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Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M., The Christophers’ Board of Directors 

Finding God on the Street

The streets of any city are a scary place when you don’t have a home or place of refuge to retreat to for safety. Father Claude Paradis found that out the hard way. Long before he became a priest, he was homeless and living in Montreal, Canada. This experience of the harsh realities faced on the streets is what motivated him to start an outreach called Notre Dame de-la-rue, which translates to Our Lady of the Street. 

                Every night, Father Paradis ventures into the streets of Montreal to bring food to the homeless and help them find shelter. His ministry is a comprehensive one as he utilizes his priestly capacity to administer the sacraments to the homeless, celebrating the Eucharist and even presiding at funerals.

                A Catholic News Agency story on Father Paradis chronicles his journey from an “addiction to both alcohol and drugs, with a future so bleak, he considered ending his own life,” to conversion, ordination and a life committed to “serving the physical and spiritual needs of those trapped in poverty, prison and prostitution.”

                In an account of his conversion posted to the website La Victoire de l’Amoure (The Victory of Love), Father Paradis writes: “I had the privilege of meeting God just at the moment I was doubting Him. On a little back street in Montreal, abandoned by people, there was nobody there. Passing by the old church, impelled by I don’t know what instinct, I turned back in there.” 

Father Paradis realized that he wanted to become “a man of the Church,” so he set out to conquer his addictions. Speaking to the Journal Metro, he said, “The street brought me to the Church and the Church in the end brought me back to the street.” This past winter brought him full circle when he spent a month living on the streets in solidarity with the homeless so that he could demonstrate his love for them and draw attention to their plight. 

Ministry to the homeless and addicted is a special calling, but everyone can find ways to support the work done by those on the front lines. We can also focus on helping people we encounter avoid the pitfalls that lead to destitution. Father Paradis’ troubles began when he couldn’t find work and lost his sense of self-worth. His journey of recovery represents the path we are all called to walk. We must constantly strive to improve ourselves and grow closer to God in purity and holiness, but then we must turn around and risk all we have achieved in order to reach out to those who have fallen on hard times or lost their way.

Christ was perfect yet he chose to bear the wounds of our sins out of His love for us. In order to follow Him, we must show that same kind of love for others. We must dare to enter their world in order to guide them to a better place. Christ saved us for this very purpose, so that we could do His bidding, as St. Teresa of Avila once wrote: “Christ has no body but yours; no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which His Compassion looks out upon the world. Yours are the feet with which He walks to do Good. Yours are the hands with which He Blesses all the world.” 

 

For free copies of the Christopher News Note THE GOD OF SECOND CHANCES, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: mail@christophers.org