A Message from br. Tim Blanchard, OFM Conv. “This summer I have taken on a double internship with both the Franciscan Action Network (FAN) and our province’s JPIC (Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation) ministry to further explore and utilize the major I am pursing in Media and Communications, at CUA (The Catholic University of America, Washington DC). In this JPIC Update, I would like to share a quick reflection on two past events I had recently attended and how they have impacted me as a student friar. Its my hope to integrate the deeper truths about what it means to actively participate in social justice as a Franciscan.
On May 21, I participated with FAN and Friar Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. (our Province JPIC Chairman) in the Poor People’s Campaign, a movement that seeks to eradicate the evils of poverty, systemic racism, and actions that lead to war. Already this Campaign has reached 30 states across the nation challenging political leaders to fight against inequality and redirect misguided moral narratives for a better society. The pre-rally began at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in DC where I listened in on the main speaker who, at the core of his message, highlighted the fact that “the values we are demanding should go beyond just a campaign, we are looking to enable the broader movement of equality that will echo in future times”. Looking around at the excited responses and reactions of the people gathered around the speaker it was evident that this was a community willing to take risks, to disrupt unjust systems and illuminate immoral policies. We could look at the failure by federal assistance to distribute public resources to those who are absent of a good job having to fend for themselves as one example of an inactive immoral systems in the economy. Federal programs are not meeting the growing needs of the poor so who will? The group’s willingness to practice civil disobedience to be arrested is considered by them a last resort having unsuccessfully lobbied for the change of policy. It is by this action that we see the impact of the rally transition from words to actions, from being heard to being seen. This operation is not executed just for some political spite but rather displays a great witness to resistance of immoral authority for a positive social change. I had the opportunity to speak with one of the officers who, with a big smile on his face, shared with me how much he “enjoyed arresting this group.” He and the other officers expressed their respect for our groups advocacy for the poor and their organization in making civil disobedience peaceful and orderly. What a shining example of defending human rights in a peaceful manner, it can be done with everyone playing their part. Without failure to mention, both Friar Michael and I were approached throughout the day by several faith leaders, students and ministers on the Capital lawn simply because we were in habit creating a visible Franciscan presence that was clearly noticed that proved both hearting and encouraging for many. Later that same week, on May 24, along with Friar Michael Lasky, I had joined Friar Timothy Dore, OFM Conv. (pictured at center left) and parishioners from St. Ann Church (Baltimore, MD – one of the parishes where he serves as pastor) for the monthly “Prayer Walk for Peace,” in the city. Leading this assembly of prayer was Bishop Denis J. Madden (urban vicar and auxiliary bishop emeritus of the Archdiocese of Baltimore) who opened with the following remarks: “Peace is something that is very possible to spread within the human heart, and its going to be done today within these streets that have seen such terrible violence. Our prayers reach out to this city this evening that it may find God’s love and redirect the violent actions into actions of charity.” As we walked down the busy streets of Baltimore with all eyes fixed on us, hymns of praises were being chanted speaking of the search for a peaceful change. This faithful assembly made this walk with a vulnerability and an openness to forgive and love freely. Various stops were made along the walk where we prayed at specific locations that were affected by physical and social violence one of those locations being the killing of a 16 year old boy who lived not far from the parish due to gang violence. Amidst the weight of hearing these unfortunate stories of violence tainting the city, an image I will never forget was seeing those joined in the walk flood the streets offering a glimpse of something this city sees rarely, hope. Smiles found themselves on the faces of those we passed by as if we had released them from some weight upon their backs that allowed them to finally look up and see the light above that is ever so reachable. God’s voice is heard amid fantastic visuals that signal his presence and this was certainly one of those sights. After the walk several of the parishioners came up to me expressing how wonderful it was to have a Franciscan presence for the walk. This indeed was a ministry of presence embodying the spirit of St. Francis that still lives today.
If you would ask me my takeaways from these past two events I would have this to say. Our faith calls us to be wise in our social actions, bold in our moral beliefs, and courageous in what we know to be right and just. Questions also parallel these paradigms, when a people are living in fear, how do we step in as friars to proclaim Gabriel’s message “do not be afraid” through presence and solidarity, walking with them in the difficult places asking difficult questions and seeking equally different answers and then ACT on it? What is my witness when it comes to upholding equality within our society? There is a part to play in this, pray my brothers that I may find mine and that the Lord may continue to enlighten me during this summer experience. My prayers are with you always!”
