by Ken Rolheiser
Meeting Christ in the city and rushing by

Most Reverend Don Bolen, installed as Archbishop of Regina October 14, 2016, spent thirty-six hours this summer as a homeless man on the streets in Saskatoon. Along with nine others he endured an eye opening experience.

Then, as Bishop of Saskatoon, he left his apartment for a more vulnerable neighbourhood. He saw “more of the hurt and the pain” than we usually notice as we drive by.

Members of the Sanctum Survivor Challengers, as they were called, had to spend the night in an assigned place such as a Salvation Army shelter, a Brief Detox Unit or in Kinsman Park which was cold, but not too cold for mosquitoes.

His experience included visiting a needle exchange and obtaining a prescription. He had to attempt getting financial aid by calling Social Services from a public phone and then asking AIDS Saskatoon for a ride to the income assistance office.

Finding places to wash his hands at least nine times in the day was a challenge. Another assigned challenge was to buy a meal. Along with another participant he popped down his hat on the sidewalk on Twentieth Street for over an hour begging for alms.

Imagine being a Bishop of Saskatoon and sitting on the street and being invisible to passers by? Invisibility is a real factor the poor experience. Father Brendan McGuire describes it this way: “Most of us unfortunately refuse eye contact; we get busy as we just don't want to see them. We walk past them. The more there are, the less we want to see.”

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat." Mother Teresa

In Denver a ministry called Christ in the City says that one of the biggest problems with the homeless people is that they feel invisible. Christ in the City suggests making eye contact and then asking them their names.

“This is huge to them. Most of the homeless in the streets have not been called by their name in months!” McGuire says.

“They put up a sign to break their silence. Their sign might as well say: ‘Can you notice me? Can you see me? I'm hungry. I'm starving. I need something,’” McGuire says. “And we close the veil and do not see them!”

“The same homeless will be at the same traffic light daily and if we can remember their name each time, we can restore their humanity and give them life again. It is not how much money we have that matters, it is what we do with what we have,” McGuire says.

How do we see Christ on the streets of our towns and cities? St Teresa of Calcutta says:
“I see Jesus in every human being. I say to myself, this is hungry Jesus, I must feed him. This is sick Jesus. This one has leprosy or gangrene; I must wash him and tend to him. I serve because I love Jesus.”

“Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.” Mother Teresa

(550 words)