Our Lady of the Angels Province takes over sponsorship of Baltimore’s Franciscan Center

Father Michael Heine, OFM Conv, minister provincial of Our Lady of the Angels Province announced the province has become the sponsor of the Franciscan Center (101 West 23rd St., Baltimore). The center offers a continuum of care that includes food, clothing, emergency services, counseling, culinary, and technology training to help clients become as self-sufficient as possible. The announcement was made on Nov. 29, the Feast of All Saints of the Seraphic Order when the Catholic Church celebrates the Franciscan saints who followed in the steps of St. Francis, and the 800th anniversary of the signing of the of the 1223 Rule of Saint Francis which marked the founding of the Franciscan order.

Our Lady of the Angels Province Vicar Provincial Friar Gary Johnson, OFM Conv. (right), chats with Franciscan Center Executive Director Jeff Griffin.

The Franciscan Sisters of Milwaukee including the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore contacted Father Michael a number of months ago inviting the province to become the sponsors of the Franciscan Center. There is logic in the new arrangement: food grown at Little Portion Farm in Ellicott City, another ministry of the friars, is sent to the Franciscan Center to feed the poorest of the poor in Baltimore.

“The sisters opened the center in the late 60s with some of our friars,” Father Michael said. “But now as many communities are, the sisters are slowly divesting themselves and their sponsored communities. And so, we decided to say ‘yes’ to this invitation. I think this will open up wonderful opportunities for our friars information with our ministries in Baltimore and in Ellicott City, because it’s a way and a sign of new life as we follow our father, Francis, in reaching out to those people who no one else wants to deal with, the people on the margins.”

Recent graduates of the Dignity Plates Culinary Training Academy, a 12-week culinary arts training program operated by the Franciscan Center.

The Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore began their ministry in 1881, feeding the hungry and caring for orphans. With a single gift of Pioneer Natural Gas Company stock donated by Helene and Robert Rea of Philadelphia, and space provided by the Franciscans, the Franciscan Center opened on September 10, 1968. On a typical day 400 to 600 people visit the Franciscan Center to enjoy a healthy meal from fresh ingredients. More than 200,000 meals were provided in 2022.

“When we received word from Father Michael that the Conventual Franciscan’s Provincial Council had unanimously accepted our request to consider sponsorship of one of our most precious ministries, the Franciscan Center, we were not only delighted but relieved that this ministry would be in good hands,” said Sr. Joanne Schatzlein, OSF, Director of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. “Our fervent wish was that our ministry would continue its Catholic Identity and remain faithful to the Franciscan Values. It is truly a gift of God that our Franciscan Brothers will continue the legacy of the Sister Founders into the future.”

“The sisters told me they need help feeding the souls of those they serve at the Franciscan Center. That’s where the friars will come in. We’ll continue the wonderful Franciscan spirit that was started by the sisters and will continue under Our Lady of the Angels Province,” Father Michael said.

The newly renovated dining room at the Franciscan Center.

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