By: Simi & Rose
Hey all, this is Simi and Rose and we’re going to share our journey with you! After sleeping for a couple or so hours (Denver is too fun to sleep in for), we woke up bright and early for morning prayer with a beautiful service at mass. After that, we had a quick breakfast with incredible people and prepped for “Lunch in the Park.” This event took place at Capitol Hill where dozens of homeless came and visited with us for the afternoon, while having a nice lunch provided by Christ in the City. We both helped with different events for the lunch and had our own little blessings along the way. Afterwards, we had a meaningful conversation about what is truly means to be “happy,” so we advise you to ponder a bit on that word. What does happiness mean to you? Then, we did street ministry at night which was pretty exciting for some of us. Here’s a taste of our experiences today—
Simi: Heyyy everyone! Today started off pretty awesome for me with morning prayer and mass at this beautiful cathedral with nuns. One of the many amazing things about this headlights trip is that we experience prayer in so many different ways. From just thinking about all our blessings throughout this trip, to praying in the chapel—it’s all a form of prayer. One of my biggest blessings this trip has been being able to serve others in the most sincere way, which is establishing a deep, spiritual human connection. Today, I realized that establishing this type of connection isn’t so difficult as it may seem to be. For example, “Lunch in the Park” allowed me to meet a new person every few minutes which was a blessing. I met a woman named Teevey who had such a blossoming, high spirit who was always smiling, despite all the hardships and difficulties in life she faced. These little moments can amount to even deeper connections. It was an afternoon to remember for sure. Moving onto night ministry, one word: A D V E N T U R E. Diving in a little deeper, my group and I ran into a homeless friend of mine again that I saw on the streets two days ago. His name was Neil (“Sloth”). When I saw him, he was under the influence of alcohol, weed and many other drugs, combined. Unfortunately, he was not able to hold a solid conversation. Later on, we ran into this girl that was about 19 years old and was homeless with barely any food supplies and was enthusiastic to see we had snacks for her if she wanted any. Soon enough, “Sloth” came down the street, all drugged up, and engaged in irritable behavior which annoyed the girl and her boyfriend—which resulted in a fight. For someone who has never seen a fight like this, abrupt out of nowhere on the street, it was quite interesting to see how the groups of homeless people tried to deal with people they did not like. It turns out that the homeless have their own system of who can hang with them and who cannot—similar to how we choose to associate ourselves with certain people in our lives. All in all, this trip has provided me with so much knowledge on people, prayer and the endless possibilities of how we can help lift each other by serving. I hope everyone has an opportunity in their lifetime to go on a service trip as astounding as this one.
Rose: Hola amigos! My day was started by T-swizzle’s “Our Song” blasting in the stage area where we were sleeping. After a groggy but faith filled morning prayer we marched down the block to a nearby church and gained the ‘spiritual nutrients’ needed for the day. When I arrived to the Lunch in the Park I was greeted by a cordial shirtless man who helped to unload the car, sadly I forgot to ask him what his name was. After we, as well as all the other people, set up the lunch our friends got in line for a delectable hot meal of mac n cheese, salad (which was not the didn’t know what to do till a mission worker told me to just go socialize. I LOVE socializing so I was very excited to go make new buddies! Tio Willy and Venessa were the first people that I got to speak to. Much like me, Tio Willy has many siblings and loved telling me about his life growing up! Venessa told me multiple times to trust in God as the “Only man you can ALWAYS trust”. They were so sweet and Tio Willy blessed me before they left. After I left I was supposed to collect the trash but I got distracted by Mark’s shiny purple shoes! I couldn’t just walk by so I asked him about them and found out that he was such an incredible man! He is a heroin addict, a loving father, and an eager husband. He wishes more than anything to get off of heroin so that he can see his two babies grow and be there for them as well as win back his wife. He had love pouring out of his heart and was holding tight to God! I was so moved by his faith and Agape love! Also, I met Robert AGAIN! He is genuinely my friend, and he is going to teach me street smarts next time I come! God bless, America!
