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 We seek to build and foster relationships with those who are homeless or in need and to become a community of mutual support and mutual vulnerability. 


The desire for relationship reminds us not to reduce ministry to functionality.  In a very important way, it nudges us to remember that we come to this encounter not only to give, but to receive. God’s wisdom is frequently found on the streets, in encounters with strangers—if we are alert enough to listen for it. Finally, the people we serve are often shunned, ostracized, or ignored. They hunger for acceptance and community as much as they hunger for food. 

WHAT ABOUT FOOD?   Isn’t Karpos about serving food? 

The short answer is: yes, we serve food. The longer answer is that we begin with relationships, and out of those relationships, we can better understand the needs and concerns of the community, as well as how we can find ways to dwell together, in communion, as a community. If we focus solely on the food, we can lose sight of the bigger picture, like attitudes (often our own) and policies that might need to be changed, and other needs that we can identify. We also deprive ourselves of the opportunity to discover ways in which the Spirit is calling us to be transformed.


  •  To actively foster relationships with one another in order to BE community with one another
  • To affirm the fundamental dignity and respect due to each God-imaged human being
  • To include members of the homeless community as a vital part of our team
  • To address the health needs of our clients through nutritious and delicious meals  
  • To open ourselves to transformation through the Holy Spirit
  • To anticipate the Kingdom through embodying Christian hospitality


Charity sometimes has the character of a one-way street: gifts or goods move in one direction, with the giver at one end, and the receiver at the other. When we think of hospitality, it is often in terms of a more gracious and welcoming version of this same transaction. A specifically Christian hospitality is much more than that; it is richer, deeper, and more transformative. Hospitality (Gr. philoxenia, which literally translates into “love of strangers,”) is about forming communities out of strangers. In Biblical times, hospitality often meant the difference between survival and death. Travelers met, shared resources, and made their home together for a time under the hot desert sun. Very early on, people came to understand that God was present and at work in that encounter, and that often the stranger brought news from God.    

In Karpos, we strive to enact this vision of hospitality. We meet people on the streets—in solidarity as, for a short while, we experience conditions they must deal with on a regular basis; in humility, as we are their guests for a time; and in communion and equality, trying to remove any unintentional barriers that might stand between us. This also gives us the mobility to meet people where they “live.” In bad weather, we can get to them more easily than they can get to us. We recognize that, when we go out on the streets, we are treading on holy ground. We attempt to make a safe, inclusive, and sacred space in which we can be together in mutual vulnerability and mutual enrichment. In that space, we tell our stories, and strive to be worthy to hear the stories of those we meet.

Hospitality is the language of the Bible – the language of radical relationality and dramatic reversals, of enemies who love, of servants who are friends, of abundance in the face of scarcity, of the last being first. In the Bible, hospitality is most often linked with the memory of suffering. We are emphatically reminded to welcome the stranger, because we were strangers once ourselves (Deut. 10:18-19; Exodus 22:21). This memory of suffering, and the memories of those who suffer still, creates within us a kind of attunement to and solidarity with those who suffer. In that solidarity, as we seek to change situations, we recognize that it is often we ourselves who must first be transformed. Thus, hospitality is as much a verb as it is a noun.


Members of the homeless community are vital to the formation and operation of our Karpos ministry. Not only do they give us a great deal of credibility and insight, but they have been invaluable teachers and friends, as they bring a heightened sensitivity to and knowledge of the situations of those we meet. This does not stop at advice. We work side by side and empowerment is part of the overall dynamic of Karpos. 


The celebration of God’s love is implicit in joyful communities (Psalm 133). We view our entire time together as a prayer, but gather to pray more formally about midway through the preparation of the meal. Responsibility for prayer shifts throughout the group. When we are on the streets, we do not ask people to prayer before giving them meals. We do not wish to imply that prayer is a requirement. Prayer is too noble to be reduced to a bargaining chip. Of course, many people pray themselves before eating, lead a communal prayer, or ask us to pray with them.     



