|Fr. Paul Mast took to the streets to learn about homelessness on his 'street sabbatical.'|
Fr. Paul Mast, 68, a priest in the Diocese of Wilmington, Del., recently took to the streets in what he is calling a ‘street sabbatical’ during which he tried to better understand the issues those living on the streets face every day.
Mast was recently told that he was in the early stages of memory loss, and this prompted him to take a sabbatical. He did not really have a plan for his time off, but he wanted to challenge his brain to think in different ways. His theory was "that by living outside of his normal routine, his mind could map new pathways and, perhaps, slow the decline and recover function.”
When he was out one day, he encountered a young, homeless Iraq war veteran in Washington, D.C., who challenged him to “find and listen to those who are homeless.”
Mast embraced his advice and traveled around the world to pursue this mission. He traveled from Wilmington to San Francisco, Dallas, New Delhi, Munich, Milwaukee, and Hawaii and has chronicled his experiences in a new book, Street Sabbatical.
Mast worked to build relationships with many of the people he met on the streets, often asking their names, their stories, and what he could do for them. He often bought those he talked with meals or other supplies they needed, and even stayed in a shelter to gain a “new perspective."
Mast often asked those he talked with what they wanted the average person to know about homelessness, to which one person responded, “Tell them to look beyond the mess that is me and find God hidden somewhere inside.”
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