One man’s journey from homelessness and drug addiction to becoming a priest and helping those on the streets.

Claude Paradis, who was a desperate homeless and impoverished person and now serves the poor in the church recently spoke of his transformative journey. Claude was living in the streets of Montreal, Canada, where he struggled with addiction to both alcohol and drugs and his future was so bleak that he considered ending his life. Since then he’s become a priest and has dedicated his time to serve the spiritual and physical needs of those trapped in poverty, prostitution and prison.

The 57-year-old Catholic priest told Journal Metro “The Street brought me to the Church and the Church, in the end, brought me back to the street.” Last December he decided to sleep on the street for a whole month as a sign of solidarity and closeness with the homeless. This was also to care for the homeless, people with charity and solidarity. He hoped he could accompany people in a difficult situation while creating awareness to other people of Montreal about the harsh reality that is faced by those living in the streets.

Father Paradis says “Our mission is especially to give encouragement. Unlike the shelters, we go out to the people, a bit like a door-to-door service. We talk to them, sometimes we pray together before they go back to face the harshness of the street.”

Fr. Paradis grew up in the Gaspe region and worked as a nurse in Cowansville and he came to Montreal 25 years ago. However, it was difficult to get a job and he says that isolation and despair took a hold of him. He lived on the streets and he thought of committing suicide and also started doing cocaine then crack.

Paradis reveals about how he met the Lord in a letter that was posted on the La Victoire de l'Amour (the Victory of Love) website. “I had the privilege of meeting God just at the moment I was doubting Him. On a little back street in Montreal, abandoned by people, there was nobody there. Passing by the old church, impelled by I don't know what instinct, I turned back in there.”|

At that moment, he experienced a deep and intense encounter with God and this and this made him realize that he did not want to die, but rather wanted to become “a man of the Church.” He fought off his addictions and he now ministers to many people who face the challenges that he struggled with years ago.

Paradis founded an institution called Notre-Dame de la rue (Our Lady of the Streets). He goes out each night and brings food and shelter to those living in the streets. He also celebrates the Eucharist, administers the sacrament and presides at funerals. He has a co-worker, Kevin Cardin, who was also a drug addict, but found help which made him change his life and now has a family.

The Archbishop Christian Lépine of Montreal supports Notre-Dame de la rue and he describes the initiative as “a presence of the Church to give encouragement.” The city also supports the initiative.

Claude Paradis says “on the street is where I want to be, until I die” so he has dedicated the rest of his life to serving the poor.

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