Today was the last day of our mission trip to Denver. While we’re all a little sad to be leaving this place behind, I think I can safely say that we won’t forget the experiences we’ve had. It has truly been a blessing to serve with the missionaries at Christ in the City, sharing in their communal prayer and daily life and encountering the homeless with them.
We began the day, as usual, with morning prayer and breakfast, and then headed back out to the streets for a morning of street ministry. After staying up until 2:30 Wednesday night playing games, the 5 hours of sleep we got was very welcome by comparison. After breakfast, I headed to Park Avenue with Colleen, James, and Felicia.
One of the things that I’ve been reflecting on this week and that I was particularly struck by in my interactions today is how much more human so many of our friends on the street are than us. While they may be poor in their material circumstances, they are certainly not poor spiritually. Many of these people have a deep faith and understanding of purpose that is truly remarkable.
One man that we met this morning, Marshall, made some truly insightful comments as he reflected on his past and the circumstances he was in. He told us how it was difficult for him to readjust to having his own place to stay (he had recently been taken into housing but had gone back to the streets), and talked about how society misunderstands the homeless because of their appearance. He also shared with us that he was still trying to realize his own value, which I found very profound, given that Christ in the City’s whole mission revolves around restoring the full human dignity and self-worth of the homeless. Although he didn’t put it this way, Marshall believed that people need to learn to understand each other by looking at the world in each other’s shoes, and that sometimes we need to believe we are worthy in order to be worthy. In his own words, “Sometimes you have to pretend you’re a cowboy, that you won the West, but you didn’t win the whole world.”
Later in the morning, we came across Shari and Paul, a married couple living in a tent near Benedict Park. It was definitely heartbreaking to see the conditions that they lived in, and it was difficult to have a conversation with someone when all we could see was a hand reaching out of a pile of tarps. However, their witness was truly inspiring, the fact that they had chosen to live together and stick out for each other even in the harsh living conditions of homelessness. Paul, an ex-convict, had developed an addiction and was still on parole, making it hard for him to get out of his condition, and his wife, although she could have easily made her way out of her homeless situation on her own, had chosen to stay with him even through this. It was also really beautiful and heartwarming when Shari recognized Colleen’s voice through the tent, even though they had only become acquainted a week earlier.
In the afternoon, we listened to a talk on how we can each find our own Calcutta after returning home from this mission trip, and translate the experiences we have had here into a new way of approaching the way we live in our own communities, families, college campuses, and cities. We then had adoration and mass at Our Lady of Carmel, and returned to the house to eat dinner.
Tonight was also my night to do night ministry. While some of the other students went to St. John Vianney to visit our seminarians from the Diocese of Helena, Fatima and I went with a group of students and missionaries to 16th street, where we walked down the mall at night looking for people to talk to. We encountered one young man named Gerald who was playing an amazing drum solo on a couple of buckets to make money, and we also spoke to his friend who was trying to sell a bike. We also met a woman named Nick who had just been let out of prison and was looking for a place to stay, and were able to direct her to some other resources, and a friend of hers, Jacob, who was a street preacher for the Scum of the Earth Church and offered some insightful comments on the Cross after telling us in tears how his wife had cheated on him and how important faithfulness and the dignity of women was to him.
As I look back on the experiences we have all had this week, I feel so blessed and glad that I made the choice to come here to Denver for my spring break, and to make a beautiful yes to God by that decision. I am so blessed to have come with such an amazing group of people, and to have met so many other amazing people here, and I could not have imagined this week going any other way. I hope God has brought some good about by our presence here, and that he will continue to work in our hearts and in the hearts of all those whom we served. Perhaps some of us may even find ourselves back here sometime in the future. This trip has really pushed me to see things differently and to better understand my brothers and sisters on the street, and to approach community and relationship with others in an entirely new light, and I pray God continues to work with these new beginnings.
peace in Christ,
The final day of the our mission was by far the most impactful for me.
The street walk today was in downtown Denver. We first encountered a duo known on the streets as Irish and Chino. Their optimism, friendship, and desire to better the community in spite of their circumstances were both heart warming and inspiring. Additionally, Chino was a very talented artist and drew some pretty hilarious caricatures of our group. We later helped an elderly homeless man walk to the hospital. Along the way, we offered to pray for him and, on the verge of tears, he sang a beautiful gospel rendition of the Our Father in thanksgiving for the prayers.