This ministry began with the help and advice of those who live on the streets, and they continue to be a vital part of our ministry, as both consultants and volunteers.  We have an open door policy, and those who would like to assist with meal preparation arrive at the kitchen of the Father Hanzo Family Center  any time between 3:30 and 5:00 on Wednesdays. As a team, we cut, chop, bake, assemble, sauté, and cook, while enjoying our time together as a community. A number of our diners arrive early to set up our dining area, and remain until the area is cleaned up and everything is put away. 


While the majority of those we serve are homeless, we welcome anyone who requests a meal, regardless of their situation.

Because we seek relationships, we encourage our volunteers to take the time to visit with and/or dine with those we serve. This is a sacred time, and as important as the food we serve. We come to these encounters with humility, well aware that we come not just with something to give, but with something to receive. During our time together, we expect everyone to “maintain church picnic manners” – in other words, act the same way you would at a church picnic.



We seek to build and foster relationships with those who are homeless or in need and to become a community of mutual support and mutual vulnerability.



Isn’t Karpos about serving food to the homeless?

A wholesome and healthy meal is always our goal. A large percentage of those who dine with us are in fragile health, which is only exacerbated by their living conditions. An alarming number suffer from high blood pressure and/or heart disease, and many live with diabetes. Their diet has a significant impact on their health, yet their choice of food is often out of their control. Diets high in starches and fats are not good for these health conditions. We attempt to prepare nutritious, balanced meals that, to the extent possible, will not further contribute to these health issues, and may help to alleviate them. This is because Karpos is not meant to be simply a feeding program, but genuine community. We therefore concentrate on proteins and vegetables, balanced with smaller portions of carbohydrates. While it is easy and budget-friendly to use pasta, rice, potatoes, ground meat, etc., to stretch a meal, we are always cognizant of their impact on the health of those we serve.  


A coordinator plans the meals ahead of time, most often with the consultation of the group. This is largely dependent upon supplies available, or what can be ordered from the Food Bank or purchased. The coordinator prepares a detailed list of specific jobs, so that, as each person arrives, s/he can consult the list and have productive work to do. This also facilitates shared responsibility, shared leadership, and a cohesive, communal group.    


As a general rule, we prepare the majority of our meals in the St. Mary kitchen. While it would sometimes be easier to cook at our own convenience at home, we remember, first, that this does not build community, and second, that many people have neither the luxury nor the income to cook at home. This ministry is meant to be a two-edged sword; touching the hearts of both those served and those serving. We take very seriously the need and desire for people to contribute, and try to provide the atmosphere and opportunity for them to do so. Of course, because of the limitations of oven space and time, there are times when part of the meal must be prepared in advance. At these times, good planning can ensure that there is sufficient work in the kitchen for everyone to contribute in some way.


The choice to be a street ministry is a deliberate one. A long tradition of holy men and women, including Dorothy Day, St. Francis of Assisi, and St. Martin de Porres, have taught that true social justice can only be enacted in solidarity with the other, and that genuine solidarity can only be achieved by voluntarily placing ourselves on the same side as those who are oppressed or excluded. In this, the most perfect example is Jesus, who emptied himself of his divinity to dwell with humanity (Philippians 2:7), and whose ministry took place on the streets. 

In Karpos, we strive to place ourselves on the same side as those who are homeless. This is a time for us to consciously divest ourselves of that which sets us apart, to break down the barriers between “us” and “them” and encounter people where they “live,” and in a place where we are their guests. This is essentially a spiritual practice, and an important one. It is a time for volunteers to consciously set aside barriers, including physical ones (for example, tables, distributive mentality, etc.) and come to meet the other person as a person. This takes effort, not only on our own part, but in ensuring that volunteers understand that Karpos is about feeding spiritual hunger as much as it is about physical hunger. Most pointedly, this spiritual hunger does not exist solely among the poor. Through this practice, we may be open to the ways in which the Spirit is calling us to be transformed and to transform our communities.

