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‘The Church is the people of God’, drop-in Mass for homeless an opportunity to worship

Real treasure: Men and women have turned their lives around thanks to members of Catholic outreach Blind Eye Ministries, led by Roby Curtis (front centre) and chaplain Fr Tony Girvan (front left).

BLIND Eye homeless shelter in South Brisbane will host a monthly Sunday Mass during 2019, establishing itself as a bona fide Church for the people.

“Pope Francis asks us to be a Church that is ‘poor for the poor’, and this is a response here in Brisbane,” Blind Eye Ministries centre manager Eddie Murray said. 

Mr Murray, who is one of the many Catholics who serve at the drop-in centre, said the strong sense of belonging and inclusiveness at the Blind Eye Mass highlighted the spirit of Jesus.

“It’s an opportunity to worship in the modern charismatic expression in a location which has a strong identity in reaching out to the poor in Brisbane,” he said.

The monthly Mass is aptly named “Home” – a word Blind Eye chaplain Fr Tony Girvan said was symbolic.

“I think why I like the Blind Eye Mass is that it wasn’t just a home for the regular Church community,” Fr Girvan said.

“It’s a home for the homeless and for the people who don’t have a regular Church community.

“I kind of work from a model that the Church is the people.

“It’s not the building, it’s not the structure – they have the name Church, but that’s not really the Church.

“The Church is the people of God.

“I don’t think that we are more authentically ‘Church’ than when we gather with no distinctions – powerful and weak, rich and poor, popular and lonely.”

When Jesus broke bread with His disciples at the Last Supper, He too chose a humble environment, surrounded by wounded and broken disciples – a parallel that isn’t lost on Fr Girvan.

“The words of the Gospel say that when he broke the bread he gave it to his disciples,” he said. “All of them were broken. One of them betrayed him, one of them denied him, all of them abandoned him.

“It says he gave it to his disciples, which I think includes all of us, draws all of us into it, all of his followers who gather around that table, share that Last Supper, in an eternal feast that continues for all time, whenever we gather.”

Fr Girvan, who is also a prison chaplain in south east Queensland, is no stranger to the downtrodden.

“Jesus says that when you throw a feast, don’t just invite your friends who can pay you back, but invite those who can’t pay you back,” he said.

“Go out on the street corners and gather the lonely, the lost, the outcasts – people who can’t pay you back – and then your reward will be great in Heaven.

“It’s not just for the elite of our society, but it’s for all people.”

Several of Blind Eye’s visitors will participate in the Mass as altar servers, ushers and event staff – something Fr Girvan said was “awesome”.

“Street people set up the venue and get it ready for the celebration,” he said.

“They are very included and there are a number of them there.

“There are even some people I knew in prison working the celebration, which I think is awesome.

“These people may not necessarily feel comfortable within the local parish, so it’s good to be able to have a place where they can experience Church.

“They can experience the Eucharist in an environment that, for them, is home.”

The next Home Mass will be on Sunday, March 17 at Blind Eye at 5pm.

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