Greetings! #Day 2 – This is Ben and Kelsey blogging again and this time we are in Denver (not Chicago)! Today started with Mass and immediately going straight into street ministry for the morning. After lunch, we had an in depth talk about prayer, followed by some debriefing of the street ministry, free time (a.k.a shower time because when you sleep with 40 other people it’s a necessity), a delicious Ritz cracker and chicken casserole dinner (so much better that it sounds) and an epic game of Dodge Sock (Dodgeball game with sock balls – no money = no actual balls). We finished the day with prayer as a community with Christ in the City!
In the Eyes of Our Friends
Year two at CIC (Christ in The City) and things are still cray cray in Denva! The good kind of cray!! Full of the holy spirit kind of cray!! It’s fair to say that at this point in my service immersion experiences “the uncomfortable” is no stranger. It’s less about learning how to “push against my comfort zone” and going even more deeper in leaning into the shoes of “the other”. What this means for me is truly entering into the reality of are friends on the street, learning how to take on their realities with love through listening and conversation. As they talk about their lives (or don’t talk about anything) I learn so much about the story they are trying to tell in their action and words… if people are willing to stop, listen, and recognize they have a story at all.
Today we walked around Capitol Hill in the middle of downtown Denver. As we started walking in our street ministry route, Dillion and I walking in front of the group both made quick eye contact with a man who was sitting alone. This connection drew us in and we approached him to start a conversation. As we introduced ourselves he stood up and became more engaged. We quickly learned that he was from Ethiopia, his accent was thick and it was obvious that our conversation might be a little challenging, to say the least. He talked to us about his life, about his family back home. He talked about love continuously throughout our conversation and how he longs to have healthy relationships. He also talked about the loss of all his teeth and how he would smile if he had dentures so he could share more love. Taryn from our group then told him “Well, you smile with your eyes!”… As cliché as this might sound, it was so true with this man. This man, who society would think would be so miserable, and unhappy, and not full of life… was full of more life than ever expected.
Even though for half of the conversation we could not fully understand what he was saying at all, what Taryn said was so true. It didn’t matter that we had a little bit of a language barrier, it didn’t matter that I had to strain to listen to this man speak – his eyes told the whole story. His eyes smiled and completely captivated you while speaking. When you looked into this man’s eyes you knew that God was there. There was no doubt in my bones that I was staring into the eyes of Christ. And as he looked back at each of us, it was this moving experience, almost to tears. The joy and love that radiated out from just his eyes as he spoke about his life, it challenged me to want to examine my “inner tabernacle”. The eyes are like windows to the soul, even though we struggled to hear through words, everything was communicated through his eyes and how powerful that gaze of love can be in both connecting and challenging those who are beholding the gaze!
Dodge sock, rosaries, late night dance parties and prayer have all been major parts of this week so far, but the moment that I will never forget was the first time I engaged with the homeless by myself. Standing alone, my group engaged in other conversations, I quickly realized that the hardest part of meeting with the homeless was the first step. I would have to engage with people that live in a totally different reality from my own. I would have to force myself to sit amongst prostitutes, alcoholics and drug addicts tweaked out on meth or cocaine. These people could be dangerous and seek only to manipulate me, but there was a reason that I was here. There was a reason for God to put me on this last-minute trip to Denver, Colorado and to meet with these people in their reality. I sat down at a table and tried to introduce myself. It felt awkward. Why on earth would these people want to talk to me? I sat before them in a nice winter jacket, a nice haircut and an unblemished face. Yet they engaged. Soon after introducing myself these people sought me out to engage in conversation. We talked about everything from why there are homeless in Denver to stories about our lives. One guy even told me that he did cocaine with Robin Williams in 2003. Was he telling the truth? Maybe. Was it an interesting story? No doubt. Meeting these people in their own world is not just eye opening, but has changed my perspective on the homeless. These people become lonely no different than we do. Much of what they seek is to be acknowledged and accepted. If we can give them the dignity they deserve we can see how little we truly differ from them.
