Growing up outside of Los Angeles, Christian Duran and his family often visited El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historic Monument. They were tourists, soaking up the culture.

This summer, he has been spending his mornings in the same area, but with a different purpose. Instead of sightseeing, the 21-year-old is there to see the people, particularly the homeless who sleep or spend their days in the Plaza.

He typically greets them by saying, “Hi, my name is Christian, what’s your name?” He asks if he can sit down, and talks about whatever comes to mind — how their day is going, where they’re from.

Duran is part of a young adult Catholic missionary organization called Christ in the City. Along with eight others from across the country, they’ve spent the past three weeks walking the streets of Downtown Los Angeles, distributing food and bottled water, and, what they say is their prime objective, befriending the homeless — or, as the missionaries call them, “friends on the street.”

“Jesus wanted to be with those on the streets in a very personal and loving way and manifest his love on the streets all the time,” said Matthew Flaherty, a 25-year-old from the San Gabriel Valley and a full-time missionary for Christ in the City. “There are so many people out there who know the name of Jesus, but don’t know the love of Jesus.”

Every morning the group wakes up at 6 a.m. for morning prayer and breakfast. They commute from the nearby convent where they’re staying to Our Lady Queen of Angels Church, where they spend an hour in adoration with the Blessed Sacrament, followed by a couple hours of street ministry.

At noon they attend Mass at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, followed by lunch, free time, and a group social activity. At night, the group comes together again for evening prayer….

Even after the three-week Christ in the City program ends on June 16, Duran said that he plans on continuing the street ministry, but this time alongside his friends from back home in Rancho Cucamonga. He hopes that other young people will follow their lead and connect with the poor in whatever way — and with any organization — they can.

– from a June 18 story by Caitlin Yoshiko Kandil in