We were blessed to be able to take a pilgrimage to St. John the Compassionate Mission and related ministries in Toronto this past week.
Toronto is about an 8-hour drive from where we live, and because of work schedules, we were only there about 24 hours, but that time was packed and we got to experience more than we thought we would.
While we were there, we stayed in the hospitality house (which is called the Lourmel House, after the location where Mother Maria of Paris lived in France). We were welcomed by the three Brothers of Mercy and a family from Iraq who live there. We also participated in meals and prayer services at the Mission and the Drop-in Center, and we visited the social enterprise bakery and the thrift store.
The one phrase that I heard from several people that we talked with was how Fr. Roberto and other leaders saw value in them even when they maybe couldn’t see their own worth, and they found ways for them to get involved. There is an intentionality about making sure that everyone finds their place in the community and in the Kingdom of God. Like Joanna who is on staff now, greeting everyone and coordinating activities (I’m not sure of her actual title or specific responsibilities). Or Daniel, who at one time experienced homelessness and is now on the board of directors. Or Sean who has Down Syndrome who was tasked with befriending a member of the community who everyone thought was mute, and gave him his voice back. While there is a place for outside professionals and outside volunteers to join in, the place really belongs to the community with everyone doing their part.
While we were there, we interviewed a bunch of people and hope to share some of those interactions with you in upcoming episodes. There's Joanna and David, mentioned earlier. There’s also Deacon Paul, Father Nicolaie and Father Roberto. We’ll also be hearing from two of the Brothers of Mercy who are participating in the Lived Theology School and living in the hospitality house.
Admittedly, ours is a very incomplete view of life there. We make no claims to have even scratched the surface of what happens there. One of the things that Fr. Roberto reminded us is that in our short visit, we were not able to experience the mundaneness of interacting with those who are disenfranchised. It’s not glamorous work, but can look like it for those of us who pop in for a short visit. I think daily corporate prayer as a community is what gives them the strength and endurance for the challenges they experience.