Today was our first day here in Denver! We’re staying with a missionary group called Christ in the City. We woke up early and had morning prayer together in the chapel. Then we all carpooled over to St. Catherine of Sienna Church for Mass. It was great to be able to pray together and center our day around Jesus.
After a few talks and some training on ministry with Christ in the City, we got to go on our first street walk of the week! Christ in the City’s mission is to walk around and talk to people who live on the streets, restoring their dignity. A simple conversation or smile can go a long way for people who are often neglected and overlooked.
Joc’s experience: While walking 16th street mall in downtown Denver, we encountered a young man named Austin. After talking with him for a little, he began to open up and share some personal stories from his past with us. The most impactful moment talking with Austin was when he expressed his gratitude for life and for the people who stopped to talk to him. He told us it was nice to have conversation with others and to be the center of attention instead of laughed at, ignored, or forgotten which commonly happens. This was my first experience walking the streets and really talking to and interacting with people I normally wouldn’t. It was great to have the opportunity to talk to others and be able to pray with people.
Sav’s experience: This is my second time coming for spring break to work with Christ in the City. I got assigned to walk around Capitol Hill. Within three feet of walking down the street, our group was approached by a man named Randy. He was asking where the nearest Wendy’s was. We got to talking and he started opening up about his current situation and some of his memories from the past. He said he lost his wife and that is one of the reasons he is not close to Christ right now. When we asked what made him smile and brought joy to his day, he couldn’t think of anything. It was pretty chilly outside so we all walked over to McDonalds together. Randy bought himself something to eat and also bought our group leader a large coffee. This shows how giving this man was even though he had so little. Near the end of our conversation, we were all laughing together. Randy told us that he thought of something that made him smile. He said that seeing us and knowing the work that we do helping others, made him happy.
Today’s homily was the perfect beginning of our service this week. Matthew 25 says, “what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.” We were able to see Jesus in everyone we encountered on the streets today. We are both excited to continue meeting new people and to learn how to truly love until it hurts.
Peace and love,
The flock of Sigls
(Savanna and Jocelyn)
The First Encounter Monday March 7
By Mariah Schell and Ashley Maes
After a long day of travel and a good night’s rest, the Denvarians were ready for whatever the Lord had to show us today alongside our fellow missionaries here at Christ in the City. We woke up bright and early to start the day off in prayer, with mass celebrated at 7am in a renovated convent that now houses the CIC missionaries who have committed to a year of service here in Denver. If your question is, “how did a group of sleep-deprived college kids stay awake through a mass that early in the morning?” Well, the answer would be… not very easily. In fact, some of us may have closed our eyes and “prayed” for a while before snapping out of it again with the sounds of the original hardwood floors and pews creaking with every movement.
Our nerves were running high as we wondered what our first day would look like. We had very little information about what we would be doing, but the missionaries came to our rescue with (quite a few) slideshow presentations letting us know what we were getting into. We learned more about CIC, which has only been in Denver for 6 years, the “do’s and don’ts” of street ministry and how to have a meaningful conversation with the homeless we would inevitably encounter on our street walks. There were several groups that split up throughout the downtown Denver area; a few to the Capitol district, Speer Park and a couple to the 16th Street walking mall. Ashley and I were in one of the 16th street groups and our very first encounter was a surprising one. We approached a group of men who were sitting under a ledge getting shelter from the rain just off 16th street. They were immediately happy to see us and started chatting us up about their travels, hobbies and hometowns. In case you didn’t think this world is small enough, one of the men was originally from Butte, MT. That hit us Montana kids pretty hard, especially hearing his story about how he ended up as a homeless man in Denver, CO. Our eyes and hearts were immediately opened to the reality of poverty and to the individuals who are experiencing it.
