THE TRUE SPIRIT of Christmas is alive and well in Urmston, Manchester, to judge by 15-year-old Luke O’Keefe, writes Simon Carter. Luke impersonated a homeless person to test the reaction of two church congregations.
Luke is studying 11 GCSEs at St Ambrose College in Hale Barns, Cheshire, and is a member of the local group of the Impact Catholic teenagers’ group, which meets in both English Martyrs Church in Urmston and Our Lady’s Church in Davyhulme. He dreamed up the idea as part of Impact’s National Day.
“We wanted to see whether people had commitment to others less fortunate than themselves,” Luke said.
He visited charity shops and then had his make-up done by Granada television make-up artist Helen King. “It was a perfect day,” Luke said, speaking from his home at Wentworth Avenue in Urmston. “It was snow ing and very cold, so when I went in to the church it did look like I was genuinely trying to escape from the cold.
“I was very heartened. One man came up to me and gave me £2 while everyone was very accommodating and not in the slightest bit standoffish, but they were happy to sit with me and let me walk among them.” Luke spent 15 minutes in each church, then revealed himself to the parishioners to explain his purpose.
“When people knew who I was,” he said, “some people came up to me and said they would have come and talked to me but were worried that I might be offended and might want to be left alone. So all I would say is: don’t let those natural fears deter you from helping someone else.” St Ambrose headmaster Michael Thompson said: “I hope Luke will continue to work for people less fortunate than himself throughout his life.”