Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 12, 2000
Youth out to multiply loaves
Trio spread Gospel in the streets
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
Count the Loaves is a trio of young Catholics hoping to multiply.
The group, whose name is inspired by the story of Jesus feeding thousands with only five loaves of bread and two fish, has more than tripled its numbers at weekly prayer meetings.
"We really had a humble start," said Cherie Limoges, 27, one of the team members. "We thought big, but started small."
Limoges and her former Radway neighbours, Karen Doran, 22, and Lance Paranych, 24, were sitting in a local Dairy Queen last fall when the idea to start a fellowship group took flight. They advertised and held their first meeting at Assumption Church. They expected a crowd. They got a couple of people.
Their next meeting was at the Tim Horton's donut shop on Whyte Avenue. They sat by the window with their Bibles open, discussing their action plan.
"Then this guy walks by and taps on the window," said Limoges.
"So Cherie stuck her Bible right up to the window," said Paranych.
They invited the stranger to chat with them and thus began their ministry - prayer study and street evangelization.
The three of them sat in Limoges' van that evening - the van has since become a meeting room for the group - and planned their next move.
"We wanted to get a house and have prayer meetings with lots of people," Limoges said. "We always thought big."
Since then, the Catholic Renewal Centre downtown has become the place for their Tuesday prayer meetings and Tim Horton's has become their street ministry base camp.
"It's just incredible the grace that God has given us to do this," Paranych said. "God graces us into what to do and say."
The group holds a prayer meeting and fellowship before heading onto the streets. The group averages 10 to 20 people.
When they're on Whyte Avenue, the group hears every Catholic why and what question possible. Some about traditions and teachings. Some about sex and marriage.
"The simplest questions are sometimes the hardest to find answers to," Paranych said.
Limoges added, "No one asks about the seven sacraments. We can answer those right away."
Fielding questions is not the group's only purpose. They try, as Christ would, to be friends to people in need, particularly the street people in the area.
"Our main ministry is to be a listener," Doran said. "(People will) talk and talk forever . . . especially in our world, we've lost that sense of being able to listen to each other. It's really a lost art."
The group will take a couple of months off this summer before starting again in September. Limoges is the only member expected to return. Doran, who works in a day care, has been hired by the John Paul II Bible School in Radway. Paranych hopes to enter St. Joseph's Seminary.
The evangelizing is not without its conflicts. Those they try to befriend have mocked the group. They've been called Satan worshippers. They've sat with panhandlers on street corners and felt the cold shoulders of passersby straining not to make eye contact with them.
They've listened to stories of broken dreams and fond family memories. Not all the tales told to them are sad stories of failures and bleak futures. Many of the street people the group ministers to offer sparks of inspiration.
"They give us more than we give them," Paranych said. "They're teaching us."
When they're on the streets, the group doesn't try to pour the Bible down people's throats. They socialize, they befriend and they listen.
Part of what they are hearing is the weak connection between the Church and its people, particularly its youth.
"I think in a lot of ways, even in our archdiocese, I think there's a generation gap," Paranych said.
The Church today is lacking in a real presence of faith. Paranych and his friends sense this. What is seen more of these days are parishioners going to Sunday Mass, but not living the Word in their lives the rest of the week.
"The youth want to see something real," Paranych said. "Youth are so perceptive, they'll catch everything. They'll see if you're true to your faith or not.
"They don't want it watered down. They want to see a commitment."
Counting the Loaves are as real as it gets. They don't profess their faith only on Sundays. They carry their Bibles with pride and they're happy Christians.
The group meets every Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Catholic Renewal Centre, 9910B-109 St. Call the centre at 428-1601 for more information.