What is Christ on the Street?
Christ on the Street, is a ministry of the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore, which quietly came into being on December 12, 2020, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At the invitation of our Bishop Phonsie Cullinan, several men and women of the Diocese were invited to join a team of volunteer missionaries to befriend the homeless and lonely in Waterford City and beyond.
After taking part in several formative sessions online, the missionaries, recognizable by their blue parkas and ready smile, set out two by two. Walking the streets of the City Centre in pairs, they stop to chat with the lonely and homeless people on our streets, persons who are often passed by and not noticed.
The lives of these brothers and sisters are often marked by hardship, broken relationships and social isolation. The missionaries bring a listening heart to each person they meet – a ray of the tenderness of the Merciful and Loving Heart of Jesus. As our street ministers look into the eyes of each person, their attentive gaze speaks: “I see you, and I’m listening to you. You are important to me”.
Friendly conversation takes place through ongoing connection with our friends on the street, often accompanied by a hot cup of tea or coffee and perhaps a sandwich or snack. As trust grows, regular encounters become times of deeper sharing and healthy friendship. For some, this relationship is a turning point in their lives, restoring their sense of self-worth, which can lead to the decision to change their present situation to a better and more dignified way of life. The missionaries can then encourage and accompany them to existing health and housing services available to them.
Guiding Principles of Christ on the Street
To bring Christ to others, the missionaries must first experience Him themselves. They are encouraged to deepen their personal encounter with Christ through frequent Mass, Sacrament of Reconciliation, Liturgy of the Hours and spiritual direction. Each team is encouraged to meet at the Cathedral to pray for the persons they will meet, during their encounter with them and afterwards as well.
The team gathers with the Bishop for monthly meetings. First on the agenda is a time of shared prayer and reflection. This may be followed by a presentation on some aspect of street ministry, as well as discussion of challenges and joys experienced in the previous weeks. Strict confidentiality is maintained and no names or identifying data is revealed regarding the persons or the conversations that have taken place.
The apostolate of Christ on the Street is totally voluntary and none of its members receive any remuneration for services rendered. The members have completed a mandatory safeguarding course for those who work with minors and vulnerable adults and have been vetted by the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore. In addition, they know that boundaries are to be respected and always place the needs and well-being of the vulnerable adult as the primary concern.
When appropriate, the missionaries facilitate a person’s connection with appropriate Waterford City and County Council Homeless Services.
Working together as teams, the members grow in loving their team, generously giving of themselves, sincerely caring for one other, and holding one other accountable in becoming true disciples and witnesses of Christ.
Growing the Ministry
Since its inception, the missionary teams have been carefully discerning the additional needs of our local vulnerable population. There is a wonderful organization in the city which provides a daily evening meal for those in need. Our Diocese has procured a van which will be used to bring food and hot drinks for distribution to those who don’t have access to a midday snack.
While Waterford is the only city in the Diocese, there are other towns and villages which are home to persons in similar situations as those found in the larger city. Wherever lonely and needy people live, we recognize them as our brothers and sisters and encourage the parishes to assess their needs and discern a way to reach out to them in friendship, caring and material assistance. Our team would be happy to provide initial guidance and accompaniment to those parishes.
How to get involved in Christ on the Street:
As a Missionary
This requires specific training and a minimum commitment of one hour per week with a partner in direct street ministry in Waterford City Centre. To apply, please email us and we will send you application forms and requirements.
As a Volunteer
Volunteers donate some time each week to do some of the many organizational tasks related to the ministry. These are related but not limited to:
- food preparation for the midday snack
- distribution of snack from the van
- driving the van for food pickup and distribution No special driver’s license is needed but applicants should have some experience with driving a large service vehicle.
- eventually, there will be need of sorting, storing and distributing toiletries, winter clothing, etc. that are received as donations for the needy;
- applicants may us email to express your interest and availability.
As a Pray-er
This is an important ministry, in which a person commits to praying for our friends on the street and the missionaries who minister to them. You may email us at any time. We will add you to our list of pray-ers and send you some prayer cards you may use and distribute to others as well.
As a Benefactor
You can make a one-time or a repeating donation to the Diocese of Waterford and Lismore, marking it as a contribution to the Christ on the Street ministry. To do so, please click the “Donate” button at the top of the page and compile the needed information. You may also bring or mail your donation to Bishop’s House, John’s Hill, Waterford.