Our second and final encounter, lasting two hours, was found on the walking mall itself. We approached two men, who had only been in Denver for 3 days so far. Jay was only 19 years old and a five-year traveller, while Matt was 28 and a ten-year traveller. They were sitting on a cement wall, their belongings only filling a backpack and small duffle bag. They didn’t hesitate to answer our questions and tell us their life stories, sometimes even telling us deep personal experiences without our prompting. There was never a break in the conversation, and you could see the gratitude in their eyes throughout the two-hour encounter. Most of the people that Christ in the City missionaries and volunteers encounter just want to be known and loved for who they are, instead of ignored or scowled at by normal people who pass them by on the streets. As our friend Jay told us, “It would make all the difference to us if more people like you would just stop and get to know us. We actually have personalities.”
Overall, the Denvarian Saints had an amazing first day in Denver. We had many stories to share at our group discussion and also some reflection time about what we saw. We spent time in silence and prayer after a day full of conversation with the impoverished citizens on the margins of Denver. At the end of the day, even though we may be in very different situations then they are, if we take the time to get to know them, we find out that a lot of us share some of the same struggles.
The Maiden Voyage
5 am wake up and we’re off. We cram in Black Panther and Flash, our suburban and our Tahoe respectively, and hit the rode for the next 16 hours to Denver with plenty of bathroom breaks in between, thanks Ashley. Before we finished the first leg of our journey masks started to fade as we got to know each other on a deeper level instead of just 13 randos going on a Headlights trip together. Madlibs, Hangman, and mini info sessions on the lives of the Denvarians breaking barriers right and left. Some good questions asked include: If you were a food what would you be and why? What was a moment in your life that defines who you are? Who is a teacher that has had an impact on your life? And, what has made you happy this week? Mmm bonding, gotta love it. Our first leg concluded at the Bumble Bee Café in Buffalo, Wyoming, a quaint diner with great service if you’re ever in the area. Our first meal a success!
AND THEN CRISIS. Pop pssssssss. Flat tire. Left behind by Kyle’s car, Tyler and Heather, our fearless leaders, sprung into action only to be stiff armed by a freshman–Jennifer Woyak to the rescue. Over the course of the next hour, 3 fully functional adults learned how to change a flat on a new vehicle while the rest properly documented the experience. Freshman sure know how to selfie.
Our second leg ended at Guadalajara in Wheatland, WY–home of Carroll College’s own Vice President, Pierce Peasley–where we celebrated Alex’s first birthday in America. In Alex’s own words, “A Chinese kid in America celebrating at a Mexican restaurant, can you picture that?” Well we have pictures so you can.
Here’s to smooth sailing, no bathroom breaks, and many more Madlibs from Ashley on our last leg to Denver.
Goodnight from your fearless leaders, or I guess the elderly if you’re anyone else on the trip,
Heather and Tyler
Shakira Shakira! Greetings from Denver… House of the Beatitudes!
Matt and Bryce here and we want to just evangalize via the blog-o-sphere! So by now I’m guessing you are wondering if we took advantage of some of the new legalization laws here in Denver, but I want to let everyone know we are just very tired and full of the Holy Spirit which as many of us know fills us with great joy. After an adoration filled night, the day began with Mass and Lauds. The sisters sang to our hearts and nourished ours souls for the day. Once again we were late to Christ in the City and after much discernment the group decided to meet at Holy Ghost Church in downtown Denver. From there we began a pilgrimage to all the different churches in the city. Let me tell you Denver sure knows how to “Church.” Some highlights from the walk included; walking in the pouring rain without appropriate gear, Matt slipping on a banana peal, and praying a Rosary through the busy streets. After the pilgrimage lunch we ventured back to Christ in the City to break bread as the group decided to fast together in observance of Lent. Grace, laying in her bread crumbs proclaimed, “LENT!” thus making her the poster girl of all those fasting. After a period of down time the group began the penetant task of making rosaries. Let’s just say my purgatory will be spent making Rosaries, Bryce began to contemplate pagan beliefs. However, after seven hours I (Matt) have completed a rosary.
