Youth inspire Sr. Sue Moran

By  Minu Jose, Youth Speak News
  • November 19, 2007

SisterSueMoran.jpgTORONTO - Call her the Mother Teresa of Canada. However, when addressed by this title, Sr. Susan Moran, or Sue as she is more affectionately known, protests saying that she is far too little to be compared to such a great person. This is just one indication of the humility with which Moran carries herself.

Come winter, one will find Moran, 69, on the cold streets of Toronto, combing the crooks and corners tirelessly for the homeless. She brings them to one of the Out of the Cold shelters that offer overnight accommodation, food, warm clothing, cleaning and nursing. Above all she gives them psychological well-being by comforting them.

Today, many of these homeless are teenagers and the elderly.

“It just shows how much Toronto has changed over the years. Why, over 20 years ago, one would hardly find any women on the streets. Now the number has risen exponentially, even mothers and their children can be found out on the streets,” said Moran.

{sidebar id=1} Though she dreamed up the concept for Out of the Cold more than 20 years ago, Moran said it was the youth who inspired her with their “boundless energy, love and compassion.” Today, the majority of the volunteers with Out of the Cold program are youth.

“I find that the young people of today are more globally conscious of the plight of the needy and are sincerely concerned about the suffering in the world today,” said Moran. “They are also more eager to find a way to alleviate the struggle that the poor and needy undergo every day.”

In 1986, Moran was chaplain at St. Michael’s College School in midtown Toronto. A homeless man named George used to come into the school yard to sleep. Her students would visit him and often bring him hot food and warm clothing. Despite their care, George died that year, having succumbed to pneumonia.

{sidebar id=1}It was with that death that the seeds were sown to start a place of refuge for the poor and homeless. In January 1987, Moran opened the first Out of the Cold home in a “tiny photography room” together with Basilian Father John Murphy and Anglican priest, the Rev. John Erb.

“It is a program that is very justly named too,” said Moran. “Cold is really just an analogy; Out of the Cold is not just supposed to mean bringing the poor, hungry and homeless out from the cold into the physical warmth, but also the emotional warmth of friendship, support and care.”

At present, Out of the Cold has expanded to 31 different locations in the Toronto area. It is an inter-faith program that welcomes everyone, regardless of faith. Moran believes that every faith teaches people to reach out to the poor and lonely.

The spirituality of each faith can help enhance the mission of the program, said Moran. As she puts it, the commandment common to every religion is to love one another and this program does just that.

“These programs should help make the public aware of what actual love and compassion mean,” said Moran.

“Canada is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. It is ironic then that poverty in this country is becoming like those in the Third World countries. It is sad because there really shouldn’t be a need for these shelters, but there is.”

Born in 1938, Moran never thought she would join the religious life. From an early age on, she had always had a desire to follow Christ, but it wasn’t until the age of 19 when she had fallen critically ill with pericarditis, an inflammation of the tissue surrounding the heart, that she started thinking seriously about committing to the religious life. She vowed during her illness that if she survived, she would dedicate the rest of her life to God. In 1963, at the age of 25, Moran entered the convent of Our Lady’s Missionaries whom she is still with today.

In fall 2006, Governor General Michaëlle Jean awarded Moran the Order of Canada for her outstanding social service with the homeless.

Moran hopes that with the opening of more shelters for the program, society will finally start becoming aware of the needs of the poor and destitute in Toronto.

“I can only hope that there will come a time when there is more than enough food for everyone to eat and shelter for everyone,” she said. “But until that day comes, I will continue looking after my loved ones.”

(Jose, 22, is an engineering student at the University of Toronto.)

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