From Canada, comes this great story about a deacon who gave up a high-paying executive position to work with the homeless as the chaplain of the Ottawa Mission.
We come upon the official chaplain, Tom Donohue, a Catholic deacon since 2003. He has an office right by the front door on Waller Street, where he keeps a row of model cars -GM muscle machines, mostly -and a picture on his computer of his baby, a 1971 Pontiac LeMans, two-door, midblue. One sweet ride.
The cars are a great icebreaker, he says. Many is the conversation that has started with a story about the old ’57 Chev sitting on the bookcase, above the Bibles. He also wears a leather Ottawa Senators jacket, an immediate talking point, and rides a motorcycle.
Donohue, 57, was an executive in the telecom business, including Telus, overseeing a large staff and multimillion-dollar contracts with the federal government.
After 34 years, he traded it all in a couple of years ago: his salary is now less than the taxes he paid on his sixfigure income.
But no regrets.
“I wanted to start feeding my soul instead of my wallet,” says Donohue, a father of three grown children. “That’s my line.”
Donohue keeps regular hours and an open-door policy. The homeless don’t make appointments, he has learned. They just show up when they’re ready.
“It’s not about me fixing their life,” he says. “Often, they have no one who will listen to them.”
He is a remarkably upbeat character, with a loud laugh that explodes from some deep, happy well. A good thing, too, as his visitors are enduring tough times.
“They may believe that God loves them and forgives them, but they can’t forgive themselves,” says Donohue. “Shame is the biggest challenge. There’s tons of shame.”