I also had the opportunity to do night ministry in Boulder. Although it was a nice part of town, there were still homeless. We were able to buy coffee and a tuna melt for one man and converse with him for around an hour.
Sorry for posting so late. We had some interesting experiences on the drive back from Denver this weekend. When we made it to Cheyenne on Saturday, it turned out that Wyoming was closed due to road conditions and weather, so we ended up taking an extra day to get home to Helena. We had to drive back to Denver and cut across to Salt Lake City, spending the night Saturday at a Super 8 in Price, Utah. While this was an exhausting experience, the drive back was still full of blessings, as we had lots of extra bonding time and great car conversations, and a beautiful drive through the Rockies of Colorado. Thanks be to God for bringing us back safely! – Chris
Today we started the day with morning prayer and mass at 7 am, I need to say that it has been hard to wake up at 5:30 everyday but being able to start the day with saying thanks to God for letting me wake up and receiving him in the Holy Communion is just amazing. My day just gets better when I am able to talk and listen to what he need from me in that day, and personal prayer has given me the opportunity to pray the Rosary filled with the love of Christ and the Virgin Mary.
Street ministry today was my favorite, after three days I was finally able to make a connection with someone: Howie, a very smart man. We talked about everything, about his childhood, family, and dreams. We were even able to joke around and he let me quiz him on geography of the United States. I didn’t even realize that two hours went by and we had to leave. It makes me sad to realize that I do not know when I’ll be able to meet him again but I will keep praying for him no matter what, and for every single friend that I made this week. The friendships that I have found through God in this trip have opened my eyes to find my purpose and understand what God is asking for me: to love everyone.
After lunch, we went on a hike, which was quite an experience. After walking so much the last couple of days, going for a long and cold stroll was the last thing on my mind, yet I took the time to talk with new people, take pictures and even meditate and pray the Rosary on my own. It was to my surprise that this hike is where I found God the most, while I was talking to him and walking in silence, I did not feel alone but at peace. I knew he was with me, as well as the Virgin Mary holding my hand and keeping me warm. The night just kept getting better, all of the Carroll students went out for dinner and ice cream for a great bonding time.
I am so glad that I decided to come to this trip, where I found God, new friends and a life changing experience. Thank you Christ in the City!
Last night I got to do night ministry which was by far the best part of my trip so far. It was from 7:00-8:30. We still have one day left, but I feel as though it would be hard to beat the experience, I had last night. I went to a place that they call The Network. It is a small coffee shop where the homeless are welcome to gather. The missionaries go there and play music for them. At first, I was a little nervous to be in an enclosed space, and worried about making small talk. But throughout the week I have been repeating Joshua 1:9, which is “Be strong and Courageous for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. I take this verse with me everywhere and throughout this week it has been relevant and helpful. I walked into the network not sure what to expect, and it was very weird at first. We all shuffled in, unsure of what was really expected of us. Our friends on the streets were pretty unphased by us, but we started to move away from the door. Me and two girls from Pittsburgh went to this one guy and were immediately pushed away. At that moment I wanted to quit, I felt the room get dark, and only focused on how we (I) was unwanted, my fear started to consume me, but I looked around the room and took a breather. I reached for my necklace as a reminder of Joshua 1:9.