We now want to take this time to inform you about the big city driving experience. Katie and Matt change more lanes faster than shakira’s hips don’t lie. Let me tell you, Matt set the record for the most consecutive days of being honked at, which could barely be heard over our screams. One time Matt nearly killed a man, we were pulling out of Christ in the City and like a Gazelle, this runnner jumps in front of us. We all scream and Matt hits the breaks barely missing the dude. I peed a little. I will tell you though, Matt may be our best driver, I still have not stepped foot into Katie’s car. Especially, after watching Katie cross a double white line to make an exit cutting off some people…. I-was-horrified. I am still here so it leads me to believe that my many prayers to our guardian angels protected us. We are not home yet, but so far so good, right. Lets not even talk about Tessa and driving……. let’s just say speeding tickets in Wyoming are very expensive.
Tonight in the Jewish tradition Shabbat is celebrated as the sun sets welcoming the Sabbath. The Community of the Beatitudes celebrates Shabbat as a way to remember our roots in Judism as Catholics. After all Jesus, Mary, and all the Apostles were observent Jews. During the Shabbat meal the group prayed in Hebrew different psalms. We then sang and danced around the table celebrating the arrival of the Sabbath. While the praying lasted three hours Bryce felt the prayer was more of a celebration. If you have never heard of Shabbat you need to google it is truly amazing and our words cannot do justice to the grace of the meal. Father Gregory pushed the wine a little too much, but no one fell to their weaknesses. Overall the Shabbat meal will be a fond memory for all involved. The evening came to a close with many stories and much laughter by all.
On a more serious note today was a day designed for us to remember all the graces of serving in Denver. I (Matt) have been so blessed to be apart of this group. As the only senior on this trip I can now say I have so many new friends both in the Carroll Family and here in Denver in the streets… Ask me about Lawerance if you want a good story! In prayer I have been very “focused” on the importance of presence while loving others. To be fully present to another is very important to making others feel loved. While on this trip I really learned how unloving I can be. Those experiencing homelessness are very easy to judge, but after encountering people in a more intentional way I came to the realization that it would be very hard to tell which one of us truly was poor if you only could hear our conversations. Mother Teresa once said that, “We have forgotten that we belong to eachother.” While on this trip I met brothers and sisters who will forever hold a place in my heart because of the love they helped me come to know. One of my favorite quotes is from Toni Morrison is, “If I had known more people. I’d of loved more.” I’m reminded of this quote as I prepare to leave Denver and know God has graced me with the ability to love more because of all the people I encountered.
Bryce here on the more serious note. As we have journied through this week it has led me to understand alot of things. Before this trip I feel like I was a dry root of a fruit out of soil and for the Lord I did thrist for his love and will. By the end of this trip (and tomorow we leave), I feel as if i have quenched this thirst. I came here to do what I could in his name and I cannot leave happier. You see, what I have learned from this trip is a type of recognition, a new sight, spiritual sight and my human sight that blinded me was washed away. I began to recognize that God’s will is in me and everone around me and as a whole we are a part of a holy community, a holy family. So instead of walking up to a man that was homeless , I instead was walking up to a brother in Christ and in recognizing this I no longer was just trying to serve this man but instead I was bringing two humans together to share a story. It is in other’s experiences, not just our own that we must learn how to live the life that we are in. This is our call to the human experience to be in union with one another, so that we can grow with one another. This trip taught me a lot and I am thankful for every second God gave me on this trip.
