Prayer walk connects faith with daily life

  • July 27, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - Qiuhua Chen had never seen a homelessness memorial before.

The 27-year-old came to Canada last October, having converted to Catholicism more than a year ago. She said there aren’t similar memorials in her hometown of Fujin City, northeast of Beijing, China.

At the Toronto Homeless Memorial outside the Church of the Holy Trinity behind the Eaton Centre, Chen prayed with 60 other RCIA candidates July 19. This was the second stop on the hour-long walk for Chen and other Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church parishioners on an afternoon prayer walk in the city’s downtown core.

Vivan Kwok, the walk’s organizer, said the walk is about making the connection between faith and the demands of day-to-day life for parishioners who are new to Canada. This is the third and final walk for the summer at the parish.

“You can pray anywhere, any time,” she said, “and invite God to come into your heart.”

Kwok is completing her second year as a Masters of Divinity student at Toronto’s University of  St. Michael’s College. This is part of her field education work.

Along University Avenue, the group passes the courthouse across from Nathan Phillips Square. Kwok says a majority of the parishioners of the downtown Chinese church came to Canada as refugees. Although this isn’t necessarily the courthouse where their hearings take place, she said it symbolizes their struggles, hopes and dreams.

“We open our hearts, we give God all our fears, worries, difficulties,” Kwok said, “so we can move forward bravely.” 

A parishioner then reads from Luke’s Gospel where Jesus counsels His followers not to worry about what to eat or drink.

For Chen, being at the courthouse gives her a chance to pray for others who are also anxious about the outcome of their refugee hearings.

“Praying together with others gives me peace,” she said through a translator.

The parishioners move on to the homeless memorial near the Eaton Centre.

Gao Xue Wong says being at the memorial reminded him about what he likes best about Canada: that it “cares about human rights.”

For Kwok, bringing the group to the memorial which bears the names of more than 580 women, men and children who have died from homelessness, is also a way to open parishioners up to the realities facing others in the city and to open their hearts to see the struggle of others.

“Even though our lives are very difficult, we remember that in the world there are people who have a harder life than us.”

The third stop is Toronto Public Labyrinth before heading to the Toronto Bus Terminal. The walk ended at St. Patrick’s Church on McCaul Street.

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