Photo by Dennis Callahan/Archdiocese of San Francisco

Barbecue for the homeless brings joy of giving

By: Mary Powers

On a beautiful, sunshine-filled Saturday, women and men religious representing 11 congregations gathered at Most Holy Redeemer Church on Nov. 13 to serve at the annual barbecue for persons living on the streets of San Francisco. 

The annual event was inaugurated in 2015 by the Council of Religious of the Archdiocese of San Francisco and Presentation Sister Rosina Conrotto, director of the Office for Consecrated Life, during the Year of the Consecrated Life, and it has taken place each year since then with a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. This year the barbecue welcomed 75 guests.

“This annual event is always a highlight among the activities sponsored by the religious of the Archdiocese. Most religious orders were founded to meet the needs of those most vulnerable in society: those who were uneducated, ill, in need of shelter and those on the margins in whatever plight they found themselves. Providing a meal and necessary clothing and hygiene products seemed the best way to honor our founders and to honor the dignity of the guests we served.”

This year’s barbecue guests were directed to the hall at Most Holy Redeemer where they registered, received a $15 gift card and a wooden cross on a cord chain. They then enjoyed a lunch of barbecued hot dogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers, potato salad, chips, cookies and a soft drink. 

“‘Serving the Poor with Dignity,’” commented one volunteer. “This is what I experienced at the barbecue for hungry, homeless people. The tablecloths, placemats and centerpieces made the hall a warm, welcoming environment…Towards the end of the event I had a chance to sit at a table with a few guests and chat with them as equals.  We need these experiences from time to time to realize all we have been given and to see what we can share.”   

After the meal was served, guests walked to garden area where an array of gifts awaited them. Each guest received a re-useable water bottle and a bag to collect the items that were made available to them: socks, sweat shirts and sweat pants, jackets, underwear, blankets, hand knit scarves, pet food, rain ponchos and playing cards.

Most Holy Redeemer Church and its pastor Father Matthew Link, CPPS welcomed both volunteers and guests. Father Matthew was hailed by some as a “pastor to everyone” for his work in supporting the event. One volunteer noted, “He was right there helping any way he could, and was so full of life and joy.”

The guests were also full of joy in not only receiving a meal, but also with the gifts presented after. “One man told me he had expected to receive a lunch, but was so thrilled to also receive clothes,” said a volunteer. “As he held the new sweatpants he exclaimed, ‘This is like going shopping!  I haven’t had new clothes in years!’  Another proclaimed, ‘This winter won’t be as cold with these clothes.’”