By Angie Hall
Over Spring Break in March, I journeyed with three students from the University of Utah, JJ Garzella, Zach Little, and Maria Stokes, along with Fr. Lukasz, to Denver for a week long mission trip with Christ in the City. This Catholic organization serves the homeless by sending young adult missionaries to walk the streets of downtown Denver and talk to the people they encounter on the way. One of the mottos of Christ in the City is, “To be known is to be loved.” Often the poor are lonely and isolated from the rest of society. They are ignored by people who walk past them every day. Often they go months without hearing their own name. By forming authentic relationships with the homeless, the missionaries call the poor their friends on the streets in the truest sense. Acknowledging their presence and and having conversations with the marginalized affirms their dignity and identity as children of God.
As part of the mission trip the students and campus ministry staff went on street walks alongside the missionaries. At first, I was nervous about doing street ministry. What if I didn’t know what to say to someone on the street? Would I be safe? Did my actions even have an impact? My first day of ministry all of my fears were put to rest. Most of the people I met were already good friends with the Christ in the City missionaries. I met one man who had a falling out with his family, and he moved to Denver from Louisiana not knowing anyone. After meeting Christ in the City missionaries, he was able to find people who loved and accepted him for who he was. He even found some housing and is no longer homeless. This man’s story is a common one, and I was struck by the number of homeless who are separated from their families. Even though we couldn’t reunite them with their loved ones, we were able to bring them them love of Christ and welcome them into the Christ in the City family.
Another important aspect of this trip was the integration of prayer with service. We prayed morning prayer at 6:30am, had 45 minutes of silent prayer afterwards, and then Mass. In the evenings we would pray Liturgy of the Hours, give thanks for all of the blessings of the day, and lift up to God all of the people we encountered.
Freshman Maria Stokes reflected on how prayer affected her experience. “Participating in truly compassionate service can change one’s prayer life. St. Paul tells us to pray ceaselessly, which if you are anything like me, is challenging. However, service reminds us that prayer takes many forms.
The missionaries at Christ in the City urged those of us who went to reflect on a beautiful image: that of Mary at the foot of the cross as she simply refused to avert her eyes from her suffering Son. Her witness is a perfect form of prayer. Witness and service are powerful forms prayer. When we invest in a conversation or entrust things beyond our control to the Lord, we pray.
Volunteering at Christ in the City not only allowed me to have much needed time to pray, but it spoke to the power of the various forms of prayer. It reminded us of integrated prayer, and how applying intentionality towards every encounter can transform lives.”
If you are interested in supporting our mission trip, we are still collecting donations to cover the cost of the trip. Please talk to Fr. Lukasz or Angie if you are interested in partnering in our ministry.