We then gathered as a group not having mush luck and decided to break up into different groups. I was with Nathan. I followed him to a table with 3 men and pulled up a seat. I, still getting a feel of the room let him take the lead. We had an interesting talk with Grey, while the other two ended up shuffling out. I put in a few comments here and their but followed the lead of the conversation. Then we had Robert join the table, and Nate added him to the conversation. Without even thinking about it, we ended up into two different conversations. I talked with Grey and Nate talked to Robert. It ended up feeling so natural, and what felt like 15 minutes ended up being an hour and a half. The missionaries talked about the homeless as their friends on the streets throughout the week, and I saw that with them, but I never truly felt that friendship until I met Grey. I can now say that I have friends on the street, or at least one friend! I hated saying goodbye, and wanted to stay, but unfortunately it had to come to an end. But I would like to tell you two things that Grey told me. One, never be boring enough to choose a basic favorite color, his was Periwinkle blue. The other thing, that I really took to heart was “you can cry, you can try, or you can lie (either lie down, or lie to someone). If you choose to cry you die, if you lie down you die, if you lie to someone you die, so all you can do is try, even if you don’t succeed you tried and you will survive. so, you have to try.” At the time this made sense to me from his perspective, but the more I reflect on it, I have found a much deeper meaning to it. If all you do is cry you won`t get to see the beauty of life, you`ll walk though life only seeing the negatives, and not noticing what God has given us, and all the good things he wants for us we will miss, because we are too focused on everything going wrong. If we lie to someone or even ourselves, we are damaging our souls, unable to fully receive Jesus and if we lie down and shut off our brains and just walk-through life as almost a robot, then we will not become our full self’s. God has called us to something bigger than ourselves, and all He askes of us is that we try. Trying can look like what we do at Christ in the City with waking up early and having 3 hours dedicated to prayer, but it can also look like reading your Bible everyday or praying, but when we fail, (which we will at one point because we are human) we need to go again, we need to try again. At whatever it is God Is calling us to all He asks is that we try, and he will provide for us. I have decided to take the extra effort to try. To try to follow the plan that Jesus has for me and to trust that He has me, no matter what. I`m not sure that I will ever meet Grey again, but I can say he has changed me for the better. I love my friend on the street and will never forget that day at The Network.
The next morning, we walked the streets, and I was able to develop more relationships with my friends on the streets, none quite as powerful as the one with Grey, but all meaningful and wonderful. We then went on a hike (which was more like a walk). It was a great time to talk to the wonderful people that came to Christ in the City with me, and to reflect on the events that took place. After the hike we ended getting ice cream, and just ending the day on a truly high note. I loved being at Christ in the City and wouldn’t have changed it for the world. The late nights and early morning with only 3-4 hours of sleep, the freezing cold weather where my toes froze, and the idea of bedbugs crawling all over you, it was all worth it because the positives were far superior. This was an experience of a lifetime, one that I will never forget, and will always hold close to my heart.
Love, Cheyanne Hannaman
Today was our last day here before we venture back to Montana. We started the day with Mass and Morning Prayer then had a relaxing breakfast and then headed off to our respective tasks for the morning. These included mopping the rooms of the retreat center, scrubbing the floor of the convent, moving/throwing away things in the YMCA building, and organizing the convent pantry.
We then had a great lunch break and then listened to Father Bart tell the story of his friend Father Stu to everyone. Then we had a break until 5 when we did a communal holy hour of adoration and evening and night prayer.
Since it is our last evening we had a big dinner with the whole community and then followed that with Bishop Bob doing a Q & A session. He is quite humorous and reminds us a lot of Bishop Vetter.
We then headed up to the lounge and heard from Sister Jaime, Sister Maci, and Alex (a Holy Cross seminarian). It was such a gift to hear their stories of intentional listening to the Lord’s call in their life.
As a tradition this week the Carroll crew ended the evenings with highs, mediums, lows, God moments, and hilarious moments. That was a great routine and caused us to laugh a lot together.
We had a great week and especially loved getting to know the Franciscans of the Eucharist: Bishop Bob, Sister Kate, Sister Jess, Sister Maci, Sister Laura, Sister Alicia, Sister Emily, Sister Stephanie, and Brother Matt. As well as the seminarians from the Congregation of Holy Cross: Alex, Matt, John, Brother Jimmy, Chris, and Father John. (All pictured in the photo with today)
We all hope to see everyone soon and are so thankful for this opportunity!
