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A wayside vocation

The Wayside Club in Glasgow recently celebrated the 90th anniversary of when it first opened its doors to feed the homeless and those in need. Lawrence McGarry, the administrator of the club, details how it has impacted his Faith.

How did you come to join the Wayside Club?

My introduction came 30 years ago last December when I was approached by an elderly gentleman after Mass who he told me about a place run by the Legion of Mary that helped people in need. I was aware of the Legion of Mary: my dad had been a member and as a family we said the Rosary every night with the Legion prayers.

How does the Club work?

We don’t judge. We don’t ask for names. All we need to know is that they’re presenting in a sober and drug free manner. We’ll feed anyone who comes to the door. We very rarely have to call on the police. There’s a real respect of the Club.

Before Covid, the typical night would be that the club would open at 7 o’clock. There would be an opportunity for some to have a shower and a clean change of clothing. Others would go up and play cards and dominoes.

We then play bingo. Bingo is always very popular in the club: there’s a chance you could win a Mars Bar or – controversially – a pack of cigarettes. It’s the only point through the night you could hear a pin drop!

More importantly, at quarter past eight at every night, soup is served. We say Grace Before Meals and serve everyone.

Towards the end of the night, once things have settled down, we will invite anyone who wishes to join us to go up to our oratory where the Blessed Sacrament is present and say the Rosary. On Sunday we have Mass.

You don’t have to pray for your food, but we want to get across that God is working in everyone’s life.

What’s a memorable moment?

At the end of our New Year’s evenings, I was aware of a lack of enthusiasm looking forward to the next year, so I suggested we stay open past the bells. We piloted it and had a party – all the tables were dressed nicely and DJ Mc- Garry, myself, on the decks.

We’d have the conga and YMCA going. One year, someone came up to me in April and said, ‘By the way, that was a great party.’

I didn’t realise what he was referring to. He said, ‘You know, that was the first time I’ve woken up sober on the 1st of January in years. Normally, the only way I can get through New Year is to get blind drunk so I’m not focused on it.’

How has the Wayside Club helped you in your Faith?

When I was discerning before I was married, I remember reading James 2:14-17 in a prayer group where it says, ‘If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it profit?’

The invitation to Wayside 30 years ago came just as the right time. In the Gospel, you’re very much at called to service.

It’s been a real privilege for me to be able to be of service and live my Faith.

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