Marian Centre in Edmonton is primarily known for its service to the poor. In our dining room, the homeless and needy are welcomed five days a week for hearty stews served by the staff and volunteers. Sandwich bags are distributed at other times. Once a week the clothing room is opened so that clothes and small household items can be made available to our friends.
The poor are Christ to us, and in serving them, we receive much more than we give. They teach us to suspend judgments, to acknowledge our own wounds, to stand before suffering and lift it to God. We learn to see individuals, not categories. Personal recognition is a balm for all of us, but especially for those rejected by society. A smile or a “thank you” in return becomes a precious gift.
However, this is only one facet of Marian Centre’s apostolate. Our family life and the love we bear each other is the foundation from which all our service flows. Because it is so essential, we shouldn’t be surprised that it is often a struggle!
The volunteers who work alongside us belong to our extended family. Some have been coming for many years, and deep friendships have developed with them and their families. Through others we touch the multi-cultural face of Canada. Teachers bring their students; parents, their children. At tea each morning, we read an excerpt from Catherine or another spiritual writer, and the ensuing discussions are often profound and inspiring. What a joy to see people find meaning and friendship through their service, their contact with the poor, with us and with each other!
For years those interested have joined us for our Friday evenings study sessions. Together we have read and discussed the Little Mandate, a thesis written about Catherine Doherty, Pope Benedict’s encyclical on hope, the Sunday readings, and other topics, ending the evening with night prayer. This too has been a way of spiritual sharing and building community. Once a month an open Mass in our chapel, followed by tea, draws a wide variety of friends and families.
Nourishment through art has long been part of our mission. Many talented artists have been part of the staff. At times we have offered classes in various crafts, and for a number of years, we had a gift shop. Marian Centre presently has two resident artists: Patrick Stewart, the director of MCE, who has been painting for over thirty years, and iconographer Jude Fischer. Friends of the house also make regular use of our craft room.
Prayer is at the heart of our life as we strive to intercede for the needs of the inner city through the gift of our selves, the Mass, and our community prayers. In the poustinia, we spend 24 hours alone with God, fasting and lifting up to him the needs of those we carry in our hearts. Our poustinia rooms are also available to others.