Riley and Kenna
Today started out as most with mass at 6:30am and breakfast to follow. The Holy Cross seminarians and Franciscan sisters and brother all sat down to eat and share stories. I seem to learn something new from each person I encountered which is a beautiful thing. After clean up we all parted into our duties. Some went to the school to clean and others, like myself and Kenna, went to the basement of the convent to clean out the walk-in fridge. What seemed like a boring task turned into amazing conversations with sister Emily and lots of laughs along the way… btw don’t use baking soda to clean steel shelves. Sister Emily told us about her discernment and religious life, which was eye-opening to me as it was all very foreign to me before this trip. After lunch Riley, Ray, Kenna, Conner, Chris (one of the seminarians), Sister Kate, and I went to the Ukrainian village during our break time. We had originally planned to see the Ukrainian Catholic churches nearby. When we got there we were met with locked doors. We went to the Ukrainian museum next door for any sign of help to let us in and we were met with such a loving, welcoming, compassionate presence. The women working there showed us around their museum which was filled with art, culture, and history. Maria, a Ukrainian woman working at the embassy, then kindly walked us over to let us into the church. The church was beyond beautiful. While I’m the Church, Maria described the history of the Ukrainian church in the United States and then we had a moment of silent prayer for peace in Ukraine. One thing she said stood out in particular: Maria then even offered to walk us to the Ukrainian cathedral which is a few blocks away. This was also beyond anything I have ever seen. It was incredibly humbling to pray in a place filled with so much history, culture, and love. The presence of the Lord was so tangible in the Ukrainians we met and the God was clearly in those spaces blessing every single person.
Today was full of laughter, exhaustion, wonderful conversations, and so many graces! The day started out really early with morning prayer, mass, and adoration. It was a really beautiful way to start the morning, even if part of me wanted to go back to sleep! After getting back, we ate breakfast and then prepared for lunch in the park! This is something that Christ in the City does every Wednesday where we prepare food for all of our friends on the streets and share a meal with them in one of the parks in the middle of the city. Some people were cooking the food, some were getting the vans ready to carry all of the coolers to the park, and others began to set up an assembly line for building the lunches, which is what I got to help with. When the food was cooked and the music was turned up, we packed the coolers, had a spontaneous dance party, and got bundled up to have lunch in the park!
Lunch in the park was a very cold, snowy but beautiful display of the community that Christ in the City has created. Seeing so many friends come to the park to share a meal, have a good conversation, and just enjoy each other’s company was such a blessing to be a part of. In the midst of the wind and snow, I quickly began to recognize how blessed I am to be able to warm up inside, since most of our friends don’t have that ability. The joy that was expressed from our friends on the streets because of something as simple as a warm meal was inspiring! Getting the chance to talk to some of our homeless friends is a gift, especially when they light up about the things they are passionate about.
We quickly transitioned from lunch in the park into Marian groups. While there were many graces that came from this, what happens in Marian group, stays in Marian group.
Later in the evening, I got to go to a women’s shelter that houses around 200 women. When we got there, we quickly jumped in to help serve dinner. It was so wonderful to experience the excitement of the women as we were preparing their food. Many of them had short little conversations with us as they walked through the line and it was cool to see their faces light up when asking simple questions like “What is your name?” and “How has your day been?” It was very easy to see Christ in these women through their joyful attitudes and smiles as well as in their suffering. When we were done serving food, the Christ in the City team led a Bible study with about 6 women from the shelter. These women were on fire for the Lord and they knew their identity in Christ. Getting to listen to their prayers, perspective on the beautiful story of the Prodigal Son, and their witty banter was amazing. These women have such an intense faith in the Lord and are so confident in the Father’s love for them, it is truly inspiring. One friend started talking about how much the Lord has blessed her and protected her. Regardless of whatever situation led her to the shelter, she still trusts in the Lord’s plan and chooses to focus on all of the blessings in her life. Reading and meditating on the Prodigal Son from the Gospel of Luke, the women were eager to share about their life experiences and their love for God with us. Getting to relate to one another through this story proved, once again, that we aren’t very different from one another. In the mist of these struggles, the women living in this shelter are desiring a relationship with God and others, similarly to each of us.
This week so far has shown me, in a deeper way, the human dignity in each person, especially those on the streets, and how important it is to restore and protect it. Each person that I have encountered has taught me something different like how to more deeply trust in the Lord, how to better receive love, and how to embrace the cross in the midst of suffering in order to find joy with Christ. The Lord works in beautiful but mysterious ways and I am excited to see how He continues to bless this trip!
