Father Bob in his book, ‘Give God Permission’ tells this story. Renewal Center ‘God can do anything.’
“In the fall of 1981, I asked the archbishop if he would be willing to address the prayer group leaders. He said he would be delighted. We gathered at St. Joseph’s Center on Laurier Avenue East.
He challenged them to move out of their comfort zone in the parish halls and put their gifts at the service of the whole Church. Yet another instance that underlined his prophetic approach.
I met with the leaders a couple of weeks later. After some time in prayer, we sensed his direction could be best followed by establishing a renewal center. It was practically universal.
The plan we agreed on was this: We would search for a suitable place during the winter and the spring of 1982. We would settle on one by June. We would then take the summer to whip it into shape and open in September, In addition we would begin immediately to ask each prayer group (there were about 25 of them) to collect 25 cents a person at every weekly meeting. This would give is enough to get started.
The search was a painful adventure. It seemed as though we walked through every broken down shack in Ottawa and some fairly presentable locations as well. They were either unsuitable or too expensive.
June arrived. Still no place.
I’d got quite exasperated and fed up by this time. I decided one warm day in mid-June to drop in to the modest two-room flat we;d been renting for our inner healing prayer groups. Maybe I could at least get a little sympathy and even a bite of lunch as well. There were five women just breaking open a few sandwiched. They greeted me warmly, but were visibly concerned when I told them I was anything but cheerful about the center that looked at this time as though it wouldn’t happen. ‘Oh, The lord will get us a place.’ One said. ‘Just trust him.’ another suggested. ‘We’re behind schedule,’ I complained. “Well, let pray,’ They came back.
I might have known. As if we hadn’t prayed! We’d been praying for months. We formed a circle and held hands, the traditional prayer group way.
I can’t stand holding hand this way. I come from a long line of itchy noses and inevitably have to rub my nose every few minutes. I feel like a prisoner. and I’m dying from the itch besides.
We prayed in spontaneous fashion for a minute or so, my nose just starting to itch. At that point, one of the women, Marg Varga by name, spoke as though in prophecy. This is what she said: ‘My children do not worry. I already have a place picked out.’ (I’m asking silently: Do you have an address?) ‘Trust me. I will lead you to it. In fact, you already have the key in your possession.’ )I though: there’s a far out image if I’ve ever heard one.) ‘Be at peace. I am working.’
The girls were trilled/ I, much less so. I’d heard plenty of such words in my past seven years or so, very few of them coming to fruition. My frustration continued.
It was compounded by a number of rather pointed question like: What about the center business? What about the money we’ve been turning in? I felt as though some of them were half expecting to off to South America with the funds or something.
The opening of school came round. Still nothing. The first day of class I visited St. Pius X high school, the place I had taught for 20 years. Mail was still coming there for me. The opening day sure looked very familiar! confused students wandering through the halls, somewhat harassed-looking teachers trying to make through the day, secretarial staff obviously overworked.
I checked the teacher’s room and glad-handed some of them and returned to the office to collect the mail. There, surrounded by a throng of questioners and petitioners, was the principal, good old Father Len Lunney, trying to look calm and collected but not doing very well at it. When he spotted me. he spoke as pleasant a greeting as he could manage and then said: ‘ Oh’ by the way, if you are still look for a place for that canter of yours, the former convent of available now.’ I had discounted it earlier because the plan has been to use it for a music department. However, unknown to me, it had been found unsuitable.
I said: ‘Hey that might just be the very thing. Lend me YOU KEY will you? I’ll go over and check it out.’ His reply stopped me cold: ‘OH YOU HAVE A KEY. YOU DIDN”T TURN IN WHEN YOU LEFT.’
Of course. THE KEY! we had all taken turns saying Mass for the sisters. Did I still have THE KEY? I checked my RING OF KEYS. I did have it! I went over the convent, opened the doors and steeped in. It was perfect. The sisters had left it in mint condition. The following day, we opened the Catholic Renewal Center exactly according to the plan we believed the Lord had set out for us in early September. After all the fuss, muss, brother and worry, we started right on time.
I am amazed at the ways of the Lord. He is so versatile. I feel he is always asking me why I can’t seem to trust him more. Why does it take me so long to learn?
The center was an instant success. Before too long we had as many as 80 people taking part. Different services were offered: daily mass, a lending library, inner healing prayer, counselling, venue for meeting of various kinds, plus a whole host of others too numerous to mention. We were fulfilling the archbishop’s request ti put the gifts of the ‘charismatic’ at the service of the wider Church. We even became ecumenical before too long. Father Maxym Lysak’s infant Ukranian Orthodox congregation began by clebrating their Divine Liturgy in our little chapel each Sunday. Two of the people who volunteered their services were religious sisters: Sister Joan O’ Connor, CND and Sister Marie Bouchard SSJ (Toronto).”
PS I heard Father Bob tell this story 17 years ago and it stuck with me. It much really have stuck because I just finished typing it, and I type at top speed 2 and half words a minute. Fr Stefan