Fr. Paradi founded an institution called Notre-Dame-de-la-rue (Our Lady of the Street). Each night, he goes out to bring food and shelter to those living on the streets. He also administers the sacraments, celebrates the Eucharist and even presides at funerals.
The priest is accompanied by one of his co-workers, Kevin Cardin, who also was addicted to drugs, but found help, changed his life and now has a family.
Notre-Dame-de-la-rue has the support of the Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal, who has described the initiative as “a presence of the Church to give encouragement.” It also has the support of the city.
“Our mission is especially to give encouragement. Unlike the shelters, we go out to the people, a bit like a door-to-door service. We talk to them, sometimes we pray together before they go back to face the harshness of the street.”
Fr. Paradis knows how hard life on the street is. After growing up in the Gaspé region and working in Cowansville as a nurse, he came to Montreal 25 years ago.
However, he was unable to find a job. “Isolation and despair took hold of me,” he said.
Living on the street, he thought about committing suicide. “I started doing cocaine and then crack,” he recalled.
In a letter posted on the website of La Victoire de l'Amour (the Victory of Love), Fr. Paradis tells how he met the Lord.
“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.”
At that moment, he had a deep and intense encounter with God. He realized he did not want to die, but rather wanted to become “a man of the Church.”
Fr. Paradis went on to fight his addictions and now ministers to many people who face the same challenges he struggled with years ago.
The 57-year-old priest has dedicated the rest of his life to serving the poor, saying “on the street is where I want to be, until I die.”
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.
This article was originally published on CNA Jan. 17, 2017.