Hi friends! This morning we were up and at’em bright and early, starting off our day as every day starts here at Christ in the City with praying the liturgy of the hours and then spending a holy hour in adoration. This morning was extra special as between the two we celebrated Mass. While a whole lot of Jesus in the morning is the best way to start the day, I’ll be the first to admit it was a challenge trying not to fall asleep during adoration, as it was still pretty early in the morning and this girl had not had her coffee yet. Next on the schedule was breakfast, and I was absolutely blessed to be able to spend mine talking with Rachel, one of the first year missionaries here at Christ in the City. I was graced with our beautiful conversation about the healing power of tears, brokenness and how we approach ours, and how our wounds are healed, but remain open like Our Lord’s do.
After breakfast it was go time, and quickly the house was abuzz with everyone doing their part to prepare for our Lunch in the Park (or as it’s known here at Christ in the City L.I.P). I was part of the kitchen team, heating up casseroles as well as corn and baked beans that were then made into meals and packed up to bring to our friends. It was such a beautiful, yet humbling experience to bring these warm meals to our friends in the snow. To see the joy on their faces at simply receiving a warm meal and drink, or a pair of hand warmers while also knowing that after a few hours I would be returning to a warm building to spend the rest of my day, while our friends would be returning to our attempting to find their shelter for the night brought up such conflicting feelings in my heart. To know we brightening their day and bringing joy to their lives by providing a meal and sitting to encounter them in conversation while they ate was so encouraging, but my heart broke to think that I would be safe and warm in a building tonight while they would be struggling to find all those aspects, and there was nothing I could say or do that would change that reality. It was such a gift to encounter more of our friends during L.I.P though, and to be able to provide for them in our small ways.
After L.I.P. wrapped up, we returned to the house to eat some lunch (if we hadn’t while at the park) and to spend some time together as a community before breaking out into our Marian groups. Marian groups are a smaller community within the community here made up of only men or women where conversations are able to go deeper and feelings can be discussed in a small and safe space. They are something the missionaries here at Christ in the City participate in every week, and I was so grateful for where our discussion led us and how willing we all were to be vulnerable as our smaller community of Carroll girls here on this trip.
After a little more free time, where I got to say a rosary with some of the awesome girls here with the Pittsburgh crew as well as their leader, Fr. Peter, those of us assigned to Wednesday headed out for night ministry. Night ministries occur on Wednesday and Friday nights and encompass everything from leading youth groups, encountering friends at different indoor locations, and accompanying friends (taking them out for a meal or coffee). My group of women headed to a nearby women’s shelter to sit and encounter friends and to lead a bible study, as well as play games with them. It was such a beautiful gift to have these women recieve me and the conversations I sought with them, when they had no reason to.They didn’t know me or need to share with me about their life, joys, and struggles but they shared so willingly and freely, and it was such a gift to receive that from them. While some of the other women in our group got some games going, Maddie and I led a bible study with six friends in a separate room. We discussed the story of the Prodigal son and how we could relate to the story and the sons in it. Once again I was taken aback by the way these women poured out their hearts, feelings, and stories to Maddie and I, sharing how they’ve experienced God in their lives and how they continue to keep faith, no matter their situations. I felt so unworthy, yet so incredibly honored to be sitting there and receiving all this, as well as their love for what Maddie and I were doing, it was incredibly humbling.
Our friends, both in shelters and on the streets, have some of the strongest faiths and deepest insights I have ever encountered in my life. This week I have constantly been learning from the ways they walk with Our Lord, and I have encountered Christ in so many different faces.
We headed back to the house for a quick dinner before heading to wrap our day up with night prayer, consisting of a thankfulness rosary and liturgy of the hours. The thankfulness rosary is one of my favorite parts of our day, where on each bead that would normally be a Hail Mary someone thanks God for a gift in their life that day, and we say Glory Be’s on what would normally be the Our Father beads. I love getting to hear all the ways our community is encountering Christ and experiencing His love, whether it be through each other, our friends, something as simply as the sunshine, or even things we wouldn’t think to be thankful for, like how He allows us to be wounded or opens our eyes to the ways we desperately need Him. This week has stirred up so many things in my heart, but one of the biggest themes has been this idea of receptivity, what it means to be received and to be received and how we through love are able to do both. I cannot wait to dive deeper into this theme the rest of the week here at what is so fittingly called a “school of love” by the missionaries here.
