Responding to pope’s call, Archbishop Cordileone supports ‘Year for the Homeless’

Homeless Credit Marc Bruneke via Flickr CC BY NC 20 CNA 2 10 15 Marc Bruneke via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

Following Pope Francis’ appeal to pray for the homeless deceased, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco is supporting a local initiative that has launched a “Year for the Homeless.”

The Year for the Homeless is an initiative of the Benedict XVI Institute for Sacred Music and Divine Worship. Founded in 2014, the institute aims to form the Catholic imagination through beauty, and to rekindle a sense of the sacred.

The project responds to the pope’s recent call for the faithful to pray for the dying homeless, who often go unnoticed by society.

On January 20, Pope Francis asked Catholics to pray for a 46-year-old Nigerian immigrant named Edwin, who died homeless on the streets of Rome not far from St. Peter’s Square, “ignored by all, abandoned, even by us,” the pontiff said. Pope Francis said this death “gets added to those of so many other homeless people, recently deceased in Rome in the same dramatic circumstances.”

“The Pope’s timeless call for prayers for Edwin is particularly timely for us, because we have commissioned a new Requiem Mass for those who have died homeless by our composer in residence, Frank La Rocca,” said Maggie Gallagher, executive director of the Benedict XVI Institute.

Archbishop Cordileone began celebrating an annual Requiem Mass for the Homeless Faithful Departed in 2018. This year’s Mass, on November 6, 2021, will be the first with the new music from the Benedict XVI Choir, a premier choir led by the world-renowned conductor Richard Sparks.

Cordileone has thrown his full support behind Year for the Homeless project.  

“TheBenedict XVI Institute’s Year for the Homeless is an innovative contribution: combining prayers, charity, and new creative endeavors to touch the Catholic imagination with the profound reality of the equal dignity of every human soul,” Archbishop Cordileone said in a statement.

He asked all people in San Francisco to join Pope Francis in praying for the dying homeless both locally and more broadly.

“And I also salute the heroes of Catholic Charities, the good sisters of the Missionaries of Charity and many other Catholics in San Francisco as well as other people of faith who are serving and protecting many of these suffering men and women,” he added.

Some 108,000 unsheltered homeless people live in California, slightly more than 50% of the country’s total unsheltered homeless population, Forbes reported.  

The Benedict XVI Institute has also commissioned a new painting, “The Patron Saints of the Homeless,” by noted San Francisco painter Bernadette Carstensen.

“With this new painting, we can set up a shrine for Mass attendees to pray for the homeless, and which can travel to other cathedrals as well,” said Gallagher.

Archbishop Cordileone praised the initiative.

“May the beauty of this Mass and this painting serve to touch our hearts and infuse us with the reality that our souls are immortal and loved by God unconditionally,” he said. “May it inspire us to pray more together and to help each other in these troubling times.”

The Year for the Homeless will also include efforts to raise money to assist those experiencing homelessness.

“With the Requiem Mass for the Homeless as the capstone and with the Archbishop’s encouragement, we have organized a series of fundraisers via Zoom for ministries working for the needy, centered around the feast days of the patron saints of the homeless,” said Gallagher. 

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The first event kicks off on February 8, the feast day of St. Josephine Bakhita, patroness of human trafficking victims, and will benefit Children of the Immaculate Heart, a San Diego ministry that shelters and supports survivors of sex trafficking.

A sketch of St. Josephine Bakhita will be auctioned off to raise money to help these women during the February 8 Zoom event.

“We are a proud to donate 100 percent of the proceeds from our Year for the Homeless Zoom events to provide practical help for those assisting the homeless and other needy populations,” Gallagher said. “‘Pray. Love. Sacrifice. Create.’ That is our motto for this year. It’s a pretty good motto for any year.”

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