by Kay O’Shea.
Marian Centre has been in Edmonton since 1955. We came at the invitation of Archbishop MacDonald. In his mandate for Marian Centre, he asked us to: relieve the sufferings of the poor and to alleviate the sufferings of Christ who lives in the poor–economically, culturally, and every other way…
People were hungry; people were down and out. So we started feeding them and giving out clothing. Almost 60 years later, we continue to do this with the help of many volunteers.
One could say that Marian Centre is a soup kitchen. Yes, it is, and that is very important, but it is also a place of beauty.
Let me take you on a little tour of Marian Centre to see some of the beauty there.
But before entering our house, let us walk through our garden. When it is not winter, it contains grass and trees and many flowers and herbs. We, especially Fr. Tom Talentino, have worked to make this garden what it is—an oasis for staff and visitors alike.
When the weather is mild, you will often see a Brother Christopher* lying on the grass, sitting on one of the benches by the garden, or looking at the flowers. What better way to alleviate suffering than to provide the beauty of nature!
Moreover, having such lovely garden flowers available, enables Fr. Tom Talentino or Zoyla Grace or one of the other staff to make floral arrangements for the chapel and for our reception after our open Sunday Masses.
Now let us enter the house. Let’s go down the stairs into the dining room that serves as a soup kitchen. On the walls are pictures including paintings; some of the paintings were done by one of the Brothers Christopher.
On the window sills are plants, and colorful chairs are arranged neatly at the tables, giving a sense of order and peace to those whose world is often chaotic.
And of course, we put up special decorations for Christmas and Easter.
Now let’s go to the chapel. There we see a beautiful set of Stations of the Cross. They were done by a sculptor who visited us soon after the chapel was completed. Seeing that we had no Stations, he offered to make us a set.
When I stand before his Stations, I am filled with awe. They are simple and full of symbolism. Many of the stations show the hands of Christ quite prominently. This is no wonder: the sculptor who made them had only one hand.
Icons also adorn some of the walls of the chapel, as well as carvings of Christ and some of the saints.
Next to the chapel is a studio where Jude Fischer writes beautiful icons. A little farther in the house we come to the handicraft room, where Zoyla is doing some weaving.
Terry and Laura, friends of ours, come often on Friday afternoons to paint. They could paint anywhere, but they love to do it here. Patrick Stewart, who is now in Combermere, used to paint with them.
During Advent last year, Steve Héroux used his creativity to make a lovely little home for the Holy Family out of pieces of kindling. And Zoyla and I made small wreaths out of wheat which a friend saved for us for this purpose from his harvest.
Everyone needs celebrations, and so, throughout the year, we share with all who come, some of the customs we follow at Madonna House.
For the feast of Epiphany and Pentecost we make and give out gifts, spiritual gifts written on pieces of paper. On Epiphany, these are the gifts of the Magi, and on Pentecost, we give each person a gift and fruit of the Holy Spirit.
One of our volunteers liked the custom of giving out Epiphany gifts so much that she told her daughter about it. Now that daughter, who is a teacher, shares this custom with her students.
During Lent, Zoyla and Miriam Stulberg taught people how to make pysanky, Ukrainian Easter eggs. People were amazed at their beautiful results.
(It is said that pysanky hold back the darkness, that if people ever stop making them, evil will overcome the world.)
On Easter and during Easter Week, we give out the Russian Easter foods, paska and koolitch, to all who come to celebrate Christ’s resurrection with us.
On the feast of the Assumption, the feast that Madonna House celebrates as the feast of women, we make little corsages for our women volunteers. They are thrilled.
We often have new people visiting Marian Centre. More than once I have heard someone say, "I didn’t know this was here; it’s so beautiful." Something inside resonates with what they see.
And the beauty is not just for the visitors and the Brothers Christopher. I don’t think those of us who live at Marian Centre could do what we do each day if we didn’t live in a house of beauty.
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