For the past five years in Montreal, in our parish, St. Francis of Assisi (Park Extension), the Franciscan Young Adult Group has been organizing the event of “Sharing love with the homeless”.
Once a month on a Saturday, they prepare sandwiches and, together with other treats, share them with the homeless. It is a wonderful activity that involves our generous benefactors and our dedicated volunteers.
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 Pandemic has disturbed all our activities. We stopped this activity due to the fear of contracting and transmitting the virus.
Yet, in the month of December during this special time of Christmas, we, with our young people, could not wait anymore until the end of the Covid-19 Pandemic to resume our activity, so we decided to face our challenges with faith and courage.
The young adults shared the spirit of Christmas by organizing Christmas meals and gifts for the homeless. Gift bags filled with sandwiches, boiled eggs, chocolates, chips, juice, and tangerines, as well as Christmas gifts of warm socks, gloves, masks, scarves, were prepared with love and excitement. I felt that we, 11 volunteers of 8 different nationalities, were a community of missionary disciples who were of “one heart and mind”, working together for the same mission, to manifest God’s compassion to our poor brothers and sisters.
We had to reorganize our plan of distribution and be prudent by following the necessary safety measures. We divided ourselves into two groups, sought out the homeless and shared our gifts with love and joy. Conversations took place as we distributed the gifts, of course while keeping social distancing: “It was not only about giving food but meeting each one, greeting and talking to them.”
One man was so happy to receive the gift bag that he could not stop looking inside to see what was there…
Another person who was sitting in front of a building, started crying and made the sign of the Cross as he received his Christmas surprise. He said, “I have made so many mistakes in my life and I do not go to Mass now… but I am not a bad person… Thank you, thank you…” These words brought tears to our eyes.
This encounter touched us deeply as we felt that God was truly present among us.
Then, we met a big group of homeless persons (some of them were Inuits). Sadly, we did not have enough gift bags for everyone.
After all the meals were distributed, we returned to the parish hall to share our experiences and what touched us. We were glad that even this pandemic could not stop us from sharing our love with the homeless. Our little gesture of love and compassion helped us to live more fully ”our sense of belonging to a single human family” (Fratelli Tutti 30). Let us always remember that:
‘’We received life freely; we paid nothing for it. Consequently, all of us are able to give without expecting anything in return, to do good to others without demanding that they treat us well in return.’’ (Fratelli Tutti no. 140)
Sister Marianna Jung, FMM