For several months I’ve been volunteering one day a week at a local shelter for homeless men. In prayer and reflection, and inspired by the words and actions of Pope Francis, I wanted to get involved in a ministry with homeless persons. My full-time work allows me time for this, since I focus on weekend programs for married couples and early morning weekday Masses at local convents.
There no organized outreach to homeless persons by the Catholic diocese, so I applied to be a volunteer at the Gospel Rescue Mission, a non-denominational, mostly evangelical Christian ministry. After I responded to some lengthy questionnaires, interviews with staff members, and a criminal background check, I was accepted as a volunteer. At first some of the staff were a little concerned about my motives, whether I was looking for lapsed Catholics or hoping to convert people. I assured them that I just wanted to help. So on most Wednesdays, after my morning Masses, I go to the shelter.
At the mission I work as a driver, taking the shelter residents to appointments: doctors, parole officers, and job interviews. I also work in the front office, helping to give sandwiches to anyone who comes to the door, praying with people who request prayer, and picking up supplies and helping with other administrative tasks. I have a lot of time to talk to the men as I drive them, and also when I eat lunch with them. I am able to listen to their concerns and stories, and to support and encourage them as they work to reform their lives after prison or addiction, loss of job and loss of family support.
God has blessed me in this ministry, and opened my eyes to the complexities of the issues that homeless people experience. And it has broadened my horizons, working hand in hand with other Christians outside of my own more comfortable denominational settings.
Paul Mandziuk M.S.