Benedictine monk Fr. Peter Nygren prays with Catholic Street Missionaries at Westminster Abbey in Mission, B.C. Photo courtesy The B.C. Catholic

Prayer, fasting prepare missionaries for street

By  Arleen D'Souza, Canadian Catholic News
  • September 20, 2023

VANCOUVER -- “Don’t forget the poor; be generous to them.” 

With those words, Canossian Sister Elisa Grignoli called about 30 Catholic Street Missionaries to reflect on their mission to the poor and homeless before heading out to the streets of Vancouver.

With the simplicity her order is known for, she said Jesus’ words from the Gospel of Matthew — “Whatever you did for one of these least of these, you did for me” — need to be the guiding light for young adults as they encounter the homeless.

A sister for more than 60 years and a former nurse, Grignoli emphasizes attentiveness to the needs of the poor, especially listening to them. 

Catholic Street Missionaries, based at St. Mary’s Church in Vancouver and led by Mildred Moy, regularly serve the homeless on Lower Mainland streets. 

Recognizing the need for grace to strengthen their mission through prayer and self-denial, the young adult volunteers held a 24-hour fast and prayer event.

Fr. Mark McGuckin, pastor at St. Francis de Sales in Vancouver, was the evening’s featured speaker. McGuckin, who before he was a priest spent seven weeks volunteering with the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, shared his experiences serving the poor, encouraged by the sisters who radiated Christ by willingly helping with so much joy.

His message to the young people was to heed Mother Teresa’s message of serving those around them, equipped with prayer.

On Saturday, the young people went to Westminster Abbey in Mission, where Fr. Peter Nygren prayerfully guided the group as they started the day.

“Prayer is not something we do,” the Benedictine monk said, “but it is something that happens to us by the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”

He invited the missionaries to contemplate the words of Jesus to His friends the night before He died. They were asked to stay and pray with Him, not in hardship and fear but in unfulfilled desire for God’s life.

By the end of the 24 hours, missionaries spoke about how they had been moved by the message of allowing God to guide their mission and “leaning in” to the needs of the poor.

The Catholic Street Missionaries meet every Sunday, visiting Vancouver’s Downtown East Side to provide the poor and homeless with material support such as water, food and clothing, as well as spiritual support by offering to pray for their intentions and needs.

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