Going Against the 'Throwaway Culture'
Kyle Gregg is a postulant from the Our Lady of Consolation Province. He ministers at Franciscan Outreach Shelter (a shelter for the homeless in Chicago). He chose this ministry because he has been working with the homeless for more than five years. His ministry began in Christmas 2012. He explains, "I was on my way to midnight mass at the Cathedral, and I passed through the train station where several men were sleeping outside. So I gave them some leftovers from my Christmas Eve dinner and went to mass. I have been volunteering at soup kitchens/shelters in the various places I've lived since then -- Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans, and now Chicago."
Franciscan Outreach Shelter has 70 beds for women and 150 for men. They serve 3 meals a day, including one hot meal in the evening as people enter the shelter to claim their bed for the night. He laments that there are not enough beds for everyone, but says that they try to make enough food for those who are left outside. Kyle distributes lunches and dinners to them. He works under the supervision of Friar Doug Jones. Kyle states, "[Friar Doug] is so hard-working, like all the friars under whom I have worked. I worked alongside friars in Louisiana, where I am from, as well as in southern Los Angeles, where I lived for a year." Although Kyle is not a professed friar yet, he has found the friars to be a great example and motivation.
"Working with the poor sounds like fun -- and it is -- but it is easy to lose interest or motivation.” Says Kyle. “Sometimes people express their gratitude for the meals we serve them, sometimes they do not. But I should not do it for the sake of receiving gratitude or recognition. The reason should be for their own well-being -- physical, mental and spiritual. Pope Francis has elaborated on the ‘throwaway culture’ in which we live. At the shelter I sort through food which grocery stores throw away, I sort through clothes which consumers no longer want to wear, I deal with people whom, due to their lack of productivity, society has discarded or pushed to the margins. Homeless people have no dignity in such a culture. Not until we meet them and talk to them are we able to treat them with respect. Too often we overlook them, forget about them, or blame the government for not taking care of them. I choose this ministry because I need to be reminded that everyone is of equal worth, no matter their level of income or ability to support themselves."
Friars and students in formation like Kyle have found growth in the ministries they share. They are men who serve the poor, and homeless. They spread God's love and the life of St. Francis through their daily actions.