Today started similar to yesterday with Mass, then we quickly ate and headed to helping with the Food Pantry.
The food pantry is where anyone who needs food can come on Tuesdays and get as much as they need for no cost to them. There was essentially 3 classrooms full of food and the neighbors (how the Sisters refer to those who they serve) go through with a cart assembly line style. We served 330 families today from 7:30 -10:30 am.
I was assigned to handing out dates (the fruit) and navy beans. It was such a fun and joyful time. I really enjoyed handing out food as well as having conversations with them. The majority of the neighbors spoke Spanish which made it hard for me with little Spanish to communicate but my holding up the foods skills allowed me to hand out my whole stash of dates and beans. It was a great morning! -Riley Dowdy
I was outside Our Lady of the Angels retreat center helping people pack up food. Members of the community brought the carts down the ramp to us and gave them a number, they were to take this number, go retrieve their car and drive it in front of the retreat center where we would load there cars with the food that we boxed up. It was lovely to see the kindness and warmth that they showed all of us, it was truly awe inspiring. -Connor Bawden
Then tonight, we went to St. Barbra’s church for another Night of Mercy. This is a primarily Chinese Catholic community so we started with Chinese food for dinner and then went to our assigned positions for the evening. The Franciscan’s goal of these evenings is to bring awareness and exposure to the Eucharist to as many people as possible. People to walk around the neighborhood to invite, greet, hand out candles for people to light for an intention, organize confession lines, and hand out hot coco. It was a beautiful church and evening. We are really enjoying seeing many different churches and communities.
Over and out – Riley and Conner
March 7, 2022: A day of preparation and mercy. We woke up in time for 6:30am mass in our little chapel in the retreat center with Bishop Bob, Fr. John, and Fr. Bart. Bishop Bob talked about how the reading, Matthew 25, is one of his favorites. In this passage it speaks about serving others in tangible ways and Jesus says “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:31-46). This was the perfect gospel passage to start off our week of serving our poor neighbors on the streets of Chicago.
After a medium length breakfast with the Congregation of Holy Cross seminarians, who are also spending their spring break here, we broke into various groups to tackle tasks throughout the retreat center and food pantry to prepare for tomorrow, which is their “day when everyone comes to the mission” (Matt the Seminarian).
Kenna: My group started the morning with dishes and then moved upstairs to tackle a variety of tasks involving manual labor (i.e. moving chairs and cleaning rooms). After three hours of moving chairs, I got to spend an hour in adoration in the beautiful little chapel downstairs in the retreat center.
Ray: My group spent the morning preparing the food pantry for tomorrow, stacking beans, macaroni, and soaps, and finding a way to fit all the milk and yogurt into the giant fridge. I spent the morning doing this with the seminarians from the Congregation of Holy Cross and made some small world Catholic connections. It is always good to be reminded of our big Catholic family.
For lunch we ate ribs/chicken/sausage/fries from some delicious BBQ restaurant. Sister Kate then gave us a tour of the rectory and the Church which Bishop Bob restored with the help of many people in only a year.
After a nice nap, we headed out to Our Lady of America parish for our first “Mercy Night.” When we got there, we ate dinner with the other volunteers and religious orders who were there to serve. It was such a gift to see the mix of communities coming together to serve together (another representation of our big Catholic family). After dinner, we split into groups to serve.
Kenna: I had the blessing of getting to walk in the freezing weather through the streets of Chicago inviting people to mass. I was walking with one of the parishioners who only speaks Spanish. The community we were walking through is predominately Hispanic and one of the more dangerous neighborhoods in the city. It was very humbling to walk through this neighborhood and encounter people who gradually became more open to our invite to come to adoration/confession in the church the longer we spoke with them.
Ray: I simply sat near the front of the church and assisted folks in lighting their votive candles to take up and pray before the monstrance. It was a challenge because 99% of them spoke Spanish, so I really had to be on my game. But I made it through successfully with no fires. It was amazing how many people were there to pray together.
