Ministry for Homeless Restored in Brownsville Immaculate Cathedral

Brownsville, TX

By Fr. Nicholas Harding, OMI, Photos by Claudia and Manuel Miguel Roberts 

Fr. Nicholas Harding and his parish volunteers begin another night of handing out food to Brownsville homeless

Years ago Fr Mike Amesse, OMI, developed an extensive service to those living on the streets of downtown Brownsville.  It was suspended, mostly due to the Covid pandemic.  Since Lent of 2023 the parish has resurrected this outreach with the name “Cristo en la Calle” (Christ in the Street) referring as a double entendre to the people in the street being Christ disguised (Matthew 25: 31-45) and also that the lay people with the Oblates represent Christ’s presence.  One elderly lady Angelina recently told us, “I feel I do not exist, but when you come it makes me feel I exist.”

Having received her dinner, this lady in a wheelchair prays with Fr. Nicholas

The visits consist in offering sandwiches, fruit and water, prayer, friendship. If we encounter refugees on the way, we orient them to our parish respite center in the gym. However, the main focus and priority are those who live long-term on the sidewalks and in alleys:  having substance abuse issues, mental illness (and not taking medications), or without any income or family. For example, one elderly lady came from California and is stuck here after her money and IDs were stolen.

The ministry begins 8:30 pm with a prayer and then walking with red wagons loaded with sandwiches prepared by rotating groups.

Fr. Nick and his troops pose with their wagons of food and water prior to starting their rounds
Ready with coolers of sandwiches, bottled water and fruit, the group prays prior to beginning their rounds feeding street people.
The group moves from place to place, wherever the needy are gathered
Claudia Roberts serves water and a sandwich
Fr. Nicholas chats with this man as he begins his meal
Migrants are held behind bars in the bus station until they can get on a bus.
A little boy reaches through the bars for an orange offered by a volunteer. Fr. Nick describes the scene like this: “The City of Brownsville has some refugees at bus terminal inaccessible except for giving water (not supposed to give sandwiches)”
After handing out food, Fr. Nick offers a blessing
A parishioner took this photo of a news story about the outreach he saw online
Fr. Nick and volunteers stop to feed and pray in another part of downtown Brownsville
Parishioners, Claudia and Manuel Miguel Roberts are with Fr. Nick as they minister to this gentleman