A group of Catholic young adults gathered at the central clock inside Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan last Wednesday evening not to catch a train but to exit the terminal on foot, in twos and threes, to befriend people in need on the street.
Kaitlyn Colgan of the archdiocesan Young Adult Outreach Office, which sponsors the monthly charitable endeavor, was the first to arrive at the famed clock Aug. 21. She stood below it, smiling and holding a sign to help guide newcomer volunteers to the group. Next to her were three boxes of large pizzas she had just purchased for the volunteers to distribute to impoverished people around the station’s perimeter who may not have eaten a meal that day.
The monthly homeless outreach evening, titled “You Did It To Me,” is taken from the Gospel of Matthew 25:31-40. On this night, volunteers were asked to bring socks, other apparel and toiletries to offer anyone in need.
The emphasis of this Young Adult Outreach mission is time spent in affable conversation, making eye contact and a charitable connection, rather than quickly delivering dinners or sundries, one after the other, without much direct interaction.
Dan McGarry, 25, a member of St. Joseph’s parish in Greenwich Village, was among a trio of volunteers who began their mission by exiting the terminal they had just entered. McGarry, who works in tech sales, shared that he hoped “just to show charity to people who go through their day-to-day feeling invisible. As homeless people, a lot of these folks on the street feel as people pass them by that they’re not really valued as human beings so really the goal is to show them that they are loved and that they are cared for.”
Joining McGarry were Sheyla Curtis, 27, a nanny who attends St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Manhattan, and Brianna Mangat, 22, a member of Holy Innocents parish in Manhattan who works in advertising sales.
Their first stop was just outside the terminal doors, where Felipe, age 65, was sitting on the sidewalk with his back against the building. The three greeted Felipe kindly and asked him about himself. He graciously accepted their offer of some pizza slices and a new pair of socks, as well as personal care items and a prayer.
Felipe’s mother, Mercedes, had died just last month, he sadly told them, and he asked them to remember her in prayer.
Before the hour was up, McGarry, Ms. Curtis and Ms. Mangat also met Jeremiah, 54, as they made their way back to the terminal. He was sitting on a rope near the entrance that was suspended among a row of barriers between the street and the terminal. Jeremiah accepted the remainder of the pizza as he was handed the large pizza box.
“I’m just hoping and praying that God will open a way for me,” Jeremiah said.
He explained that he lives in a shelter—“in my shelter, a shelter in the Bronx—the bridge.”
Ms. Curtis assured Jeremiah that if he ever wonders if anyone was thinking about him, “the answer is yes. We always are praying for you.”
Ms. Mangat asked if he wanted a Divine Mercy prayer card, which he also accepted.
As they were leaving, Jeremiah made it a point to share what their visit meant to him. “It was a pleasure.”
Although McGarry and Ms. Curtis had participated with the Young Adult Outreach office’s homeless ministry before, it was a first with this group for Ms. Mangat, although she had participated with other groups before. She planned to return for the group’s next homeless outreach at Grand Central Terminal.
Asked why she committed her evening for the cause, Ms. Mangat said, “Like every person we talked to,” it “was Jesus sitting there. And He’ll remember us. And He’ll ask us, why didn’t you do this more?”
All eight volunteers reconvened at the central clock to discuss with Ms. Colgan what they had just experienced, and to pray for those they had encountered, before calling it a night.
“Thank you for this opportunity to be here tonight,” Ms. Colgan said as she led the volunteers in a closing prayer. “We thank you for giving us the chance to get to meet these people and to get to talk to them. And we pray that not only were we able to help them in any way that we might have been able to…we pray that we are also able to be affected by meeting these people, that we’re able to learn from them and take that into our lives as we go out.”
The last portion of the prayer was a remembrance by name of those they had just met, and the loved ones for whom they had asked the volunteers to pray.
“Lord, we just ask you to watch over Ari, James, Benjamin, Felipe, Alan, James, Chris, Jeremiah, Mercedes and Veronica.”
Of the young adult volunteers who selflessly made time on a weekday summer night to reach out to the less fortunate, Ms. Colgan said, “Eight people who, on a Wednesday night after work, after they’ve already had a long day, want to come here and give something of themselves to somebody else, it warms my heart.”