The Common Good
April 2005

Toronto Blessing

by Rose Marie Berger, Mark Betz | April 2005

When Father Roberto Ubertino blessed his Orthodox parishioners'

When Father Roberto Ubertino blessed his Orthodox parishioners’ homes with holy water during the January Feast of Theophany (which marks the baptism of Jesus), he ducked under a bridge to bless the tarp-and-sleeping-bag shelter of Tom, a homeless man who attends Ubertino’s Toronto, Ontario, parish. "God meets us wherever we are," Oksana Sushko told Sojourners. Sushko works with Ubertino at St. John the Compassionate Mission and accompanied him on the visit. "We want to live as Christians and meet our brothers or sisters wherever they are, under a bridge or in a mansion."

Nearly half of St. John’s guests are homeless or severely underhoused. Following its patron saint’s teaching - "The poor are our masters" - St. John’s creates community and offers respite from the streets by serving 2,000 meals each month, operating a thrift store, providing pastoral counseling, and employing guests in a bakery that sells organic artisan breads to higher-end health food stores. For Sushko, this active ministry enacts the love of Christ. "Our prayers are ongoing," she said, "but it’s the life we’re living that will hopefully shine the light."

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