(The photos were also taken by br. Tim Blanchard, OFM Conv.)
On a quiet September morning, anticipating a trip to The Big E later in the day, I chanced upon FriarDavid having his breakfast. With a cup of coffee in hand, I sat myself down and asked him a simple question, “David, can you tell me about the goats?” His answer began with a Stopyra look and laugh.
Friar David as shepherd of those in formation: 1976-1979 when he served as Guardian and Director of Formation, St. Hyacinth College and Seminary (Granby, MA)
Here is his story… Imagine our senior friars at St. Hyacinth Friary anticipating that annual October Conventual discernment: “What will we ‘do’ for the Franciscan Fast?” The day of the friary’s House Chapter* arrived and Friar David announced that he would spare the community the early penance of such delicate deliberation and offer something new, which would be announced on the community bulletin board within the week. The notice went up and friar after friar rolled his eyes, while chuckling at the typo, Goats for the Poor, “Surely, he meant Coats for the Poor!”
No, he meant GOATS. It was something Friar David put into practice as pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish (Taunton, MA), where he served for 15 years. He has now brought to our friars in Chicopee through the Catholic Charities initiative ~ Goats and Hopes.
Friar David’s inspiration went back to when he was first made a “shepherd” of goats in the Novitiate. In the mountains of western Massachusetts, in a place simply called Becket, +Father Master Cornelian Dende, OFM Conv. acquired goats, which were put in Friar David’s care. They were Alpine, Toggenburg, Saanen, and Nubian. Each had a name. Friar David especially remembers Luella and Susie (remembered as Poor Susie but that is a story for another day).
Fr. David Stopyra, OFM Conv. celebrated 65 years as a Professed Franciscan Friar Conventual this year. Born in Lawrence, MA in 1934 (A son of The Queen City of the Merrimack Valley), he entered the Mt. St. Lawrence Novitiate in 1951, and made his First Profession of Vows on August 15, 1952. Three years later to the day, he celebrated his Solemn Profession of Vows and was Ordained to the Priesthood on May 28, 1960 in St. Michael’s Cathedral, in Springfield, MA by +The Most Rev. Christopher J. Weldon.
Friar David earned several advanced degrees in Philosophy, Theology and Education and has served in province pastoral ministries as well as an educator, counselor, formator and definitor. He currently resides in our St. Hyacinth Friary, in Chicoppee, MA where he lives in community with several other of our senior friars.:
1960: Assistant Pastor & Teacher, St. Francis Parish & St. Francis HS, Athol Springs, NY
1961: Teacher & Counselor, Archbishop Curley High School, Baltimore, MD
1971: Guardian & Principal, Immaculate Heart of Mary Friary & Archbishop Curley HS
1976: Guardian & Director of Formation, St. Hyacinth College and Seminary, Granby, MA
1979: Guardian & Pastor, St. Stanislaus Friary and Parish, Trenton, NJ
1982: Guardian &Pastor, St. Hyacinth Friary and Parish, Auburn, NY
1991: Guardian & Pastor, St. Francis Friary and Parish, Athol Springs, NY
1997: Pastor, Our Lady of the Holy Rosary Parish, Taunton, MA
*Rooted in the positive attitude and openness of each and every friar, the House Chapter is where we share the things most vital to our life so that our fraternity can be life-giving to us and attractive for young men to join us. Each friary commits itself to celebrate at least eight chapters per year and devote ample time to fraternal sharing, discernment, and planning. Each friar commits himself to this positive, participative, and prayerful moment in the life of a healthy friary.
Br. Nicholas Romeo, OFM Conv., Fr. Ericson de la Peña, OFM Conv., Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv. and Fr. Matthew Foley, OFM Conv.
In his own words… Friar Matthew Foley, OFM Conv.:
For the past six years, I have brought students from Archbishop Curley High School to a week-long Catholic Service camp called Encounter the Gospel of Life based out of the University of Maryland- College Park. The idea of the camp is to serve the poor and marginalized in our own backyard.
Like our first year, the 2017 group was huge, including 36 current students, 4 alums, 3 teachers and a parent. We were also fortunate to be joined by Br. Nick Romeo, helping out his Alma Mater, in the hopes of bringing some of his students from St. Francis High School in Athol Springs, NY.
Using a “direct-relational” model of service, participants work directly with and get to know the people they serve. In turn, we believe that we will be served by the individuals that we came to serve, as we encounter Christ in those we serve and hopefully others can encounter Christ in us. This year 300 youth, young adult and adult participants served at nursing homes, with the poor, camps for children and for adults with physical and mental disabilities. There were also two sites that worked on and advocated for pro-life and immigration issues.