Day 5 in Denver! I have the opportunity to be staying with a soon-to-be consecrated lay family. So every morning, Sidney and I wake up and walk to the Beatitudes’ convent just down the road from their house for morning prayer at 7 am. I absolutely love praying with the Beatitudes everyday; there’s nothing like a 5-part harmony to wake you up in the morning! After prayer and mass this morning, our whole Headlights crew took a trip to the Mother Cabrini Shrine. I didn’t know much about this Saint until today, but I am truly fascinated by her. Fun fact: she was the first canonized American Saint! She purchased over 500 acres of land in Denver for an orphanage, which we got to go visit today. Mother Cabrini miraculously found a spring that is filled with holy water. The latest known miracle was a year ago when a woman visited the Mother Cabrini Shrine in Denver and poured some of the water from Cabrini’s Spring on her wounded leg. Instantaneously, her wound was healed. After hearing this story, I was beyond eager to go visit the spring myself. Upon reaching it, I noticed paper cups were available and I actually got to drink the holy water from the spring!!! Then we continued hiking up to visit the Shrine of Mother Cabrini. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by the beauty of the mountains and I can honestly say I felt the undeniable presence of both Mother Cabrini and the Lord today.
After such an amazing morning, I was so ready to go out and do some street ministry in downtown Denver. It’s amazing how much my perspective has changed on this whole ministry. I’ve been walking around for 3 days now talking to people on the streets of Denver and I don’t think of any of them any different from myself. Jesus is so present in each and every encounter I’ve had on the streets. Today I met a 26-year-old guy who was traveling from my own hometown back to Pennsylvania. We had a great conversation about Sacramento and how much he loved it there. Simple similarities and commonalities such as this remind me that we’re all connected. And on an even deeper level, we’re all children of God. I hope that by simply reaching out to the homeless and treating them with the dignity that they deserve, they may come to know their worth. It was just yesterday at our lunch in the park when a man thanked my friends and I for letting him know that he had a great heart because he claimed he often couldn’t see that himself. Sometimes it takes a little reminder- a smile, or a conversation- to remind others that they are important and that they are LOVED.
I’m feeling truly blessed for each of the encounters I’ve had on the streets of Denver and with the Beatitudes. I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.
Greetings from Denver!
We started off the day with mass and breakfast with the Beatitudes and then headed over to Christ in the City. We listened to a talk by Fr. Daniel who spoke about Spirituality of Action. One thing that Fr. Daniel emphasized is that every action we have in a day is an opportunity to glorify God. He gave the example of how God could have made one “super fruit” that had all the nutirents we needed. However, He chose to give us a variety by making many diferent kinds of fruits and in this small way, He shows His love for us. We can do the same by recognizing the constant gifts from God and making every encounter we have a way to glorify Him. Applying this to the ministry on the streets of Denver, every conversation we share with someone, every smile or act of acknowledgement to another is an opportunity for us to glorify God and make that act of love a prayer.
Today we also had the opportunity to expereince lunch in the park with Christ in the City’s friends on the street. To give a simple explanation, lunch in the park is like a big family get-together. Everyone is welcome and we all share a meal together, getting to know new friends. The atmosphere is comfortable and you are able to have true authentic converstations that don’t seemed forced. It was a beautiful day in Denver and around 150 people attended Lunch in the Park. I had the priviledge of meeting and talking with Chuck and Junior. These two men are very different, each possessing different talents, interests, and histories. It is really beautiful to be able to get to know these individuals and recognize the gifts and talents they have and contribute to the Body of Christ. Yesterday, a man I met named Taylor (who commonly goes by the name of Fishbait), said it perfectly, “a hand can’t do what the foot does in the Body of Christ”. This statement really stuck out to me. We all have our own purpose and we are here to work together and help each other because have different skills as well as struggles. Christ in the City has done a beautiful job in recognizing this and showing love and compassion to individuals that are often dismissed easily. As we have found out, we have a lot to learn from our friends on the street and they are vital members of the Body of Christ.
I can’t wait to see what tomorrow will bring! Please continue to pray for us as well as those we meet.
Hello from Denver! Actually the basement of the Beatitudes House!