Helping the homeless is seeing face of Jesus

By Joyce Duriga | Editor
Thursday, January 3, 2019

Guadalupe shrine holds annual party for the homeless

Caridades de la Cruz (Charities of the Cross) held its fifth-annual fair and Christmas party for area homeless on the grounds of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines on Dec. 22. Caridades de la Cruz is an ongoing ministry of shrine parishioners to the homeless. Over 100 volunteers offered food, clothing, showers and haircuts and round-trip transportation to 125 of the area’s homeless All participants received a pair of winter boots. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Yosamer Escalante and Antonia Castro cut hair during the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Miriam Jasso and Georgina Chavez serve food during the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A man stops to pray by a statue of Mary during the event. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A group sings Christmas carols during the event as guests eat lunch. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Several groups of dancers wait to perform for the guests. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Young dancers perform for the guests. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A man enjoys the music of the young performers. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
A woman enjoys the music of the young performers. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Young dancers perform for the guests. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

For a group of parishioners at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Des Plaines, ministering to people who are homeless is all about building relationships and sharing the love of Jesus.

“Caridades y Cruz” (“Charity of the Cross”) began five years ago as an outreach to the homeless. Adult and youth volunteers pack up food every two weeks and adult volunteers distribute it to those living in shelters, on the street and in parks in areas such as Pilsen, Berwyn, Cicero and Des Plaines.

“The most important thing for us is to see Jesus in our brothers and sisters who are homeless,” said organizer Edwin Hernandez. “We are showing them that we care for them and Jesus Christ is with them too.”

Since they often visit the same people each week, volunteers have formed friendships with those they help.

Twice a year, in summer and winter, Caridades y Cruz brings those they serve to the shrine for a fair and party. On Dec. 22, they hosted a Christmas party at the shrine’s multipurpose center. Guests were treated to free haircuts, showers, clothing, a hot meal and entertainment from singers and dancers. Each guest also received a pair of winter boots.

This year, a donor provided three school buses to pick up their guests. In the past, volunteers used their own vehicles to bring the guests to the shrine.

Volunteers from parishes around Joliet, Chicago and Rockford join Caridades y Cruz for the fairs and parties, which serve about 115 people.

“We found how important it is that they [the homeless] get to know you, because once you enter into their space, it’s a whole different experience to work with those who are homeless,” said Father Esequiel Sanchez, rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“The party came out of the idea that we’re always going to their home, so we said, ‘Come to our home. Everyone should deserve a happy Christmas.’”

It’s important to have young people involved in the ministry too, Sanchez said.

“They’re learning how to be charitable. They’re learning how to give,” he said. “When you think about helping those in need you think about only serving food. Here, it’s encouraging the heart. They need inspiration too. They need a smile too, especially the smile of a young person.”

Melvin Nolasco, 13, volunteers with his family and attests that it’s more than just serving food to those in need.

“They help us more. They teach us more lessons that we could teach them,” Nolasco said. “They teach us that we should never give up. It’s cold outside but they aren’t giving up.”

Alexandra Cornejo agrees. She volunteers every two weeks to distribute food.

“We usually get more than we give. These people are amazing,” Cornejo said. “These people maybe don’t have anything but give us words that can help in our lives.”

The connection is real and many of those they serve look for the volunteers to come.

“I know most of the people here and I feel so happy to see them here,” she said. “We have to share what we have. It’s important to not just receive.”

While those they serve may not have money, they have lots in their hearts, Nolasco said.

“They have a bigger faith than we do. They show us many things.”


  • shrine of our lady of guadalupe
  • homelessness

Related Articles