Each year at noon on Christmas Eve, people gather at the steps of Duluth City Hall to remember the homeless people and their advocates who have died over the past year. Each person is remembered with a sign with name and age and, beginning this year, with a photo to put a face on the problem of homelessness in our city.
Fifty-five died this year, including an unnamed two-month-old girl. Fifty-five people stood on the City Hall steps holding their signs as the roll of the honored dead was called. Many wiped tears away in the cold wind off Lake Superior.
Sisters Beverly Raway, Kathleen Hofer, Lois Eckes, and Therese Carson came to contribute warm clothing and their prayers. This was the opening blessing: “Those who are worn out and crushed by mourning, let your hearts consider this: this is the path that has existed from the time of creation and will exist forever. Many have drunk from it and many will yet drink. As was the first meal, so shall be the last. May the Master of comfort, comfort you. Blessed are those who comfort the mourners.” We sand several Christmas carols, including the poignant story of King Wenceslaus and his page walking through the gathering cold and dark to deliver food to a poor man.
The Vigil ended with a blessing for the dead: “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.”
The cold reminded all of us that many live outdoors through bitter Minnesotan winters and need our help. A basket was passed for monetary offerings, and many also brought tents, winter-weight sleeping bags, blankets, and warm clothing.