Young people lead praise and worship at Westminster Abbey for Catholic Street Missionaries’ annual Fast and Pray event. Photo courtesy B.C. Catholic

Street mission fast goes on despite pandemic

By 
  • October 9, 2020

Vancouver - If this had been a typical year, dozens of young adults from St. Mary’s Parish in Vancouver would have attended Mass on a Friday evening, stayed for adoration, slept overnight at the church, then driven to Mission, B.C., for a talk, prayers and reflection at Westminster Abbey before returning to the parish for Mass and a shared meal.

This year has been anything but typical.

“Staying overnight in a church was not an option,” said Mildred Moy. “In addition, we felt that travelling to Mission together for an 80-minute car ride would violate social distancing guidelines set out by the government.”

So the Catholic Street Missionaries improvised, hosting a 24-hour online and in-person fast to pray for the world, the marginalized and the Church.

“The inspiration came in prayer,” said Moy, founder of Catholic Street Missionaries, a Vancouver charity that develops young street missionaries to reach out to the marginalized, including people on the street. “Instead of travelling to Mission together, we decided to bring Westminster Abbey and Carmel Hill to our homes.”

A team of six missionaries travelled to Mission in three cars to film three segments of prayers. The first was praise and worship music in front of Westminster Abbey, with sunlight shining on the singers and water reflections creating glittering effects that visually enhanced the recording.

The second segment was praying the Divine Mercy inside the abbey, while the third was a street ministry version of the Stations of the Cross prayed at Carmel Hill in Deroche, near Mission.

The recording aired on YouTube and was well received, said Moy.

“The participants were moved and their hearts were led into praise and prayer.”

A day earlier, Fr. Paul Goo, the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s vocations director, started the fast with a talk on “Fasting and Loving like Jesus.”

Due to an air quality advisory from the California wildfires, a scheduled downtown prayer walk was replaced by an online rosary, and a planned meal to end the fast had to move inside St. Mary’s for food and sharing in the church basement.

“The fast actually wasn’t too hard for me, and I had time to reflect and learn more during it,” said participant Julie Vu. “I’d do it again.”

Trish Ignacio, a member of the organizing team, said she realized how much she had to be grateful for.

“At least for me, I knew I would be eating at 6:15 p.m. There are so many people who don’t know when their next meal is,” she said. Even while fasting, “I was able to take a shower and rest in the comfort of my home. There are some people who don’t even have that. So, I realized how blessed I am in life.”

Hugh Egerton appreciated receiving the Eucharist during the fast for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Being in the pandemic for so long, I miss being with a Catholic community of young people,” said Egerton. “It’s good to be around other faithful Catholics.”

Atiaia Barreto echoed Egerton’s sentiments.

“When I was receiving the Eucharist (during the fast), my mind was so clear. My thoughts were not racing. At that moment, I was so focused in Jesus. It was a very intense eucharistic experience. I can only relate that to fasting,” said Barreto.

Gillian Guilaran found that fasting helped her in carrying her own cross by offering her sufferings for others and not focusing on her own, while first-timer Raisa Jose said the experience “made me feel closer to our brothers and sisters in the Downtown Eastside and all over the world facing hunger. This was truly an eye-opening experience.”

This was the fourth 24-hour Fast and Pray event.

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