To wrap it all up, we made it back to the convent and shared with one another about our days, growing as friends, and signed off, ready for bed and a new day of hard work.
-Kenna & Ray
Today has been a long and tiring, yet beautiful day. We started the day with morning prayer at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church. After prayer, I had the privilege to cook breakfast for the other retreatants and the missionaries hosting us. From the food donated this week we were able to make breakfast sandwiches, bacon and even had some strawberries which was a real treat. After breakfast, we all got ready and headed out to the streets to meet some of our homeless friends.
The first place my group visited was a set of tents located under a bridge. We stopped at each tent offering socks, gloves or water. There was a couple living in one of the tents and we were able to have a good conversation with them. Kim had a little dog she introduced us to named Diamond. After the tents, we walked down several streets where shelters, missions, and other services were located. We met several different people and talked to them about the weather and where they were from or if they liked certain things about the city. One encounter was particularly tough for my group today. A friend was sitting in a wheelchair outside of one of the missions. She had various items laying all around her on the sidewalk. She was talking to us but in a way that was mostly incoherent. The goal of street ministry is to try and make the homeless feel both seen and heard. It made me very sad to see this woman in her pain but be unable to communicate with her. Eventually we simply had to move on and engage other friends in the area.
The last place we stopped on the street walk was the St. Francis Center. Many friends were at the center today and were outside enjoying the sunshine. One person outside of the building was a long-time friend of Christ in the City. He was so happy and excited to share with us how he had recently received housing and would soon be able to start helping out some of his family members. My high point of the day came shortly after this encounter. A woman named Braids came over to us and she was playing some bluesy-jazz music. She had a big smile on her face and was dancing down the sidewalk saying hi to all of her friends. Soon after meeting, I found myself dancing with Braids as we started to get to know each other. She told me how all her friends hang out at the St. Francis Center and she gets to see them all the time. They recently had to move their hang out location from the parks but were still able to retain their community at this new spot. Braids told me she was the person who always brought the party; it wasn’t a party unless she was there. She also shared with me things about her family and friends and the ways she was able to care for them as we bopped and swayed along to the music together.
I know Christ was walking with me today, both in the highs and the lows. I could see His suffering in the woman we could not communicate with. But I also saw His joy when Braids came over to me dancing and we were able to enter in to a relationship through a common interest. The people I encountered today have shown me how positive and happy they can be, even in a state where they have seemingly nothing. They are able to share a simile with you and dance even in the stark face of adversity they wake up to each and every day. On top of it all, God showed me how those living on the street may be in physical poverty, but not spiritual poverty.
As we continue on this week, I am in joyful anticipation of what else Christ has to teach me and the ways He will call me to go deeper. I can only imagine what is in store. I am excited to go where Jesus calls me to and to continue encountering Him in our friends on the street.
Hi to everyone who’s reading!
Our second full day is coming to an end here at Christ in the City yet, in some ways, it feels like we’ve been here longer. Today, like every day here on out, started with a morning prayer at a near by church, breakfast, and chores. After that we headed out to the streets in groups for about three hours meeting at the Cathedral at noon. Then lunch, a short lecture on poverty, ‘debriefing’ in our street groups, some free time, dinner, and movie night – which I skipped since I saw the chosen movie just three weeks ago.
Heading to the streets, I tried not to have any expectations other than it being tough to see such harsh conditions up close: Living on the streets, in early March, in Denver Colorado. We started out just after 9 am by walking under a bridge surrounded by driveways, the 20th St. route. Though several tents were up, it was presumably a little early as only two answered our calls; “Hello there, do you need any gloves or water?” etc.
Before going into what I found impactful – experiences, thoughts, conversations – I’d like to name as many people as I can: Kim & Cash and Diamond-dog. Vaughn. Sierra. Adam. Frosty. Braids.
The mission at Christ in the City is to encounter the people without a home as persons, individuals. And while they do keep gloves, water, blankets, granola bars, and the like with them, the main goal is to engage in conversations: to acknowledge, serve, rather than fix. Even though I knew this before going out, even before signing up for the trip, it frustrated me a little more than I thought it would: Going up to someone who barely has enough to survive the day, let alone the cold nights, and starting up a conversation that you know will end in you leaving – how do you not feel useless? Luckily for me, one of the first people we talked to, Vaughn, thanked us for “just being nice to” him saying that even that helped a lot. Even though it was just one person without a home, I will hold onto the hope that others like him also find comfort in conversation alone.
