This article was originally written as a letter to the congregation of Saint Aloysius church in Detroit, by my brother, Brother Ed Gura, OFM. Ed has been serving the Lord as a Fransiscan for over 30 years in various capacities, including as a nurse in the Appalachian country of Kentucky, running a free medical center, and most recently, as a street minister in Detroit, daily serving the homeless out on the streets. He is a great inspiration of sacrifice, humility, compassion, and love, and I am proud to call him brother. I hope you will enjoy his story.
On a cold winter day in March, I gathered with volunteers in the alleyway of Saint Aloysius Church to prepare for morning street ministry. We then headed over to the Rosa Parks Bus Terminal where we served sandwiches and hot beverages and passed out hand-warmers and warm winter clothing for our guests. Upon our return to Saint Aloysius Church I ended up staying longer than planned as the remainder of my morning took on a new direction. When I was finally on my way, I thought I knew where I was going next until a surprise encounter with a homeless man caused me to turn off my car engine and get out of my car to see if he needed anything.
To my surprise, though, the man had already disappeared so I ran to the end of the alley to see if he might be heading down State Street, but he was nowhere to be seen. When I turned around to head back to my car, it was then that I caught sight of him sifting through a dumpster. When I asked this aged man if he was hungry, he was quick to say that he was. I then invited him to come in out of the cold to warm-up. We talked for awhile and then I headed downstairs to gather up some food and warm clothing. When I gave them to him, he smiled through his tired, worn and weather-beaten face. He then thanked me as he headed back out into the cold. Our encounter humbled me and reminded me, once again, of the plight of some of our brothers and sisters on the streets of Detroit.
Later I thought about my encounter with this homeless brother of mine and how it never would have occurred if I had not been open to a change of plans that morning, which then kept me longer at St. Aloysius Church. Often we begin our day with a plan, but let us also pray for guidance in case our plan is not what the Lord has planned for us, for only then can we hope to welcome, serve, bless and be blessed by those whom God wishes to send our way.
I remain ever thankful to all who support our downtown ministries so that we can continue to feed the hungry, quench the thirsty and clothe the naked.
May our Lenten journeys continue to draw us ever closer to the Foot of the Cross where all becomes clearer as we see more clearly that it is the merciful who know the way for it is the way of the Lord and the way home.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. The Lord continues to bless me with an ever growing family, now including the people we serve in Detroit. Sometimes when our guests ask me if they could have two hot chocolates or two hot coffees or one of each, I humor them by saying: “We are having a sale today — by the first one at no cost, and get the second one free”. It always brings a laugh and a response that makes me laugh. They remain a blessing in my life just as you remain a blessing in my life.