Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 22, 1999
Marian Centre founder dies at 85
Dorothy Phillips had a passionate love of the poor
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Dorothy Phillips, considered the pioneer of Catholic social action in Edmonton, died Nov. 3 at the age of 85.
The founder and former director of the Marian Centre came to Edmonton in 1955 with only $100 in her pocket and a mission to clothe and feed the transient poor in the city.
"She had a passionate love for the poor," said Pat Stewart, a member of Madonna House in Edmonton who had known Phillips for the past decade. "She always said if 'You're going to take care of the poor, do it well. Don't just mess around with it.'"
Phillips, a member of the Madonna House Lay Apostolate since 1952, spent her first few months in Edmonton fundraising to establish the Marian Centre, a refuge for the city's downtrodden. The centre not only offered visitors a meal, it fed them spiritually.
For her work, Phillips was chosen Citizen of the Year by the Junior Chamber of Commerce in 1965.
In 1967, she left the Marian Centre and returned to Madonna House in Ontario, where she had lived since.
Phillips was a dedicated example of the mission of her apostolate - to serve God and the poor.
"She was a live wire," said Stewart, an apostolate at Marian Centre. "Lots of energy, flashing eyes, flashing smile.
"She had opinions and she wasn't afraid at all to voice her opinions."
Her strongest opinions concerned the poor. Although a slight woman, Phillips was anything but frail. She always had a smile and an abundance of energy to share. She exuded a spirit of caring and compassion, which remains at the core of the centre's work today.
"She served whoever came in here," said Doreen Chapman, a long-time Marian Centre volunteer. "Nobody was questioned. It didn't matter where you came from or what you did. She welcomed everyone."
Phillips worked with and promoted the centre in the community. She believed in what she was doing and "knew God would always provide," Chapman said. "She knew that things would come. She didn't worry whether we would have enough for people who came here. We always managed to have enough."
Phillips was an inspiration not only to the community she served, but also to the centre's staff and volunteers. She supported their work, as Stewart would say, both directly and from a distance.
"Her love held you up," he said.
Chapman added, "She spoke very much of Our Lady in her life. She directed me spiritually and assisted me."
It was with the help of Phillips that Chapman came to understand the simplicities of life.
"She was so down to earth. If we were scrubbing floors, which we seemed to do a lot of in those days, or washing dishes or cleaning, it was probably the first time I realized doing these (jobs) is like a prayer. You could pray while doing them. It was doing God's work."
A Mass and reception in honour of Phillips will be held at the Marian Centre, 10528-98 St., Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.