“In the very manner of address, let no one call another by the mere name; but let the seniors call their juniors brothers, and the juniors call their seniors fathers...”
Charles House is the first established priory of the renewed Gilbertines. The heritage home, located in the centre of Brandon, Manitoba in a neighbourhood known for its troubles over the years, is currently being rented out by the community until it can be put to use by the community in the future.
“Before we purchased the house” Bro. Sean-Patrick Beahen says, “fifteen people lived there in poverty—it was a so called ‘party house’.” Brother describes the condition of the structure in detail saying every door was kicked in, windows broken, the toilet flushed into the kitchen and even when empty, the house smelled like filth. “We wanted to live here and bring this old home back to a liveable space, not just for ourselves, but as a prayer for those who lived here lost in alcoholism and addictions.” He pauses as he describes the baby’s bootie discovered here, the toy car there, “the place still bears the scars of the violence experienced behind these walls, but what breaks my heart even more so, is that little children lived here too.”
Brother Robert-Charles Bengry says the restoration, largely conducted by themselves as they had money, was slow and labour intensive. “We didn’t mind because we really saw our effort as a meditation and prayer on the systemic poverty and hardship people experience.” When the work was largely completed, and the Brothers had taken up residence, the Religious presence in the neighbourhood provided amazing opportunities for ministry.
“Our ministry was one of prayer and contemplation, but just being in this neighbourhood gave us the opportunity to love our neighbours” Bro. Sean-Patrick said. “Our ministry was hard to quantify — we were able to act as mediators between police and immigrants, we helped drunks get home, we gave food and water and alms when we could to strangers who came knocking.”
“It’s a ministry of presence we continue in Calgary” Bro. Robert-Charles says. “And that’s important... people need to know they are loved by God no matter what condition they are in. We all fall short, and that’s why we need our Saviour and why we need each other and the Church.”
In God’s time, the community hopes to return to Charles House in some fashion in the future to take up ministry there again. “Perhaps our community will grow and we can send Brothers and Sisters back to serve” Bro. Bengry says.