During the warmer months, we serve on the grass in the Mary Garden. We set up dining tables and chairs, and serve on plates. It has the feeling of a church picnic. Meals begin around 5:00 and last approximately one hour. When the weather worsens, we move closer to the Family Center, but still set up tables and chairs outside. This is an opportunity for some people to have their meal while it is hot, and a significant number of people will dine and visit with each other outside, even in bad weather. We serve in “clamshells,” or “to go” containers to keep the food warmer. It is important to remember that, when the weather worsens, it is more difficult for those who are homeless to move about. We may need to establish other stops, such as the sheriff’s office, in order to serve those who are unable to make it to St. Mary’s. This should be flexible and based on the needs of the community.   

It is important to recall that we have an opportunity to build good relationships with the larger community, as well as draw attention to the plight of the poor, as we occupy public space. Therefore, we should be attentive to our surroundings, ensuring that we are not disrupting the flow of traffic, that people can move through the space safely, that the rules of the area are respected, and that everything is thoroughly cleaned up.

The safety of our volunteers is of paramount importance. At least two volunteers must be at every location, and volunteers need to stay with the group at all times. We never, ever, for any reason, at any time, give anyone cash. This is for the safety of all volunteers, who are placing themselves in vulnerable positions, as well as for the integrity of the ministry. As a general rule, volunteers should not meet diners off grounds, nor transport them. If they do so, they should have someone else with them. We do not share our last name or specifics about where we live. While the evening coordinator may for some limited reasons share his/her telephone numbers, volunteers should not do so.


A large number of the people we serve are or have been homeless. We have learned that, even after getting a home, some return to the Karpos meal--for the community, to share news, to search out a missed friend, or to stretch their food budget. This has been an unexpected blessing, especially when we can hear about their new home. Often, we have been able to assist them with furniture, dishes, etc. for their new home, from the growing network of Painesville and Lake County churches that have taken the homeless issue to heart.  In addition, we distribute toiletries, socks, blankets, jackets, toilet paper, and a variety of other items as they are available. (In this, we work in cooperation with St.  Vincent de Paul, Extended Housing, and the Cleveland Food Bank.) This distribution should never take the place of, or distract from, the real ministry of presence and communion upon which Karpos is founded.

One of the many blessings that has come out of this ministry is the growing network of caring individuals, churches, and agencies, all interested in working collaboratively to address the needs of those who are homeless. In addition to the longstanding lunch program offered by the Salvation Army and St. James, evening meals are now offered on Mondays by St. James Episcopal Church, Tuesdays by St. Gabriel’s Catholic Church, and Wednesdays and Thursdays by St. Mary’s Catholic Church.A large number of eastern Lake County churches have contributed in a variety of other ways, as have some of the businesses and organizations around the Painesville area. Several other churches are considering this ministry and will be scheduled as they commit.

KARPOS MINISTRY: Getting Started


If you would like more information about the ministry itself or how you can help, call Kathy Montonini at 440-357-7867, or Joe Kallay at 440-352-7558.


I.                    Often, often, often, comes the Christ in a stranger’s guise.

II.                 Relationality is the foundation and goal of Karpos Ministry.  

III.               Meet each person as a person, not a situation nor a problem to be solved. Avoid a distributive mentality.

IV.               Karpos is not about food.

V.                 Move to the other side of the “table,” physically and metaphorically.

VI.               Make delicious, healthy food and make enough of it.

VII.            Be vigilant to the Spirit’s work of transformation.

VIII.          Never, under any circumstances, for any reason, give anyone cash.

IX.               Do not subvert the work of agencies and ministries serving the poor and homeless by providing a shortcut to goods and services.

X.                  Always remember that Karpos is a ministry of communion and presence.


The Karpos program and materials were developed by Kathleen Philipps and Gregg Stovicek at St. Mary Church, Painesville, © 2010. The program and materials may be used and adapted for ministerial purposes. If you are reprinting materials, please credit appropriately.





A Street Ministry of Hospitality to the Homeless



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