Each day begins with Mass and then small groups head to their service sites. This year I worked at the Arc of Howard County, right down the street from the Shrine of St. Anthony! There the young people worked with adults with Downs Syndrome and other mental disabilities. We played games, music, and did art projects. Moving from Social Outreach to Social Justice, later in the week we shared our experiences of working with the disabled by writing to members of Congress, to let them know about how some changes in health care would affect those whom we served, those who also ministered to us!
Returning to the university at the end of the day, we gather to reflect theologically on the connection between service and faith. In the evenings, we also had programing that included keynote speakers, activities on Catholic Social Teaching, Eucharistic adoration, and reconciliation. (Special thanks to the many friar priests in Washington, Ellicott City, and Baltimore who over the years have assisted in hearing confessions!)
Kenny Clapp, a rising sophomore at Curley described his experiences of working with inner city children at a day camp to teach them peacemaking skills. “I thought that I would be coming here to help the kids I worked with, considering they were homeless and coming from a bad area and seemed like the typical model for a person in need. But in reality, it was the kids that helped me. They were so joyful and happy and positive that they made me realize how blessed I was in my own life.” Please email or call if you’d like more information about the camp, or if you’re looking for a summer service experience for the high school aged youth at your ministerial site. The dates for next year’s camp are July 8-14, 2018. The website is http://www.eglweb.org.
Intro by Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv., of our province Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation Ministry: This most recent installment of our JPIC Friar Focus includes a suggestion for a wonderful book, highlighting our brother, Fr. Bede Abram, OFM Conv. (1942-1991). Our Lady of the Angels Province friar and chaplain of the Sisters of St. Felix of Cantalice (aka the Felician Sisters), of Enfield, CT – Fr. Noel Danielewicz, OFM Conv. has written a moving piece on how Friar Bede inspired him personally. This witness is coupled with a book which I first encountered in May 2000 when I received an ordination gift from Friar Noel, entitled A Retreat With Thea Bowman and Bede Abram – Leaning on the Lord by Joseph A. Brown, S.J. On a personal note, I entered our candidacy program in Granby in 1991, six months after Sister Death came to take Friar Bede home. Upon entering the community I considered myself fortunate, because when I was a high school student at Archbishop Curley High School, Friar Noel had talked me into attending a three night Lenten Mission at the Basilica of the Assumption, led by Friar Bede. I’ll never forget his preaching. Even more memorable than his preaching was a personal encounter I had with Friar Bede, when after the second night Friar Noel introduced me him, and I asked a simple question couched in a complement. “I’m really enjoying your preaching…but every now and again I get lost. Can you please tell me what this sparrow is that you keep talking about?” His answer, very kind and personal, came after the friars composed themselves and I was patted on the head and shoulders several times with accompanying phrases like, “Oh, poor child…” Four days after his death, the National Black Catholic Congress convened in Washington and proclaimed the following: “The entire membership…recognize our brother Bede Abram…teacher, lecturer, revivalist, theologian – who has gone to glory,…for he traversed the land giving days of reflection and prayer…he sang his way into the hearts of thousands…he expanded the minds and thinking of many…he challenged all types of folks…we shall miss him as this life had us know him.”
Fr. Noel Danielewicz, OFM, Conv., as he receiving the Renewal of Vows of Felician Sister, S Carol Marie Saladin
Friar Noel Danielewicz, OFM Conv. Reflecting on the call to social justice, in the spirit of Friar Bede Abram and Sister Thea Bowman, I see it as answering the summons to live and incarnate the GOSPEL through being a preacher of the Word! As Christians, we see the world with the compassion of Jesus and respond to the plight of humanity with mercy and love, justice, and forgiveness.
For me, Thea and Bede were two iconic Franciscan voices in the urban wilderness of our country, that cried out for the dignity of the human person. Sister Thea offered her gift of “multiculturalism” to a world that has grown cold to appreciate the richness of God’s gift of race and ethnicity first in oneself, so that you can see and value it in others as “sister and brother.”
There was an “urgency” in Thea and Bede’s message that made some folk uncomfortable about the need to step up to the plate and do something. For we are NOT talking now about ideology, but the pressing needs of humanity. Be it from the classroom to the sanctuary—-Sister Thea and Friar Bede spoke a message of TRUTH that she would often say: “I’ll tell you the truth, only if you can stand to hear the true—truth!” And Thea was adamant about that.
