Seminary Pilgrimage to St John The Compassionate: Day 2
by Seminarian Joseph Birthisel
Our second day began with breakfast at the Lourmel house and then a walk across the green to tea at the mission. It is hard to overstate the importance of tea to the people who operate the many initiatives of the St. John the Compassionate Mission. "Community" is a central vitalizing aspect of life at the mission, and tea times fosters this community twice a day. When tea is served, everyone stops what they are doing, and we can feel the camaraderie amongst volunteers and staff.
Following tea, we were given a rundown of all the programs the Mission provides. It was dizzying experience. We tried our best to grasp all the efforts underway here. The homeless, the working poor, women and children suffering from abuse or neglect, children needing tutoring, women needing post-abortion counseling, recent immigrants, and many others -- these are all served by the vast array of services provided with a startling little amount of funds in the way of government assistance.
After this survey of the mission's programs, we joined the Lived Theology students for 6th Hour followed by a light lunch of soup and bread (baked just next store at the mission's outstanding French artisan bakery). We spoke with people receiving meals, helped clean up afterward, and then returned to the church for a talk given by Fr. Dn. Pawel on the iconography of the mission. Each icon reinforced a different set of everyday realities of the people and the work done at the Mission. Not a single wall lacked inspiration or solace for those faithful who make the Mission their home.
Again, we were treated to tea before we began hours of "diakonia." This was the summary term for hardwork in service to the Mission! We set up the dining area, brought food in off of trucks, shelved and organized, and then helped serve the dinner meal. Shortly after this, the Liturgy of Presanctified Gifts followed the dinner meal for area needy (the parish meal was served afterward) and was very well attended and boasted an extraordinarily talented choir.
This was quite a full day for me and one full of surprises and new challenges. It is one thing to consider, in the abstract, that operating something of this scale must be difficult. It is quite another thing to spend, in reality, twelve hours with brother seminarians and the Mission community serving the needy of Toronto.
There is a lot of laughter to be found here. There is a lot of hope in those smiles.
And I was made aware of just how profound the efforts made here are needed in this neighborhood. I thought, too, of how much good more missions of this very sort could do in many, many neighborhoods in North America.
I must say that the staff that works here day in and day out are a special breed of people. I like to think of them as close to the Holy Unmercenaries in their selflessness and devotion to those less fortunate.
Having received the grace of healing,
you extend health to those in need,
O glorious and wonder-working physicians.
Hence, by your visitation, cast down the
audacity of our enemies, and by your miracles,
heal the world.
- Kontakion (Second Tone) Cosmas & Damian the Holy Unmercenaries
Please join us in praying that the efforts of those serving this wonderful mission may continue in strength to "heal the world" one soul at a time.