Blessing prayers offered for the new overnight warm-up location at St. Mary Parish Hall in Saskatoon

Salvation Army Major Gordon Taylor (left), one of the coordinators of the overnight warm-up location opening at St. Mary Parish Hall in Saskatoon, prayed with St. Mary pastor Fr. Kevin McGee during a blessing celebration Dec. 3, 2023. (Photo by Myron Rogal)

Leaders and dignataries from a number of project partners participated in the prayer service held the day before the new overnight warm-up location opened in St. Mary Parish Hall in Saskatoon’s core neighbourhood. (Photo by Myron Rogal)

By Myron Rogal, Office of Justice and Peace, Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon

On the first Sunday of Advent 2023, a prayer service was held at St. Mary Parish Hall in Saskatoon to bless and dedicate the space for a new ministry. The parish hall began to operate as an overnight warm-up site on Monday, Dec. 4, a cold-weather outreach initiative that will run until the end of March.

RELATED: St. Mary Parish Hall will serve as an overnight warm-up location

Parishioners of both St. Mary and Our Lady of Guadalupe parishes and members of Salvation Army congregations, as well as other dignitaries and stakeholders, gathered at the Sunday afternoon prayer service led by St. Mary pastor Fr. Kevin McGee.

McGee welcomed participants, acknowledging that this evening was both an exciting and scary time.

Our Lady of Guadalupe Elder Irene Sharp began with a prayer offering of smudge for the building and all present, followed by a land acknowledgment by Myron Rogal.

A fitting hymn for the evening, “Whatsoever You Do to The Least of My People,” began a time of prayer and reflection.

Salvation Army Major Gordon Taylor, who is one of the coordinators of the project, led the opening and closing, praying and reflecting on how good and needed this new ministry is for the parish and community.

Bishop Mark Hagemoen of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon (Photo by Myron Rogal)

The Gospel selected for the evening was Luke 14:12-24, which talks about Christ’s challenge to move beyond our circles of comfort and familiarity to invite the poor.

Saskatoon Catholic Bishop Mark Hagemoen broke open the Gospel in his reflection, drawing inspiration from the example of St. Teresa of Calcutta, who said that she was not called to save the world but to love and serve the person in front of her. Bishop Mark praised the initiative as bringing people together in a similar fashion, in order to love and serve those in our midst in a new way.

Quoting Fr. Kevin McGee, Hagemoen affirmed that even if this site saves one life, that alone will make all of the efforts worthwhile.

In addition, the bishop expressed his gratitude to all of the partners involved.

Intercessory prayers were then offered for the parish, all involved in the project, and those the site anticipates serving. A blessing of the hall by Bishop Hagemoen completed the time of dedication.

Creating a warm, safe space for up to 80 of Saskatoon’s most vulnerable under the auspice of the City of Saskatoon’s Cold Weather Strategy, the site at St. Mary Parish Hall will be open seven nights of the week from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. until March 31. The site is staffed by the Salvation Army, an ideal partner in this initiative, with a wealth of experience and expertise.

In addition to trained staff, a paramedic security officer as well as increased police presence will be part the warm-up location strategy. Funding is provided by the federal government through Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy. The St. Mary’s warm-up site has received administrative and coordination support from the diocese.

The process began with Fr. Kevin welcoming an exploratory conversation to prayerfully examine the feasibility of the site and its impact on parish life. The parish was then led to a decision through an Ignatian discernment exercise, before deciding to proceed.

Further details on supporting the wider ministry of St. Mary’s outreach as well as volunteering opportunities, will be forthcoming.


Myron Rogal is the coordinator of the Office of Justice and Peace for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Saskatoon.