Full-time Catholic Street Missionaries aim to serve the homeless, prostituted, and drug-addicted

The B.C. Catholic

A new ministry to people living on the streets has sprung up in Vancouver.

"For many years, I have held the desire in my heart to have spiritual companions to work with me full-time to serve Jesus in the prostituted women, the addicted, and the homeless," said Mildred Moy.

Moy, a member of St. Mary's Parish in Vancouver, has founded Catholic Street Missionaries (CSM). The non-profit organization is an archdiocesan ministry to train and mobilize full-time missionaries for the Downtown Eastside, or wherever they are needed.

"Our vision is that everyone will be treated with respect and dignity. No one, especially the weak and the poor, will be forgotten, abandoned, or marginalized."

The group has enough funds to sponsor three female missionaries, who will spend a year living together in prayer and service, as well as 1 or 2 other missionaries who will handle their own living arrangements, for one year.

Moy is also the head of St. Mary's Street Ministry, a parish-based outreach. The work CSM will do to start "is basically the same."

Until it gets on its feet, the new ministry will be working alongside St. Mary's Street Ministry in many of the same initiatives: handing out sleeping bags or warm clothing to homeless people and praying for those who are poor, drug-addicted, or prostituting.

"A lot of the things we're doing will be a joint effort until we have more full-time people."

Once CSM has full-time missionaries trained, Moy hopes it can fill gaps St. Mary's Street Ministry cannot. For example, they will provide emotional and spiritual support to people moving off the streets and starting drug-free lives.

CSM had its first event, a 24-hour fast and pilgrimage for the new ministry, Nov. 18-19.

"I know it's an important cause, and I think it's something that's needed here in Vancouver," said Marianne Peraro, one of the 22 people who participated.

The group of volunteers and potential missionaries slept in St. Mary's church basement and gymnasium. In the morning they took a bus to Mission to visit Westminster Abbey and the Poor Clare monastery, and they returned to St. Mary's for Mass with Archbishop J. Michael Miller, CSB, in the evening.

During the event, they heard a testimony from Sarah, a woman Moy helped get off the street. "Her story proves that it is easier to go through a hard journey when you have someone who is spiritually strong to guide you, and who constantly reminds you how much God loves you," Peraro said.

Peraro has volunteered with St. Mary's street ministry in the past, and is now also a volunteer with CSM.

"It's a cause that's very close to my heart, and I felt this desire to serve," she said. "I was looking for a way to do it, but I know I can't do it on my own. That's how I got involved in street ministry."

Archbishop Miller has called CSM a "wonderful new organization."

"We all know how important it is to Pope Francis that we reach out, and this is what Catholic Street Missionaries are trying to do," he said in a video message.

He praised the group for showing a commitment to prayer and contemplation. "I certainly hope that you will think of supporting Catholic Street Missionaries. Above all, pray for them. Pray that they will accomplish the good work that the Lord Jesus has entrusted to them."

CSM will hold a day of training and street outreach Feb. 4. More information about the group is available at www.catholicstreetmissionaries.org.