For the fourth year, Father Jim Grogan, pastor of Nativity Parish, and eight members of the Knights of Columbus Council 3187 joined other members of the Fair Haven faith community in enduring an uncomfortable night March 19 to help area homeless youth sleep a bit more soundly.

The group was part of an army of supporters of the Sleep Out: Covenant House New Jersey Community Virtual Edition, an annual fundraiser wherein participants pledge to spend the night sleeping outdoors. Monies raised during the Sleep Out would enable the New York-based organization to offer safety, shelter and support to homeless young people. Knights and parishioners joined other donors on numerous teams; Father Grogan’s team raised a total of $13,900.

This was the fourth year for The Church of the Nativity to support the Covenant House Sleep Out. Father Grogan explained, “Kevin Ryan [Covenant House International president and CEO] is a parishioner at Nativity, so we have many people supporting Covenant House since we have a familiarity with Kevin and his family.”

In his pre-event post on the fundraiser website, Father Grogan admitted, “I really wish it was not needed… Tonight, hundreds of kids will be on the street, under bridges, maybe hoping to find a doorway for some shelter. Hundreds will be hungry, and far too many will be exploited because of their need, because of their desperation.”

The pandemic prevented the group from spending the night in Asbury as in years past, but participants conducted a virtual sleep-out.

The pastor said, “We decided to have a small, socially distanced version of a virtual event in our parish. Members of the team joined me to watch the livestream program from Covenant House and then slept out at their own homes. A small contingent of our adult team, five of us, slept out on the parish grounds this year, while others chose their own backyards.

“We slept variously under trees [and] on the floor of our garage,” Father Grogan continued, explaining that most of the adults made it through the night and headed home at 6 a.m. “It was cold but dry, [reported temperatures were about 29 degrees], but I was actually glad for the cold, as it emphasized our solidarity with the kids who are homeless every night.”

Father Grogan explained that he was grateful that he could return to the comfort of the rectory the following day. “I won't be homeless for a night, but will honor those who are by my action to help raise funds so that Covenant House may continue to change lives, to welcome in the lost, the homeless, the abused, the afraid kids to a shelter where they can experience God’s love, no matter what their story and circumstances may be,” he said.