Rosies Friends on the Street volunteer and Surfers Paradise parishioner Robyn Hunt had the opportunity to work with seminarian Humphrey Obasi, from Brisbane’s Holy Spirit Provincial Seminary, as they ministered to the Gold Coast’s homeless. She writes that the experience was valuable on many levels.
TWENTY-six-year-old Humphrey Obasi arrived in Australia about 18 months ago from southern Nigeria to continue his studies for the priesthood, leaving behind his heartbroken mother, sick father and three brothers.
Humphrey, with about two years to ordination, was sent by the seminary to the Surfers Paradise parish for his 2013 Advent placement to experience life in a parish community.
We started with a night outreach to Southport and Surfers Paradise, meeting the usual Friday-night Rosies team at the drop-in centre at 6pm to assist preparations, then travelling with them in the Rosies bus to a park in Southport.
About 25 homeless men and women serenaded with Christmas carols us on our arrival.
Later, when I checked to find out how he was going, Humphrey was sitting in the gutter with a homeless man having an animated conversation, both of them looking like they were enjoying the experience.
After about an hour, we set off for Surfers Paradise and met more homeless people waiting for us on the beach front at the top of Trickett Street.
Hot food left in the Rosies van was gratefully received and we stood around for another hour just chatting, laughing and enjoying a cuppa together.
On the Monday, Humphrey and I were off to a lunch outreach in the park at Southport, serving out the food supplied by the Crown Plaza Hotel.
There were about 50 to 60 men and women who arrived for lunch.
Humphrey’s job was to serve the drinks and chat with the patrons.
By now he was being recognised by the homeless who had been at the Friday-night outreach and they were coming up specifically to have a chat and a joke with him.
A courthouse outreach was among other events Humphrey attended during his Advent placement.
Rosies have a small room to serve coffee, tea and a cake to those people – homeless, court attendees, barristers and court officials – who are involved in the court process for the day.
All sorts of people come in to relax and have a chat, to calm their nerves, get moral support or just sit among friends.
The Rosies team on that day were a scream – so loud, so inquisitive, so funny, and so curious about Humphrey and why he would want to be a priest.
They also asked where he had come from, how many brothers and sisters he had, did he go to the gym, and many questions about some of their doubts and anxieties with their own faith.
Humphrey was introduced to all and sundry who came in and everyone was given his story.
He was serenaded by one woman solicitor with the Humphrey B Bear tune together with a little dance to accompany it, and he shared a couple of jokes with one of the male solicitors.
Next Humphrey and I, together with my daughter Melissa and two grandsons, Kobe and Bredon, attended and helped 20 or so other Rosies volunteers at the annual Rosies Christmas on the Street celebrations.
There, we fed and entertained 250 homeless, marginalised, and socially and mentally challenged men, women and children.
Dawn Crichlow, from the Gold Coast City Council, arranged for us to use the community hall in Southport, free of charge for the Christmas lunch.
Food donations, including roast turkey, chicken, pork and ham with all the trimmings, came from various hotels, clubs and restaurants around the Gold Coast.
The parish choir also came along, entertaining everyone with Christmas carols as it has been doing for about eight years.
Humphrey and I had our last outreach on the Monday night before Christmas where, together with other volunteers, we took the last opportunity to share with our friends before Christmas.
We decorated the van (and ourselves) and brought food and a sense of family and community to those less fortunate than ourselves.
It was a privilege to share with this wonderful man, Humphrey Obasi, his hopes and dreams for the future as a priest, to share his story and to share with him why I am driven and challenged by the words of Jesus in the Gospel – “I was hungry and you fed me, lonely and you gave me comfort …”
The volunteers at Rosies are ever grateful for Humphrey’s presence during those couple of weeks.
For someone so young he brought with him such a willingness to share himself with all of us on a personal and spiritual level.
Humphrey has indicated it has been a most enriching and humbling experience for him to walk for a short time with the homeless.
We wish him every blessing in the coming years towards ordination and the future and will keep him and his family, in our prayers.