Posted January 16, 2012 in MH Edmonton AB:
My First Year in Edmonton

by David Guzman.

It has been just over a year since I arrived in Edmonton. Although I have resisted and have failed in previous attempts to put down in words my "first impressions," I shall nevertheless forge onward, under obedience and with a deadline given to me by the director of this house, Gerard Lesage.

I was transferred here from Marian Centre Regina. Melanie Murphy, who has also been stationed in both houses, once said to me, "The only thing similar between the Regina house and the Edmonton house is the name, "Marian Centre." Well, that and the fact that they both serve the Brothers Christopher.*

At first, the main thing that struck me about Marian Centre Edmonton was that everything seemed so much more: more staff to live with and try to love, more volunteers, more Brothers Christopher (sometimes over 300 for lunch), and finally, more stew. And I am now the stew cook!

God’s sense of humor is often evident at Madonna House. I, who hate to cook even for myself and who have diminished senses of taste and smell, now find myself making stew every day for staff, volunteers, and Brothers Christopher.

God does not order us to do impossible things, but in ordering us, he admonishes us to do what we can and ask his help for whatever is outside our power. — St. Augustine.

"Miraculously," the stew has been consistently tasty, and I have even heard people say, "best soup in town!"

God is so good, but my humility and dependence on him are the only secret ingredients in my stew—along with my love.

It is wonderful to be in a house with the full complement of Madonna House staff—laymen, lay women, and a priest.

This house is also blessed with elders and pioneers of the apostolate, who often share memories of their early years and invaluable insights gained from their decades of service.

And we have in this house the full complement of singers—sopranos, altos, tenors and bass whenever we sing at prayers or Mass.

And thanks to Planet Organic, an organic grocery chain, Marian Centre is able to serve organic food, something we all appreciate so much.

The volunteers are numerous and so faithful and generous, really opening their hearts and their homes to us. Imagine inviting all twelve of us over for dinner; to give just one example. It is a major undertaking.

Finally, I like playing Scrabble, and God’s little gift to me has been the abundance of Scrabble-players in this house.

I will conclude with a story about overcoming my fear. In my three years in Marian Centre Regina, I broke up one fight and maybe banned one or two guys for a few weeks. Here in Edmonton, it’s more like a fight a month.

On one occasion, a kleptomaniac Brother Christopher was pulling on my Madonna House cross, choking me, and telling me it was his.

"Gera-a-a-ard!! He-e-e lp!"

Well, the time came for the directors’ meetings in Combermere, when Gerard would be gone for a month. Needless to say, I was a little anxious.

I began a novena to Our Lady of Guadalupe. My prayer was for peace in the dining room and the ability to handle anything that happened.

Do everything calmly and peacefully. Do as much as you can, as well as you can. Strive to see God in all things without exception, and consent to his will joyously…. Walk very simply with the Cross of the Lord and be at peace with yourself. — St. Francis de Sales.

Early in the second week Gerard was away, sure enough, a fight broke out. I rushed over to intervene. We happened to be serving hotdogs that day, and just as I arrived on the scene, one came flying through the air and hit me smack in the face.

Surprisingly, this incident both amused and relaxed me, and I was able to separate the two men and ask them to leave. And I was peaceful while doing so! Yes, God does have a sense of humor!

"Thank you Maria," I prayed, for I was sure this grace from God was given to me directly from the hands of my loving Mother.

Wiping the mustard and ketchup off my face, I chuckled, and I knew that the rest of the month would be just fine, even without Gerard.

Sure enough, there were no other major disturbances, and we always seemed to have just enough volunteers to do the work and just enough stew to feed everybody.

* Catherine Doherty’s word for the men we serve in our soup kitchens. It means "Christ-bearer."


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