Volunteers at St. Patrick’s are determined to relieve spiritual as well as physical deprivation. As food is distributed, they pray before the Blessed Sacrament in a nearby adoration tent, while observing social distancing. Sherbrooke is available for visitors seeking a sacramental encounter, sitting at a safe distance and behind a white sheet. There is also a tent offering lectio divina.
“This enhanced feeding facility has come very much as a response to the request of the local authority,” Sherbrooke said. “We have a long tradition of feeding people happily and well. But in a very strange sort of way, the Church, from being a physical reality behind four walls, is now a reality in the street.”
Sherbrooke, who cites St Damien of Molokai and Mother Teresa as inspirations, continued: “It’s imparting a spiritual, pastoral care, where I have a strong sense that the Holy Spirit is literally building a church on the streets. There’s lectio divina. There’s adoration -- in other words, a prolongation of the Holy Mass -- confession, rosary, etc.”
“We are ministering to the people. We are going to them, speaking to them, giving rosaries and sharing the Gospel. So there is a real work of evangelization going on.”
Volunteers also distribute a sheet each week with reflections, Scripture readings, and advice on how to pray.
“So there’s a kind of catechesis of the poor which is going on,” Sherbrooke said.
“There is a very real sense that in this terrible virus situation that God is creating a very different kind of Church, much more evangelical, and perhaps simpler. All this has happened not through management but I believe through God's providence.”
He noted that despite the present dangers volunteers felt a strong sense of supernatural protection.
“Personally, I would say that the way that I haven’t caught [the virus] -- given the reality of the situation here -- is that every day I pray that the Precious Blood of Jesus will come into my heart, my veins, my lungs, and protect me from the virus so that I can do this work,” he said.
In 2011, St. Patrick’s reopened after a £4 million restoration project, which included the excavation of the basement and the creation of the parish center, located beneath the church. Food for the homeless is now prepared there every day.
“It’s almost as though God has crafted this parish for this work at this time,” Sherbrooke said.
(Story continues below)
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