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Gold Coast priest who slept rough for a night says it’s ‘our business’ to tackle homelessness

Vinnies Sleepout

Sleepout challenge: Fr Stanley Orji took up the Vinnies CEO Sleepout challenge with parishioners Justin Moynihan, Maree Anning, Sharne Lord, Brendan Evans, Pat MacAnally, Keith Richards and Nev Byrnes.

HOMELESSNESS is a growing issue that Burleigh Heads priest Fr Stanley Orji believes the Church needs to address and not just with words.

Fr Orji thinks Catholics need to show solidarity to people who sleep on the streets by living in their shoes.

Last month Fr Orji joined nearly 200 people to “sleep rough” at the Gold Coast Titans rugby league home stadium to raise money for the St Vincent de Paul Society’s work with homeless people.

The Burleigh Heads parish administrator was the third-highest fundraiser on the Gold Coast, raising nearly $15,000 for the society.

He was joined by Burleigh Heads parishioners and members of their local Vinnies conference.

Fr Orji said all of the donations he received were from his Gold Coast parish and its two Catholic primary schools.

In his parish newsletter, Fr Orji recalled what it felt like to wake up to a chilly morning with no roof over his head.

“Looking out from my sleeping cardboard into the day, all I could think of was all the homeless people of the world, who will be homeless yet again today, while I won’t,” Fr Orji wrote.

The 2017 CEO Sleepout is the second time Fr Orji has braved the cold to raise money for the homeless.

Last year he raised $7000 for the Jubilee Catholic parish.

He said going homeless for one night was less about raising the most money and more about bringing a smile on the face of homeless people all across the country.

“My motivation is essentially the understanding that what we do as a Church is nothing if it is not about the hospitality of God,” Fr Orji said.

“Hospitality is not about having a cup of tea after Mass – it goes beyond the confines of the church.
“It is when you see another person in need, not just being concerned for them but doing something about it.

“Bringing a smile to the faces of people, that is the joy of the Gospel.”

Fr Orji said nobody deserved to be homeless and it was the duty of all Christians to make it “our business” to end the crisis.

“Each time I see a person lying on the ground somewhere, I see a person in need of our generosity,” he said.

“Anytime you help someone in need, whether they are homeless or something else, it is showing your unbounded solidarity to all the poor in the world.”

Fr Orji said he didn’t want people to thank him for doing the Sleepout but instead praised his parish and school communities for giving to the fundraiser.

“We did this together as a parish community – and as I once joked ‘I do the sleepout, and you make the donation’,” Fr Orji said.

“It is a way of saying yes to love and a good life for all.”

Written by: Emilie Ng

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