Thursday, February 18, 2010

Starting Lent: A Homeless Persons Memorial Vigil

Lent and Advent are a alike in many ways. Both are times for preparation and prayer, reflection and simplicity, and spiritual growth and conversion, and solidarity with the poor.

That's why the first reflection I am posting during the Lenten season is about an event that actually occurred during this past Advent season: the annual march & vigil remembering the homeless men and women who lost their lives over the past year.  The vigil took place on Dec. 10, 2009.

My wife Karen, who is a Client Advocate at St. Martin's Hospitality Center in Albuquerque, takes great pains every year to put together the most comprehensive list for the vigil so that no one is forgotten.

Then a wonderful group of dedicated people who serve the homeless community, in partnership with some of the members of that community, put together a ceremony of rememberance.

Below is the clip from KOB Channel 4 News in Albuquerque.   Like most news clips, you don't get the whole story. (And there is a commercial before the segment).

But below the video is great a reflection on the vigil through the eyes of Ana Leite Powell, who is originally from Fortaleza, Brazil.  She is also on the staff of Martin's.

In her blog, Coluna da Milk, Ana Cristina Leite Powell writes about the Albuquerque Persons Homeless Vigil 

Rather than translate the entire piece, I am reprinting just a few loosely translated excerpts.  Read full post in Portuguese
The death rate among people who do not have a permanent home is much higher than among the general population.  And the causes of death are so incredible.  A person who lives on the street can die quickly from the flu or viral pneumonia.  We have clients who freeze to death, and others are victims of random violence...

Before the vigil, people gather at the patio of Healthcare for the Homeless...Participants prepare to walk through downtown to the church.  My job, along with other St. Martin's staff people, was to organize this walk...When we arrived at the church, we all received a candle.  Some of the candles had the name of one of the persons we were remembering. This year, there were 66 people who died on the street.  Some of them were our clients, including an 18-year-old. 

The ceremony inside the church was very beautiful, including the opening comments by a minister...the music...the poetry...I cried a lot...especially when they played the song In My Life by the Beatles, and also when a Native American sang some songs from the Sioux tradition.

After all this, we lit the candles in the name of each person and read his or her name out loud.  Then there was a moment of silence when we all blew out the candles at the same time.  This was a very intense moment!

The vigil ended with all of us singing We Shall Overcome.   I cried again.

My thoughts at the moment were that there was nothing better than ending my work year with a ceremony like this one: walking alongside our clients, listening to what they had to tell us, singing and praying together, and celebrating the memory of of those who lived anonymously in the streets of Albuquerque.

Oh my God, I am crying again as I write this. (Sighs)  :)

No comments: