Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of September 30, 2002
Serving Christ by serving dinner
Marian Centre staff welcomes Christ among the hungry
By RENATO GANDIA
WCR Staff Writer
One never fails to notice the queue at a house on 105th Avenue and 98th Street at lunch hour.
It's not a line-up to a box office hit movie. It's not a bargain sale. What it is is a single file of people searching for a free lunch, clothes, shoes, toiletries, whatever.
This line can mean survival for many.
To many onlookers, the people waiting for help are the bums of Edmonton's streets.
But the people at Marian Centre see them differently. They call the waiting hungry souls Christophers.
Yes, Christophers - bearers of Christ.
The people who live at the Marian Centre (a field house of the Madonna House Apostolate) is a family of Catholic laymen, women and priests striving to incarnate the teachings of Jesus Christ by forming a community of love.
Catherine de Hueck Doherty founded Madonna House with her husband, Eddie Doherty, in 1947. Today, the community has about 200 laymen, women, and priests dedicated to loving and serving Christ in different parts of the world.
Through word, deed and prayers, they live a life of poverty, obedience and chastity. A presence in Edmonton for 47 years, this community has been "an oasis of grace," both for people who work there and for those who need food and other forms of temporary assistance.
Each person who comes to their door is considered a bearer of Christ for this community believes Christ comes in disguise. "Christ comes to our door . . . a lot more often and in a lot more different guises - young, old, broken, male or female," Marian Centre Director Patrick Stewart told the WCR.
A year ago, the centre served 90 people on a busy day. In the last six months, that number doubled. They generally serve hot meals to 130 people, but that number can climb to 200 people.
Why the drastic increase in the needy?
The publicized healthy economy of Alberta means more people are coming to Edmonton to look for jobs, said Stewart.
They stay in shelters. Some live on the streets. And then many have difficulty in actually finding employment because they lack job skills.
Others who do find jobs must wait for that first pay cheque so they can afford to buy food.
All of them turn to the city's soup kitchens.
And the Marian Centre's doors are always open for them.
"Jesus is keeping us busy," said Stewart, a former U.S. Navy serviceman. "One of the big things for us now is we need more help from the community."
The centre gets no government funding and depends solely on donations to carry out its work. Each day, this community of love makes hundreds of sandwiches to hand out to people at the door, as well as serve a sit-down, hot meal between 1 and 3 p.m.
To augment their meagre income, the staff creates greeting cards and other crafts to sell at the centre. When able, they also help mission houses in other countries.
Stewart, a gifted painter, donates revenues from commissioned work to foreign missions.
This centre is no ordinary soup kitchen in the inner city. Aside from making meals for the poor, the community provides "soup for the soul," not only for its staff, but also for its volunteers.
They carry out their tasks in an atmosphere of prayer. Every duty begins with thanksgiving to God, imploring his love and grace be felt in serving others.
"There's a lot of joy from people who come here, from our volunteers, from our staff," Stewart said.
Phyllis Leoppky, a Grade 5 and music teacher at St. Bonaventure School, began volunteering two years ago.
"You can just feel love and peace right here. It's a place of peace for me and my faith has deepened immensely.
"We're all poor. The poor are not just somebody else out there (who are) different from us. They are us. We are all together."
She once heard a Christopher say, "Wow there are people starving out there and we're having pie." Said Leoppky, "Here's somebody who really is grateful for what he has. He made me think about what I am grateful for."
Cameron Macdonell, 24, a computer science graduate student at the U of A, volunteers every third Saturday of the month.
"Here we have an opportunity to spend time with people who have committed to do this for their whole life. It's interesting to see how people can follow Christ in a radical way."
Marian Centre needs donations of money, food, clothing, toiletries, as well as volunteers. Please call: (780) 424-3544.