay, Ontario.
From the beginning, baby Marie-Ange was unable to regulate her body temperature and breathing, requiring constant nursing care and vigilance from her mother.
“Carole spent weeks at a time away from the family to be with Marie-Ange at the hospital, often having to advocate for our daughter’s needs,” recalled Marc, a member of Barry’s Bay Council 6894.
Even when Carole and the baby could leave the hospital, they couldn’t return to the Jobins’ 100-year-old farmhouse. Marie-Ange’s precarious health required that they stay near the hospital in Barry’s Bay, in a house where the temperature and humidity levels could be carefully controlled.
“The small Barry’s Bay community rallied in prayer and support, and God provided in ways beyond expectation,” said Marc.
For three years, as the rhythms of the Jobin household revolved around Marie-Ange’s 24/7 medical care, the network of support for the family grew. In the fall of 2021, St. Patrick Basilica Council 485 in Ottawa spearheaded a charitable initiative, in partnership with the Mennonite Disaster Service, to build an addition to the Jobins’ home that would allow the family to live “under one roof” again. With enthusiastic support from the Ontario State Council, the project became a jurisdiction-wide effort that was completed in July 2022.
“Projects like this are part of the Knights mission because they fundamentally answer the first principle upon which Blessed Michael McGivney founded the Order,” State Deputy Marcel Lemmen said. “And that was to keep Catholic families together.”
OLD HOUSE, NEW ADDITION
In early 2018, the Jobin family settled into an old homestead outside Barry’s Bay, a small town two hours west of Ottawa. With all the children playing a part, they started a small farm, clearing the land, tending the garden, gathering honey from bees. Yet their plans became a lot more uncertain with the birth of Marie-Ange six months later.
At the start, there were constant back-and-forth trips to the children’s hospital in Ottawa. Marie-Ange was eventually discharged, but the temperature and humidity variants in the Jobins’ house were not suitable for her fragile condition.
A benefactor in Barry’s Bay provided a home where mother and daughter could stay for a very modest expense. Because Carole had to spend most of her time tending to her youngest child, she was often away from the rest of her family.
“I miss my mom,” one young Jobin daughter told Donald Macdonald, grand knight of Council 485, when he visited the farmhouse. “Mom used to tuck us into bed at night; my older sisters have to do that now.”
It broke Carole’s heart to be separated from her family.
“It feels pretty dark at the beginning,” she said. “You just wonder how we are going to be able to make one step forward. But eventually, it’s just God leading.”
Marc, who was working as a paramedic, considered the idea of building an addition to their home that could be outfitted for Marie-Ange’s needs. “But as a single-income family with nine children, it was just not within our budgetary means to finance such an adventure,” he said.
The Jobins prayed for a way for Carole and Marie-Ange to be reunited with the rest of the family. In particular, Carole began praying to Blessed Michael McGivney to intercede on their behalf following his beatification in 2020.
“When Father McGivney was beatified, I felt strongly that we should go to him, as the beatification miracle was linked to a very similar story as ours,” she recalled. “He intervened in a life-threatening in utero condition of a Down syndrome boy, part of a group often rejected by society.”
The prayer requests made their way to Council 485 at St. Patrick’s in Ottawa, where an Honoris Society dedicated to Blessed Michael McGivney is located in the lower level of the basilica.
“Because Carole came to the hospital in town with Marie-Ange, we learned about the family,” Grand Knight Macdonald explained. “And through a call for prayer on their behalf by a mutual friend, we realized the great need for this three-year separation to come to an end and that we could tangibly help.”
In a matter of months, a support network coalesced, with Council 485 taking the lead in a campaign to raise CA$130,000 for the building project. The Mennonite community in the Barry’s Bay area was contacted, and the Mennonite Disaster Service of Ontario agreed wholeheartedly to oversee construction and provide most of the labor. Council 485 donated professional design and structural engineering services as well as other logistical and financial expertise. By November 2021, shovels were in the ground.
Marc and Carole could barely believe it.
“We went from being quite discouraged and wondering if anybody was listening to us upstairs, to all of a sudden feeling like the plan had been in the works the whole time and we were just the last ones to find out about it,” Marc said. “The speed at which things came together was stunning.”
The project was both local and provincial, even ecumenical.
Knights across Ontario contributed generously to the fundraising campaign.
“Grand Knight Macdonald sent out an appeal with our permission to Knights of Columbus councils all over the province to raise funds to complete this project,” said State Deputy Lemmen. “I think Blessed Michael McGivney would be very proud of these efforts.”
Macdonald likewise acknowledged the breadth of support: “Councils and individual Knights throughout Ontario, across Canada and in the USA have helped us enormously, though funding is still needed to complete the Knights’ financial commitment.”
Barry’s Bay Council 6894 rallied to the cause, recruiting volunteer workers, helpers and cooks, while also providing advice about navigating local rules and guidelines. In January 2022, as construction progressed, Knights from Council 6894 joined members of Council 485 at the building site, installing wall insulation while Mennonite lads worked on the siding.
“The one thing I was super careful to do was make sure that we didn’t take over what Council 485 had started,” Grand Knight John Artymko said. “And so just as the Knights are the right arm of the Church, our council kind of became the right arm of the Jobin addition project.”
He added, “A project like this brings goodness to a community. It lets us brother Knights ask other volunteers to contribute, and the fruits of that asking is that they’re part of a project that radiates the light of Christ out into the world.”
The Mennonites brought their renowned craftsmanship and work ethic to the project. Osiah Horst coordinated the volunteers for the Mennonite Disaster Service, a binational organization that has been doing relief work for the last 70 years across the United States and Canada.
“It has been a beautiful opportunity for us to work together across religious lines,” Horst said. “In fact, someone in the process coined a new word. We are called Mennonites and they are called Knights of Columbus, so on this project we became Menno-Knights.”
The addition was dedicated on a beautiful sunny day, July 16, 2022, the memorial of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. In attendance were State Deputy Lemmen, members of Barry’s Bay Council, men and women of the Mennonite community and other local residents. During the ceremony, Grand Knight Macdonald led a procession with his bagpipes, and the Mennonites presented Carol with a handmade quilt.
The Jobins were overjoyed.
“Daily life now for us as a family is transformed,” Marc said. “It’s quite amazing to have a family meal for a change, as we’d been deprived of that for almost four years.”
He continued: “The addition is a miracle. I’ve been so deeply touched by the hard work the Mennonites have done for our family and to see how the Knights from all across Ontario have pitched in to help us.”
Grateful to be reunited with her husband and children, Carole expressed her appreciation for the Knights’ perennial mission to aid families, widows and orphans.
“This is really the Gospel,” she said. “Blessed Michael McGivney has shown us that he’s still very active, and his organization is definitely there for the protection of life and the family.”
Though being united as a family provides solace, Marie-Ange continues to face serious health issues. On two different occasions this year, she had to be admitted to the hospital for respiratory illnesses.
“The cross is not over; we’re not in heaven yet,” Carole said. “But when a family is together, we can already touch heaven because there’s love, and God is present with us.”
To help support this project, contact GK485@ontariokofc.ca.
JOHN PAUL MEENAN is assistant professor of theology at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College and a member of Barry’s Bay (Ontario) Council 6894.