Bishop joins Friars in welcoming homeless to Christmas lunch

This week, Bishop Alan Williams will be joining some homeless people for a Christmas lunch hosted by the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (above) in East London. The Friars operate from St. Fidelis Friary in Canning Town. The single-story building was once used as a youth club by nearby St. Margaret’s Catholic Church, and is not far from the banks of the River Thames in the heart of the East End.

One of the Friars’ apostolic missions is to serve the materially poor, most especially the destitute and homeless. By living in poor neighbourhoods, running homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and youth programmes, friars strive to fulfil the command of the gospel and St. Francis to live among the poor, providing for their physical and spiritual needs.

​At the Canning Town centre, they minister to the needs of the homeless through a building attached to the Friary, calling it Friar Benet’s Kitchen. Fr Antonio, Director of Friar Benet’s Kitchen, says on Tuesdays and Thursdays the Kitchen serves a hot lunchtime meal, provides an opportunity to shower, get a haircut, and on Wednesdays, visitors can pick up some new clothes. Once a week the homeless are able to receive free care from a nurse and each month a foot care specialist is available. “On average, we give out about 50 meals including takeaways at each session,” he says. “There is a lot of need here.”

He is looking forward to the Christmas meal. “The Christmas turkey with all the trimmings will be preceded by carols and there will be presents for those attending, donated by a number of parishes.”

Bishop Thomas McMahon, Bishop Emeritus of Brentwood, who welcomed the Friars to the Diocese more than 20 years ago, normally attends the festivities with Bishop Alan but is unable to make it this year. However, his small parish of Stock have been collecting foodstuffs throughout Advent for the Friars’ kitchen. “Two parishioners delivered the donations and a cheque for £400 last Sunday,” he says. “We collected for Caritas Anchor House before Advent as well. Like everyone else, we focus on the homeless at this time of year.”

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