Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 27, 1999
Renewal Services gets new look
Can of paint enables charismatic offices to fulfill its ministry
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Renewal is what the office walls of the Catholic Renewal Services got this summer.
The downtown office with its once dark walls and closed space that visitors have been so accustomed to for the past 14 years is now breathing new life in an open space design brightened by a coat of new paint.
The sunlight streaming from the stairwell of the entranceway bounces off crisp white walls and spreads a mist of light on the new grey speckled carpet.
A visitor comes in and is in awe of the new digs.
"Wow," is all she can say as her eyes go from one end of the newly carpeted room to the other. Her mouth still gaping and her eyes still transfixed on the obvious transformation the office has taken over the summer, she's able to muster up another "Wow."
Since opening its doors on 109th Street, just a couple blocks north of the Legislative building, Catholic Renewal Services never had much in its budget to improve the decor.
"The walls were old wood panelling and there was this big black wall on that side," said Mary Serniak, pointing to the north side of the office. "And all this area was smaller offices. But everything is opened up now. We still have smaller offices for privacy, but this area is good for socializing.
"It was getting to look very drab, very old and decrepit."
Serniak, who has volunteered with Catholic Renewal Services for two years, never paid too much attention to the old walls and carpeting, but admits "this (renovations) makes a lot of difference. It's very inviting. It was not very peaceful before, but now it will be a nicer place for people to come in for their spiritual needs."
The Catholic Renewal Centre provides services to people involved in the charismatic renewal movement which began in the late 1960s.
"People were on fire with the Holy Spirit," Serniak said. "They started having these conferences and prayer groups.
"People were getting to know the powers of the Holy Spirit and they began to use the powers of the Holy Spirit in their lives. Using these powers - love, joy, peace. When you begin to use these gifts, you begin to love these gifts."
The Edmonton office offers regular prayer meetings, a monthly prayer breakfast, conferences, workshops, information publications and videos, and drop-in counselling and prayers. The office also offers information on other services such as Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA), the chancery office, live-ins and retreats.
"It's a centre where people come together," Serniak said. "We run Life in the Spirit, a seminar for people to come and have a closer relationship with the Lord."
The centre also connects with various prayer groups from local parishes.
Catholic Renewal Services acts as a switch helping to activate the powers of the Holy Spirit in an individual. Through prayer, its volunteers aim to guide visitors closer to God. It offers prayers during times of need and sadness. But it also encourages prayer during times when most people don't think about God.
"We also need to pray when things are good," Serniak said. "We can pray about anything anytime. It's usually a prayer that says 'Give me . . . I want . . .' But the greatest prayer is thank you. We need to do more of that as well.
"In prayer you come into a greater dimension of that fullness with God. You come into a different awareness of him."
Volunteers also offer counselling through prayer. In praying with a visitor or someone needing guidance, Serniak said "counselling through prayer is more through how the Lord directs us and leads us to help someone."
Visitors to the office range from 20 to 80 year olds and come from various backgrounds. They come with problems, seeking spiritual direction or just to talk.
"They talk about everything," Serniak said. "As numerous as the people, that's how numerous is the need. A lot of people carry many crosses. They need a place to set them down.
"Every request (for prayer) is important. Nothing too big, nothing too small."
With the services it offers, Catholic Renewal Services is hoping to give Catholics the tools to "be able to go out and talk about our faith," Serniak said.
"Like the Pentecostals do. They can sit and talk about Jesus like he was their neighbour. I thought 'Why can't I as a Catholic talk about Jesus like that?' As though we had that kind of close relationship. I am able to do that now. And I hope I can help others do the same."
With a new office look, volunteers at Catholic Renewal Services is planning new ministries. The group is looking at sessions on educating the public about the services and getting senior citizens involved in the office.
"Some of the elderly people, they think they have nothing to do in their churches anymore. We want to get these people active in a ministry."