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Parishioner ‘blessed’ to help homeless in Vincentian spirit

07 PAGE 6.22.17_Marc.bruno.B4_editSts. Peter and Paul parishioner and longtime North Beach resident Marc Bruno offers food, water and a blanket to a homeless man in the Financial District on June 15. Bruno and other members of parish community do weekly neighborhood “walk-throughs” as well as host monthly and seasonal dinners for the homeless. (Photos by Christina Gray/Catholic San Francisco)

June 22, 2017
Christina Gray

Sts. Peter and Paul parishioner Marc Bruno knows he isn’t particularly qualified to help the homeless in his neighborhood when he sets off on foot each week from his North Beach apartment toting bags of bottled water, energy bars and blankets. But he doesn’t believe he has to be.

“Anyone can do this,” he said June 15 on his two-hour evening rounds through Chinatown, North Beach, the Financial District and the nearby waterfront. Bruno greeted the street people he met with a simple “I’ve got food,” or, “would you like a blanket?”

Most weeks, Bruno is joined on his “walk-throughs” by another person from the parish community, which takes up a collection each month to help pay for these small comforts.

During his walk-through last Thursday evening, some people refused Bruno’s offers and others gave no response. One wary young man who said he was “going by the name Scott now” seemed startled at first by the small act of kindness but said “God bless you” as Bruno departed.

For Bruno, who with about 10 others in the neighborhood hosts a monthly and seasonal dinner for the homeless in the Sts. Peter and Paul School cafeteria, being blessed by the opportunity to serve the poor is the point of Christian giving.

“Our faith reminds us, extols us, forces us and promises us that by helping the poor we help ourselves,” he said. “By helping those in need, we move one step closer to God.”

Paraphrasing St. Vincent de Paul, Bruno said, “When we are in the presence of the poor, we should get down on our knees and thank them for allowing us to help them.”

This is a twist on who is helping whom, he said. “But what an empowering notion, that we have in our own hands and in our own hearts the ability to become closer to God whenever we wish, simply by helping those in need,” he said.

Bruno said the “merely faithful” can help the poor in ways that secular nonprofits simply can’t, or don’t.

“They can’t do all that the nonprofits can do, and I don’t do what the nonprofits do, but there are things I can do that they can’t do,” he said.

There is a significant difference between Christian giving and the good and practical work the secular nonprofit organization does, according to Bruno.

“Whereas the concept of the secular group is to help those who seem to be needy, our concept as Christians is that we are the needy ones, and that we first and foremost help the faithful experience Christ by being given an opportunity to help,” he said.

“Our ideal is not to see how many people we can do this or that for,” he said. “Our metric is to see how many people we can love.”

“On a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, it would help if a lot of individuals found something they can do and just do it,” Bruno said, adding that he welcomes the opportunity to speak with members of other parishes about their outreach ideas.

Bruno can reached by email at marcabruno@yahoo.com.


07 HALF 6.22.17_Marc.bruno.B2_edit.left.portsmouthSts. Peter and Paul parishioner and longtime North Beach resident Marc Bruno offers food, water and a blanket to a homeless man in Portsmouth Park in Chinatown.

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