|Missionaries hit the streets every day to invite people to the Sacred Triduum liturgies at Old St Patrick's Cathedral.|
April 27, 2010. New York, NY. This year’s Holy Week
missions had a strong Manhattan contingent, with 50 young women,
10 young men, and about a dozen families involved in
various service projects around the Big Apple.
The mission, running from
Thursday afternoon to Sunday morning, was based out of Old
St Patrick’s Cathedral in SoHo. During the mission, the youth
reached out to the people of the district, inviting them
to the church for the Sacred Triduum and Easter liturgies.
At the same time, they engaged in various corporal works
of mercy in conjunction with some of New York’s charitable
Friday on the move
The service projects started on Friday morning
with Meals on Wheels, as the youth teamed up to
deliver meals to the elderly, staying to socialize and spend
some time when they could. Meanwhile, another group helped prepare
and serve lunch at a center for the elderly.
the afternoon, a combined group of missionaries and parishioners did
the Stations of the Cross through the streets of SoHo,
which is known for being an eclectic and artistic part
of the city.
|The missionaries and Old St Patrick's parishioners walked their Good Friday Stations of the Cross through the streets of SoHo.|
Most people just went about their normal business,
accustomed to seeing religious displays around the Sacred Triduum. But
at least one felt the need to make a scene.
guy was yelling at us from a bar and it
was kind of distracting,” said Nicole McDonnell, a coworker. “But
everybody stood together and persevered. No one said anything back
to him. We just focused on the Stations and on
why we were there.”
In the evening, they participated in a
Midnight Run from 10 pm to 1 am. A Midnight
Run is an evening delivery of essential clothing and toiletries
to homeless people throughout the city. The missionaries had been
preparing in the months prior to the mission with a
clothing and toiletries drive, collecting items as diverse as underwear,
socks, rain ponchos, sweaters, jackets, pants, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo,
Before they started their deliveries, two former homeless
people came and gave the missionaries a talk to help
them understand what they would be experiencing, sharing their own
stories of how they came to be homeless.
One of them
had graduated from college and worked for the Pentagon and
the Air Force. He had a family, a wife, and
a house in DC. But when his wife died, he
mentally broke down. He forgot to pay his bills and
go to work. Before too long, he found himself on
the street. One of New York’s programs for homeless people
helped him to start getting back on his feet again,
although he still lives in a shelter. The other speaker
shared how his drug addiction had lost him his job
and landed him on the street for 16 years. It
took him a long time to recognize that he had
an addiction and start detoxing, but he finally did it.
Impressed, the missionaries responded with a standing ovation.
Once they started the Midnight Run, they found all
kinds of surprises. One group of missionaries met up with
a homeless man who used to be R&B style singer.
He still had that smooth Bing Crosby voice, and when
the missionaries brought him clothes and toiletries, he treated them
to a one-man concert.
Then he decided to teach Caroline
Pilon, a coworker, how to sing.
“We sang for a
half hour together,” she said with a smile.
At one point,
they were filling the street with the sound of Christmas
carols. Holy Saturday or not, Christmas songs have a joyful
“He was a really happy guy,” said Caroline.
Many of the
young women missionaries found that it was easy to give
the homeless what they needed because they were so grateful.
are real people and they have dignity,” said one missionary,
moved by their gracious manners.
A simple prayer
Consecrated woman Glory Darbellay also
|"One of the great challenges of the new evangelization is getting all Catholics to know our faith well."|
had a moment of grace toward the end of the
Midnight Run. When they stopped at Penn Station, the missionaries
started giving out sandwiches and clothing, and Glory went with
a group into the station to tell the homeless people that
two buses were just outside offering clothes and food.
the station, she met a homeless woman named Doris. Since
Doris could not walk to the bus, she told Glory
what she wanted—in very specific terms: “All I want is
a brown sweater blouse like the one I’m wearing, size
medium.” She listed a few other items as well.
got back to the buses, she found that pickings were
slim. The missionaries had been working fast and most of
the clothes had already been given away. Only one bag
Glory grabbed the bag and started rummaging around.
There were only two women’s sweaters left. One of them
was brown, and looked exactly like the sweater Doris had
been wearing. She checked the size. Medium.
Thrilled, she went
back to Penn Station, gave it to Doris, and offered
to pray for her. “I’d like to pray for you.
What can I pray for?”
She was expecting Doris to
ask for prayers for health, or for her own apartment.
But her answer was simply: “Pray that I make it
through another day.”
Saturday in Harlem
On Saturday, the missionaries headed over
to the Children’s Day Society in Harlem. There, they organized
five stations of games for the kids: basketball, steal the
bacon, Easter egg decoration, musical chairs, and dodgeball. The kids
switched off from one station to the other until they
had their fill of games.
The games were followed by a
cookout and an Easter egg hunt. One missionary spent the
whole day with the same three girls, bonding
really liked the personal attention from the missionaries,” observed Caroline,
noting that the boys started shooting hoops and playing pickup
basketball with the young men, while some of the young
women found themselves surrounded by a small posse of little
After Harlem, the missionaries headed back to SoHo to
continue promoting the Vigil Mass, as they had promoted the
parish’s other liturgical events during the week.
The parish priest,
Msgr Donald Sakano, and about six or seven Legionary priests
were on hand to hear confessions during the Sacred Triduum,
and according to Glory Darbellay, many of the local people
took advantage of the opportunity.
Following the Vigil Mass, the young
men headed back to Thornwood, while the young women went
to the Our Lady of Mount Kisco retreat center, and
on Sunday morning, they met up with their families. For
many of them, it was undoubtedly a different Holy Week
experience—a memorable one well worth repeating.