Welcome To My Neighbourhood

Source: Sister Susan Moran,n, Co-Founder "Out of the Colc."

One morning twenty years ago walking up Bay Street approaching Bloor in Toronto, I spotted a man lying in the snow. Moving closer I saw Sister Susan Moran kneeling beside him on the icy sidewalk. It was an exceptionally bitter cold winter morning. When I passed I could hear Susan asking how she could help.

Upon witnessing this beautiful work of mercy, I could feel tears forming. My thoughts ranged from, 1) look at what she’s able to do while I am pre-occupied with the cold wind on my face, to 2) how did this unfortunate soul end up on the street? I sometimes reflect on Susan’s witness that day when I meet homeless people.

  Since we live downtown, there are a variety of homeless people obviously distressed, and sometimes acting out in anger. Frequently I hear a voice screaming profanities, often in a violent psychotic state. Most of the time I’m not frightened, but I have learned to be cautious not to inflame the person with a response which could escalate an already negative experience for both of us.

Rather than judging them with thoughts of why don’t they take their psychiatric medication, or why do they have to be there when I’m just walking down my street, I have lately adopted a new response; I pray for them. My prayer goes something like, “Lord Jesus, help this person, may they receive housing and social supports.” Also, I always say, “Lord, Jesus have mercy on me for I am a sinful man.”

When I pray for them critical judgement ceases, gratitude to God increases, and fear is dispelled. When they are not yelling angrily I have brought food to some beggars, and invited others to join me at a local coffee shop.

As a retired social worker who has an interest in marginalized persons I witness deficient government action to create appropriate social housing in Canada’s largest city. There’s money for C35 fighter jets which cost millions, but when it comes to looking after some of the neediest human beings, it’s always an uphill advocacy process to deal with our homeless brothers and sisters.

Susan Moran’s kneeling in the frosty bitter ice points the way to the Jesus hidden in our midst. She was a member of Our Lady’s Missionaries and received the Order of Canada in 2006 for her work with the homeless. She entered eternal life in 2017.

Lord, show me what you want me to do. 

John Montague earned his Master of Divinity from Regis College, University of Toronto. He is an active member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. He has a Master of Social Work, and, until his retirement, provided counselling to individuals, couples, and families. For seventeen years he organized a Day of Reflection for Catholic parents of lesbian daughters, gay sons, and transgendered children.

  • Paul Baker
    Posted at 07:20h, 12 February Reply

    John, thanks for sharing your encounters with homeless persons in your neighbour hood. Your experience is similar to my own encounters. As I passed the homeless person, I would say, “Lord, have mercy”. We have good news from the Government of Canada. The Ministry of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion has just appointed Marie-Josée Houle as Canada’s first-ever Federal Housing Advocate. (Source: Vote Housing Campaign February 10th email)

  • Lorraine Majcen
    Posted at 09:59h, 12 February Reply

    Thank you for sharing your memories of Sr Susan Moran. I remember her for her humility. She epitomized compassion and love for the marginalized, and was a modern day Mother Teresa, who I admired for her courage and grace.

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 10:37h, 12 February Reply

    Thank you very much John!

  • Noreen Kearns
    Posted at 12:10h, 12 February Reply

    I lived with Susan Moran OLM. We shared many communal activities together. Susan’s street friends would somehow arrive at our Clarendon House at that time an upper class Toronto neighborhood front door begging for food. Another example Susan’s friend Mr.Martin lived in the Guest Room in the basement apartment and the best memory of all was Mr. Martin sat at Christmas Dinner at the head of the table grubby and dirty but very happy and included. Cheers Susan. Sr. N.K. OLM

  • Grace C.
    Posted at 12:52h, 12 February Reply

    Thank you for this inspiring and consoling reflection, John

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