I found it ironic, that God sent these two giants into my life as a friar—priest, whose major fear in ministry was PREACHING. One Good Friday Liturgy I incorporated my recent experience of the death of my nephew, Michael into the homily. It opened my own woundedness with that of Jesus and I felt drained upon returning to my chair. Friar Bede immediately wasted no time in jumping up and congratulating me. And I asked for what? He said, “you preached!”
It is simply amazing whom God places on our “checkerboard” of life and Friar Bede and Sister Thea have been that gift of “spirit and life” for me. Their relationship patterned the love of Francis and Clare that speaks to a hungry and thirsty Church. I’m challenged by God’s presence in my life, and that while I have breath, may I continue to preach in the words of Francis of Assisi: “Sisters and brothers, while we have time, let us do good! For up until now we have done but little.”
In his own words… Friar Peter Knappen, OFM Conv.: St Bonaventure Parish has a long history of helping refugees settle in our community. It all began in the late 70s when we sponsored a family of “boat people” from Vietnam who were seeking freedom and a better life. In the 90s it was a Bosnian family seeking safety from the ethnic cleansing and civil war in the former countries of Yugoslavia. In 2010 Archbishop Collins asked the Catholic Community to come to the aid of Iraqi Chaldeans, Assyrians and others Christians displaced from their homelands and undergoing systematic elimination. St Bonaventure generously answered the call and sponsored an Iraqi family of four. We had money left over from our refugee fund so we decided to sponsor another family. The Office of Refuge of Archdiocese of Toronto recommended three families and in 2015 we decided to help a single mom with her two children who were refugees from Rwanda. In 2016 the Archdiocese of Toronto initiated Project Hope, a campaign to sponsor 100 families from Syria. Because we were in the midst of our yearlong sponsorship of our Rwandan family we could not commit to another family but our parishioners generously gave over $12,000 to support Project Hope.
In Canada in order to sponsor refugees an organization must be a Sponsorship Agreement Holder. In our case the SAH is the Office of Refuge of Archdiocese of Toronto. So for all refugee sponsorships we work closely with the Office of Refugee. They have information sessions explaining the whole process, timelines and responsibilities of the sponsoring parish. These responsibilities include finding and furnishing an apartment, providing food, clothing and all the other basic necessities of life for the whole year, enrolling them if necessary in an English as a Second Language course and helping them to find a job or enroll in school. It can take from one to two years for the whole process. Finally the best part is meeting them at the airport and bring them to their new home.
There are two types of sponsorship that our parish participates in. One as the parish is to sponsor and raise the money, find the apartment and get the name of the family from the Office of Refugees. The other is the parish as a co-sponsor. In this second case, a family member is trying to sponsor relatives to come to Canada. They have to supply the money (up front), provide accommodations for them and jobs. The parish cosigns the agreement with them, gives them moral support, and helps them through the process. We were successful in helping one Iraqi and two Syrian Kurdish families this way.
We have all seen the pictures of Alan Kurdi dead on the beach and the boy covered in dust pulled from the ruble in Aleppo and our hearts and prayers go out to them and their families. It is a much different feeling when a family member is in your office pleading with you to help their family get to safety. This has happened to me seven or eight times. In two cases we were able to help by co-sponsoring their family members. Because the Canadian Government had pledged to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of 2016, our co-sponsorship was fast tracked. Instead of taking a year and a half to process the case the family members were here within six months! One man sponsored his mother, brother, sister and her husband to come to Canada. He helped them financially to get out of Aleppo and into Turkey. It is only about 30-40 miles to the Turkish border, but it took them 8 hours to go through or around different checkpoints and then to sneak across the border. The man was there to meet them, found them an apartment and paid the rent for a whole year. This gentleman sold his house in Toronto and moved to a smaller house in the outskirts of Toronto so he could help his family.
It was great to be able to help this individual and his family. But on the other hand it is tough when you have to say “I am sorry we cannot help you.” This happened several times; twice because the families were still in the country where they were born so could not be classified as refugees. Sadly one person said we will have to try and buy them passage on a boat to Europe or Indonesia. Other times it was because the quota was full. This happened last year because Canada made Syrian refugees their priority and so people from other countries were overlooked. This year we were all set to help an individual from Iraq co-sponsor his relatives. However the quota for 2017 given to the Office of Refugee was already filled by April. Unfortunately I had to say to the individual that he would have to try some other Sponsorship Agreement Holder. Sadly he has been trying for three years to get members of his family to Canada.
