Updated: Feb 24
"The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire labourers for his vineyard. After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. Going out about nine o'clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace and he said to them, 'You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.' So they went off...[And] he went out again around noon, and around three o'clock, and did likewise. Going out about five o'clock, he found others standing around, and said to them, 'Why do you stand here idle all day?' They answered, 'Because no one has hired us.' He said to them. 'You too go into my vineyard.' When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, 'Summon the labourers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first..." (Matthew 20: 1-3, 5-8)
The Shoe Box campaign was inspired by an apostolate of Regnum Christi Ontario called the Missionary Families. These families go out with the Sisters of the Poor of Jesus Christ and offer a hot meal to the homeless of the streets of Hamilton every Friday night. They also work with St. Vincent the Paul and sponsor families in need. The experience of going out to the streets and feeding the hungry was transformative for those that have experienced it. The Holy Spirit touched members of Regnum Christi who were part of the Missionary Families.
The Shoe Box campaign was born out of love for our neighbour. This initiative led to collaborating with a parish community. This partnership generated approximately 150 boxes filled with toiletries and $10 Tim Horton gift cards. Included in each box was also a letter from the missionary expressing Jesus’ love for the homeless and how they matter to our Lord and to us as a larger family of Christ.
Along with the shoebox, the scarf campaign was also initiated. This was intended to keep the homeless warm this winter. At the start of the call for this craft, many got busy with their knitting needles and wool to create a scarf for those in need. This initiative was also a success. Approximately 100 homemade scarves were made and donated.
On November 27th, 40 people gathered at St. Mary’s Parish in Hamilton to offer their time, energy, and spirit to bring Jesus Christ to the homeless on the streets. Five missionary groups led by a group leader took to the streets to meet their brothers and sisters in need. There were young people, families with young children, couples, and priests involved in this mission walk. All intended to share the love of Christ to those they encountered.
Prior to setting out on the mission, we congregated in the chapel to listen to a testimony from our young adult leader, Michael Aguiar.
After his heart felt talk to prepare us on our mission, we prayed the ECYD prayer:
I give you my hands to do your work.
I give you my feet to follow your path.
I give you my eyes to see as you see.
I give you my tongue to speak your words.
I give you my mind so that you can think in me.
I give you my spirit so you can pray in me.
Above all I give you my heart so in me you can love your Father and all people.
I give you my whole self so you can grow in me, till it is you, Christ, who live and work and pray in me. Amen.
Father Louis, ended our time in the chapel with a Blessing “Go on mission!!!!”.
The groups set out into their designated locations where local knowledge suggested the homeless gather. Those that finished early went on the streets in search of more people to give their boxes to. The mission day ended with the missionaries participating in St. Mary’s 5 pm parish mass.
A glow was recognizable on the faces of the missionaries. The young children who joined the mission expressed a “knowing” about the human condition. They are persons with beating hearts and souls. Circumstances in life may have led them to their situation. They are still children of God. That afternoon, God gave us an opportunity to bring Him to His people on the streets.
The Heart of the Shoebox
Our family has filled many shoeboxes with small, purchased items over the years. This one, however, was special as I was able to put a little of myself into the shoebox. The heart of our box was the Christmas card with a handwritten note and the homemade scarf.
It had been over 35 years since I had knit anything. So, with brand-new needles and five balls of wool in hand, I watched a YouTube video on how to complete the “long tail cast on” and I was on my way. With every stich, I thought about the challenges faced by the homeless and how they are heightened during the winter months. I prayed that my simple & humble scarf would help keep someone warm this winter and show them that they truly matter; that they are loved.
When I was almost done my second scarf, I dropped a stich without realizing it. Noticing that the scarf was a little narrower, I had to choose between undoing about 10 cm or just finishing it. My scarf was nothing special, no fancy stiches or tassels, and the tension wasn’t perfect, but I wanted to put as much love as I could into it. So, I ripped out that section and corrected my mistake.
Knitting the scarves allowed me the opportunity to live out my faith in a small yet concrete way.
“Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
With thanks to the shoebox organizers for making this possible.
Our Newfound Friends
A missionary spirit filled our hearts. We left St. Mary’s church with a blessing from Fr. Louis, and a van full of shoeboxes, scarves, toques and lunches, (knitted, filled and prepared by many loving hands, but that’s another story).
We were assigned a tent area a block away, where we met Mike. Mike hadn’t eaten in a couple of days, he said. He so enjoyed the first sandwich and asked for a second one. As I handed him a paper napkin, I was grateful my husband had included them in each lunch bag. I asked Mike if he had a favorite prayer and he said he just talks to God in his own words, so we gave thanks to Our Lord for the tasty sandwich. Mike asked if we had an extra pair of gloves, (thank God one of the missionaries, brought extra gloves), because those he was wearing belonged to a buddy of his and he wanted to return them.
Meanwhile, another friend came out of a tent and joined the conversation. He was upset, as a “buddy” of his died of hypothermia, “just outside the mission” two days ago, and was only 29 years old.
