Catholic Vancouver Nov. 24, 2017

Volunteers help on first World Day of the Poor

By Agnieszka Krawczynski

Knights of Columbus from Our Lady of Fatima Parish in Coquitlam serve a hot breakfast to guests at the Catholic Charities Men's Hostel Nov. 19. (Photos by Agnieszka Krawczynski / The B.C. Catholic)

VANCOUVER—Hot sausages, eggs, hash browns, and pancakes greeted the hungry men sleeping at Catholic Charities Men’s Hostel overnight Nov. 18.

“The food is really good,” said Timothy, a homeless man who turned to the hostel for shelter for a few nights prior and was surprised to be served breakfast on the morning of Nov. 19.

“It’s nice to be able to stay a bit longer and not have to be outside where it’s cold,” he said. “It’s a great thing to have for people.”

Breakfast, a relatively rare occurrence at the Men’s Hostel, coincided with the first World Day of the Poor, a day Pope Francis called the Catholic Church to observe Nov. 19.

“The Gospel is about action,” said volunteer George Scott, one of five Knights of Columbus from Our Lady of Fatima Parish who arrived at the downtown shelter to serve breakfast.

“You can’t just say ‘I love you.’ People need someone to talk to, they need a shirt on their back, and a safe, secure place to sleep. That’s how we love people.”

Members of the Knights serve food at The Door Is Open.

It was the third time the Coquitlam Knights have made the trip out to the downtown hostel to serve hot breakfast for some 100 occupants. Scott emphasized that while the World Day of the Poor comes once a year, the Knights’ efforts do not.

“It’s not a flash-in-the-pan event,” he said. “You gotta get over your biases, your prejudices, and judgment. Don’t worry about how he got to where he got to. He’s a human being who needs some help.”

Scott praised Pope Francis for naming a World Day of the Poor. “We’re seeing a very humble man in the Pope. He’s encouraging all the clergy: you need to love the sheep. The sheep aren’t going to come to you, you need to come to them.”

As the Knights wrapped up their breakfast service, another group of Catholic volunteers arrived in the Downtown Eastside and started preparing a hot lunch.

About 20 members of Bukas Loob Sa Diyos stirred massive pots of soup and crafted hundreds of sandwiches to serve as many as 400 people at The Door Is Open on Cordova Street.

Volunteers from Bukas Loob Sa Diyos pull chicken off the bone as they prepare lunch at The Door is Open drop-in centre in the Downtown Eastside.

“We do this because we are disciples of Christ and he said to feed the poor, and heal the sick,”  said member Thaddeus Simbulan. “This is what we’re doing: fulfilling that mission to bring justice and charity to our brothers and sisters.” 

Bukas Loob Sa Diyos, based at St. Matthew’s Parish, hosts praise and worship, runs Marriage Encounters, hosts Life in the Spirit Seminars, and urges all of its members to give back to the community in some way.

The charity’s members have been serving lunches at The Door is Open every third Sunday of the month since 2014. They also visit nursing homes and prisons.

“It’s the mission of our community. It’s the reason we’re here, each and every one of us: to see Jesus in the faces of all the people that we encounter. To us, that is the finest definition of being a disciple. If we are not doing what he was doing, forget it. Don’t call yourself a Christian.”

A volunteer prepares food at The Door Is Open.

Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, released a letter for the World Day of the Poor, which was read in many parishes across the Lower Mainland that day.

“Pope Francis has declared a World Day of the Poor, not a World Day of Prayer for the Poor,” he wrote in the letter.

“Of course, he wants us to pray, but the Holy Father also wants us to examine our lives closely and see how we are being called to help the needy around us … This first World Day of the Poor is an opportunity to join with your loved ones in doing something concrete for the needy.”