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On the Streets of SoHo
U. S. A. | APOSTOLATE | NEWS
Manhattan Missions 2010 give the youth a taste of service.

Holy Week Manhattan missions
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 organizations.

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.

In
Manhattan missions stations of the cross
The missionaries and Old St Patrick's parishioners walked their Good Friday Stations of the Cross through the streets of SoHo.
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.

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.

“One 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, and more.

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
Manhatta missions by a taxi
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.

Christmas carols at Easter

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 sound.

“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.

“These are real people and they have dignity,” said one missionary, moved by their gracious manners.

A simple prayer

Consecrated woman Glory Darbellay also
New York City evangelizing
"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.

Inside 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.

When Glory 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 was left.

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
Evangelizing in New York Manhattan Missions
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

“The kids 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 girls.

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.



PUBLICATION DATE: 2010-04-24


 
 

Related links

Helping Hands Medical Missions
MissionYouth
St Rafael Guizar y Valencia Missionary Center


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