Year of Youth 2018

Lent: Thanksgiving Thursday: Friars Van Ministry

Last edited 1st March 2018

Thanksgiving Thursday: Friars Van Ministry

On Friday and Saturday evenings, a white and brown van heads out from Leichhardt to near St Mary’s Cathedral to give hot drinks and sweets to those experiencing different forms of poverty, hardship and homelessness.

This is the Friars' Van, a ministry run by the Capuchin Friars of Australia. There are usually two friars and around five young volunteers each night they serve in the St Mary's Cathedral vicinity. The van is parked about 50 metres from another van organised by another group distributing food, and after collecting their food, the people head down to the Friars’ Van for their hot drink of coffee, tea or chocolate and for some sweets.

The most important task of the friars and volunteers is the welcome given to the people. They spend time simply listening and speaking with them. On the streets these people experience suspicion and fear from passersby, and so are avoided by others. They experience marginalisation and loneliness. The friars and volunteers welcome them and ‘waste’ time with them.

In today’s Thanksgiving Thursday, we speak with Ivan, one of the volunteers of the Friars' Van Ministry.

Xt3: Why are you thankful for the gift of volunteering with the Friars' Van Ministry?

IVAN: As a full time PhD student, weekdays can get very busy and interacting with more people can be difficult. I am thankful for being able to volunteering with Friars Van because it allows me to make a pause from my day-to-day activities; volunteering reminds me what everything I do is really about and thus gives meaning to my work: to love God and to love my neighbour. I believe everything we do is inspired by God, and I am happy he has called me to serve him in this concrete way by “giving drink to the thirsty”. At the end, we will be judged by how much we loved, and in his divine providence God has allowed me to be involved in this ministry to share his love with the people in the city.

Xt3: How has it been a time of spiritual growth for you?

IVAN: The friendships that I have made while volunteering, both with other volunteers and with the people we serve, have been very inspiring in my spiritual life. Sometimes I can easily get too anxious overthinking about my own problems and the numerous things I have to do. Yet, when I have the opportunity to serve I feel joy and peace. I am always happy to meet other young people who love Christ, try to grow in this close friendship with him and look for showing his love to the world in concrete actions. When you try to work out, it is easy to give up if you are on your own; but if you do it with friends they support you accomplish your goals and make time happier. The same happens with our spiritual life. Through their example and prayers, my friends support me in my own race to heaven. They make it easier to understand the communion of saints. Every weekend I look forward to meeting the friends God has given me and they always cheer me up.

Jesus is present in a special way in the poor. He himself, “through whom all things were made”, became poor for us, and none of our needs, sufferings or pains are strange to him. Although apparently I am the one serving, I know it is Jesus who comes to my encounter and embraces me through the people I meet. In this way, he tells me he loves me, it is him who comes and calms my thirst for love.

Xt3: What has God taught you through the experience of volunteering? Any awesome stories?

IVAN: I consider myself a very shy and ingoing person (opposite of 'outgoing'). Although my heart felt a great passion to serve, when I first joined the Friars Van, I wondered if I would be able to go and be the first one to talk to the people. There is a great difference in just serving coffee to actually engage with the people, listen to their stories and being able to stand in their shoes. Whenever we are faced with situations we cannot master or control, there is a sense of fear. However, by going out of my comfort zone God has taught me to trust more in Him. He strengthens my spirit to do what He asks from me.

I would encourage more young people to get involved with the Friars Van. It's a great opportunity to meet more friends and serve God through our neighbour.

We are always in need of more volunteers. The ministry takes place on Friday and Saturday evenings from 7:30pm to 9:30pm, close to St. Mary’s Cathedral.

If you would like to get involved you can contact us by e-mail to

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