If this had been a typical year, dozens of young adults from St. Mary’s in Vancouver would have attended Mass on a Friday evening, stayed for adoration, slept overnight at the church, then driven to Mission for a talk, prayers, and reflection at Westminster Abbey before returning to the parish for Mass and a shared meal.

Unfortunately, 2020 has been anything but typical. 

“Staying overnight in a church was not an option,” said Mildred Moy. “In addition, we felt that travelling to Mission together for an 80-minute car ride would violate social distancing guidelines set out by the government.”

So the Catholic Street Missionaries improvised, hosting a 24-hour online and in-person fast to pray for the world, the marginalized, and the Church.

“The inspiration came in prayer,” said Moy, founder of Catholic Street Missionaries. “Instead of travelling to Mission together, we decided to bring Westminster Abbey and Carmel Hill to our homes.”

A team of six missionaries travelled to Mission in three cars to film three segments of prayers. The first was praise and worship music in front of Westminster Abbey, with sunlight shining on the singers and water reflections creating glittering effects that visually enhanced the recording.

The second segment was praying the Divine Mercy inside the abbey, while the third was a street ministry version of the Stations of the Cross prayed at Carmel Hill in Deroche, near Mission.

The recording aired on YouTube and was well received, said Moy. “The participants were moved and their hearts were led into praise and prayer.”

Mildred Moy (top left corner), the head of Catholic Street Missionaries, kicks off the 24-hour Fast and Pray event online.

A day earlier, Father Paul Goo, the Archdiocese of Vancouver’s Vocations Director, started the fast with a talk on “Fasting and Loving like Jesus.” 

Due to an air quality advisory, a scheduled downtown prayer walk was replaced by an online Rosary, and a planned meal to end the fast had to move inside St. Mary’s, where arranged for food and sharing in the church basement.

“The fast actually wasn’t too hard for me, and I had time to reflect and learn more during it,” said Julie Vu, the youngest participant. “I’d do it again.”

Trish Ignacio, a member of the organizing team, said she realized how much she had to be grateful for. “At least for me, I knew I would be eating at 6:15 p.m.. There are so many people who don’t know when their next meal is. Even while fasting, “I was able to take a shower and rest in the comfort of my home. There are some people who don’t even have that. So, I realized how blessed I am in life.”

Hugh Egerton appreciated receiving the Eucharist during the fast for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak. “Being in the pandemic for so long, I miss being with a Catholic community of young people. It’s good to be around other faithful Catholics.”

Atiaia Barreto echoed Egerton’s sentiments. “When I was receiving the Eucharist (during the fast), my mind was so clear. My thoughts were not racing. At that moment, I was so focused in Jesus. It was a very intense Eucharistic experience. I can only relate that to fasting.”

For Wally Dong, the fast revealed to him that “It’s Jesus who is praying (in me). It’s Jesus who is fasting (in me).”

Participants gather to hear Father Paul Goo speak about fasting at St. Mary’s. (Trisha Ignacio photo)

Gillian Guilaran found that fasting helped her in carrying her own cross by offering her sufferings for others and not focusing on her own, while first-timer Raisa Jose said the experience “made me feel closer to our brothers and sisters in the Downtown Eastside and all over the world facing hunger. This was truly an eye-opening experience.”

Catholic Street Missionaries is a Vancouver charity that develops young street missionaries to reach out to the marginalized, including people on the street. This was its fourth 24-hour Fast and Pray event.

For more information or to donate, visit Catholic Street Missionaries at catholicstreetmissionaries.org, on Facebook, Instagram, or YouTube, by emailing [email protected], or by callling 778-885-9611.