We have been very fortunate to partner with the Conventual Franciscan’s formation program for the past several years. Once a week, the current postulants come to St. Joseph’s to give service and to pray with us. Each postulant has their own unique story. They have graciously shared some of their stories with us, which we will post on our blog over the next few weeks.
Kyle Gregg hails from Louisiana. He has a Masters in Philosophy and Theology. Kyle has joined the Franciscans because he loves the charisms of simplicity, humility, and care for creation. During the Christmas break, the postulants had additional opportunities to serve. Several went back to the province that they will serve after vows, and had the opportunity to see the Franciscans at work. Kyle Gregg chose this time to do something very brave and unique. His courage has taught him lessons about life he would never learn in a classroom.
Living in a Tent City
By Kyle Gregg, Postulant
During the cold snap in late January in Chicago, a Good Samaritan named Candice Payne reserved hotel rooms for 70 homeless people. Candice had heard that the homeless population beside the Dan Ryan Expressway and Roosevelt Avenue no longer had a means of staying warm after the police confiscated all their gas heaters (because one of them had exploded). The largest tent city is located there, composed mostly of young men, but also a few families. I visited them and stayed with them a few nights in December. I arrived on a Monday morning to find only one inhabitant, George from Puerto Rico, who introduced himself as the” mayor”. After sharing with George a new pair of wool socks that I had brought with me, I asked him whether I could stay a while in the city. He was happy to have me and showed me where I could set up my tent, he even offered to find a bigger one, but I told him that I was just passing through and that what I had would suffice. The first night, I was miserable – the sound of cars was ceaseless, it was roughly 30 degrees at night. In the morning, before 6 a.m. I went to St. Peter’s in the Loop to warm up and attend Masses until it was time for the Harold Washington Library to open. The library is also frequented by homeless people during the day, not only because it offers internet and computers, but more importantly because it is warm. The second night, I slept well because I was exhausted. Several nights followed, until I reasoned, perhaps too hastily, that I had done enough, that whatever amount of solidarity I desired, I had achieved.
What is remarkable about the Candice Payne story which appeared not only in the Chicago Tribune, but also in other national media outlets, is the level of compassion she felt for those people, whose names she did not know, whose stories she never had heard. I know these 70 homeless people; I met some of them. I shared meals with them that other charitable people would pull off the side of the road to give to us. Despite my experience, I did not respond the way Candice did to their needs. Candice charged these hotel rooms to her own American Express credit card (she later received her money back after other donors responded to the news coverage). I have so much to learn from her example, and from the kind men and women who live in this tent city.