As winter sets in, the tent camp was sparsely inhabited, so our newfound friends helped us, by giving us directions to a Men’s shelter a block away.
There were a couple of men outside the shelter. As I approached the man on the wheelchair and asked him if he could guess who sent us, he said “Jesus Christ sent you, of course.” We took a picture of him and the shoebox, while his eyes lit up.
Not far from us a young man wearing earphones looked curious and approached us. As we greeted him, he took off his earphones and was struggling to communicate with us. Then we understood, he was deaf and mute and originally from Rwanda. He showed me his phone, adapted for his physical challenges. He’d texted something in his native language and was automatically translated on the screen in English. He was attending a nearby college and developing his writing skills, he wants to become a professional writer. In the meantime, he’s staying in the Mission since he has no family here.
Such joy!!!! At every nod, and every smile, he would come alive with joy and sounded some words with his mouth. I kept assuring him I could understand him, and he continued sharing.
“Ask and it will be given to you." As I turned around, one of our missionaries was attracting a lot of attention. She was giving away miraculous medals and some of our newfound friends were wearing them around their necks in a second. A man was still mourning the loss of his departed mother and kept asking if we were angels. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” As I handed a small package with a rosary to another man, he wanted written instructions, because although he was raised Protestant, he would read the instructions and pray, once he got to his room. His wish was granted.
A young man came out and said he liked scarves, so a warm handmade scarf was given to him and was told someone was thinking of him while knitting this scarf. He was so happy, he posed for a picture. We talked and laughed with him. He wanted to be known as the “scarf man”. As we were leaving, he knocked the car window and said he’d give it away in a heartbeat if he met someone who needed it more than him. Such generous heart!
At this point we were left with shoeboxes for women and again, these men at the shelter helped us find our way to the Women’s shelter. Their doors had double security, codes, etc. “Knock and it shall be opened to you.” The workers at the shelter were ever so grateful to receive such an abundance of much needed supplies and warm items for their guests.
While our husbands were unloading the van, we struck a conversation with a woman outside the shelter. Her hands were swollen and purple from the cold, and her fingers revealed deep wounds. I ripped the bag and labels off the gloves, and put them on her, as she couldn’t bend her numb fingers. She was so happy and excited, as she told us her story. She moved from Toronto to Hamilton. She kept saying: “May God bless you.” So, we asked her to pray with us. As she was making the sign of the cross, she wanted to be reassured she was doing it the right way. So much reverence! She led the “Our Father” and told us we were beautiful inside and out. We asked her a favor, to pray for us and she happily promised she would.
Lord, great is your love, beyond every horizon!
Daniela Dalla Via
A Day of Blessing
On November 27th our family’s hearts were inspired and deeply touched while visiting the tent communities and mission houses for the homeless in Hamilton with Regnum Christi members.
We took to the streets in small groups to meet and talk with individuals who welcomed us warmly and with a beautiful humility. Bearing gift boxes, food and clothing items for cold weather, it seemed we received so much more from the genuine demeanor of these people. As we shared a simple prayer with many, they opened our eyes with their stories. It struck us profoundly how they accepted us without judgment, free of bitterness, readily expressing gratitude and openness to the presence of Jesus and Mother Mary in their lives.
We have much to learn from these brothers and sisters. In the midst of unprecedented “worldly complexities”, God has called us together, revealing the power of His goodness, beauty and mercy through simplicity.
Thanks to the organizing team for preparing a wonderful mission for all… and to St. Mary Parish for hosting and welcoming us to their awesome church and Holy Mass!
Chris, Mary Jean and Dana Belford
From the Mouths of Babes
My husband Dave, our two youngest boys and I participated for the very first time in this mission walk. We didn’t know what to expect and we tried to prepare our children for what they might see and how they should respond. We attempted to impart to them that we should be respectful and instructed them to save any questions that might arise for afterwards on our ride home.
We were amazed at how engaged our boys were, wanting to carry shoe boxes, and be the one’s to hand out candy canes to the homeless we encountered.
At one point some of the members of our group stopped to speak with a gentleman on the street. We didn’t want to overwhelm him as our group was large at this point. So, a few of us waited a few feet away. As we waited, we attempted to determine who else we could approach, basically who appeared to be a homeless person from those walking the streets of downtown Hamilton.
Our 6-year-old son, Jeremy said, “It’s hard to tell who the homeless people are, they look just like us.”
It struck me how profound those words were. He recognized their dignity, we are all children of God, and the homeless could be any one of us.
On the way home, our 10-year-old son, Andrew had many questions. It seemed he could not wrap his head around how one could live on the street. “What happens when it gets cold? How do they perform basic human tasks we all need to do? Why aren’t there more people helping them?”
They were hard hitting questions. We could scarcely answer without having to share brutal realities. In the end he shared, it was a day full of lessons, to appreciate all we have.
Indeed, we learned so much that day. We were touched by the homeless who offered prayers of thanksgiving for us and by the expressions our children shared.
Thank you to all who organized this day and generously gave to make it possible.