Another encounter that stayed with me was Frosty. He talked a lot, about a lot, and in two different languages. He talked about religions and how they relate to each other, how essentially religions are a way for people to find meaning, purpose, in life. However, at one point Frosty said, “I’ve sinned, that’s why I’m here.”, referring to being on the streets, homeless. Though there is something admirable in taking responsibility for your own actions, I don’t believe any society is equal enough, in terms of opportunity or second chances, that the only one to blame is yourself. In other words: There are too many people who have, without a doubt, violated ethics and laws in worse ways than many of the homeless yet have immense monetary wealth, for me to fully believe that. Still, to end on a lighter note, there is community, joy, hope to be found in the streets as well: Whether its 50+ year old Braids saying they’re the “life of the party” in their family and dancing to bluesy-jazz music; or a puppy dog in a tent with Kim & Cash putting a smile on everyone’s face; or the shyest “thank you” for stopping and talking for a minute from Vaughn.
Good Evening to whomever finds this blog.
In the beginning, there was Chris and the Carroll Crew. For the past three weeks, we prayed and prepared for our departure to Headlights by looking at Catholic Social Teaching and creating community within our group. After hours of treacherous driving conditions through the great states of Montana, Wyoming and Colorado, Carroll College has finally found themselves in the safety of Christ In The City in Denver. The drive down was quite eventful: musical melodies, subway stop in Buffalo WY, Tokyo Drift on the ice, stopping at Chugwater WY with an assortment of scriptural jellies, and the casual drive through the city of Denver. 14 hours later, we finally pulled into to our new home for the week, greeted with open arms and a nice dinner. Over the next hour, other schools joined arrived including: University of Virginia, Florida Atlantic University, Pittsburg University, and University of Pennsylvania.
After a refreshing sleep, we attended two talks to start our day. The two talks consisted of an introduction to Christ In The City Ministries and love in regards to friendship with others and Jesus. Next on the agenda was a fulfilling breakfast followed by our third talk on how to how to minister on the street. Our holy hour and mass were a nice time to sit down and re-center our lives in preparation for the week.
The main focus for the day was the street tour through part of the city, which was all about introducing us to the environment that the homeless are living in and trying to build an understanding of their situations. The tour was eye-opening and really made us appreciate what we have in our own lives. Our homeless friends have to look for a place to settle each night, but the city doesn’t make it easy for them. Many of these places are isolated and hidden from regular eyes, giving the impression that our friends don’t want to be seen. The thought was heartbreaking and difficult to process. We, as humans, are drawn for social interaction. We yearn to be seen and be acknowledged. We want to be loved. This is was drives our lives. Those on the streets don’t receive any of that. They are looked down upon, disregarded in society, or just plainly seen as a burden to the public well-being. The city does what it can to prevent homeless populations from staying in public areas and whether it be for safety or just to prevent a potential camp spot, so those looking for homes resort to poor living conditions. Some of these areas consist of being under bridges with rough ground or pigeons to one person climbing onto the cables of a bridge to get as far away from people as possible. This is not at all what God wants for His sons and daughters. Jesus came and taught us to love one another with all our hearts, as brothers and sisters. We need to be there for our friends and LOVE them.
The walk made me realize the importance of love and community. It made me realize that we all need to be seen and heard. It made me realize that no matter who I am and what my social status or living status may be, I am a human being with dignity and deserving of love and respect. These people lives lives most of us can’t even imagine or understand. The thought of living each day not knowing where the next meal will be or where to sleep is truly saddening. I am grateful for what God has given me in my life and I know that I need to not take them for granted.
When we have our first day of street ministry, I am looking forward to making connections with our homeless friends. I am prepared to live the way of the Lord as best as I can. I know that we are loved and that God loves us, and I want to make sure that every human being knows this. It is our duty to lift one another up in a loving way and only through our own actions can we make this world a more loving place.