Conventual Franciscan Friars Responding to Real Needs
Helping to Turn Strangers into Neighbors
On February 21, 2017, Pope Francis in an address to the VI International Forum: Migration and Peace, felt compelled to address the nature of contemporary migratory movements, which increases challenges presented to the political community, civil society and to the Church, and which amplifies the urgency for a coordinated and effective response to these challenges. Our shared response, according to our Holy Father Francis, “may be articulated by four verbs: to welcome, to protect, to promote and to integrate.”
Have you ever wondered what it is like living in a world, city, or local neighborhood, where your very presence arouses contempt, suspicion, prejudice or common indecency? Where judgements are made of you based on the tone of your skin, the first language you speak or the accent present in your words? Where you as the stranger are literally untrusted, despised or rejected? Where your description begins with a negative – illegal? Where the term friend, neighbor, brother or sister are unspoken?
Sometimes we forget that the words we choose to identify another person do make a difference in whether they meet with our approval, are treated with respect and dignity or vilified and turned away.
Ever given a second thought, to what is to be in hand to enter your child’s school, pick-up a pharmacy prescription, enter a hospital, sit in a library or present when you use a credit card?
Most of us perhaps fail to ponder and take for granted that when a person, be they an officer of the law, pharmacist, teacher, sports coach or cashier, ask for a picture identification we readily show a driver’s license, passport or BJ’s / Costco ID which has a picture, address and baseline information stating who we are and where we live. It is not so easy for everyone.
Essentially, it is the reality of tens of thousands reaching into the millions now living within our country’s borders, cities, villages, towns and rural areas. They are the souls we greet in the market, on the streets, in our churches, work places and gatherings. They are the anawim of God, loved and cherished by Jesus, and named by him as our brothers and sisters.
As part of small but growing effort, the Blessed Sacrament Faith Community and the Conventual Franciscan Friars together with the local Burlington Police Chief, law enforcement officers, and a dedicated group of volunteers representing various religious traditions and families came together two years ago – May 2015 – hoping to make a meaningful dent into a lived problem. Namely, “How to help turn strangers into neighbors”. The result of our coming together was the formation of the Faith ID Card Task Force of Alamance County, linked to an expanding program here in North Carolina known as the FaithAction Network.
The Faith ID Card Program is a connected group of faith communities, nonprofits, and grassroots movements that recognize the urgency of valid ID cards for members of our community who may have limited access to government issued forms of identification, and the importance of creating a unified model and vetting process that community partners (law enforcement, health centers, schools, businesses, and other city agencies) can trust and use to better identify, serve, and protect all residents in cities across North Carolina and the United States.
Ensuring each program has a strong home base that can effectively communicate and coordinate a community ID drive with staff and volunteers
Utilizing the same policies, procedures, and vetting process to receive an ID card
Ensuring partnership with local law enforcement and other community partners who formally agree to support the program and attend ID drives
Utilizing the 4 stage ID drive model in a large, safe space (welcome, orientation, document check, photo/computer intake)
Facilitating dialogue throughout the ID drive between ID participants and law enforcement and other community partners with the goal of building greater understanding, trust and cooperation
Providing the same or similar look as other network programs on the front of the card, and signifying you are a part of the FaithAction ID network on the back
Printing and distributing hundreds of ID cards within two weeks of each drive, and securing the personal information of all participants
*There may be some flexibility and unique characteristics of each program, depending on the needs of each community. *All participants must attend a mandatory orientation at an ID drive, and provide proof of photo identification (passport, foreign national ID card, driver’s license, matricula consular) and proof of address (utility bill, bank statement, current rental agreement, medical record) in order to receive an ID card from a FaithAction ID Network member.
Finally, network members believe it is crucial we continue to work for a driver’s license for all residents at the state level, as well as lasting immigration reform at the federal level. In the meantime, we believe community ID programs represent a very important step forward in creating safer, more inclusive, and united communities for all – a much needed example of positive collaboration at this divided time in our nation’s history.
To date, the Faith ID Card Program here in Burlington, NC, has distributed over 5000 Faith ID Cards. The challenge now is to keep moving forward towards the realization of its mission and vision, a place where strangers become neighbors.
In his own words… Friar Christopher Dudek, OFM Conv.: Memorable moments of my formation include ministering with the Latino community in Silver Spring and Central America. Through these experiences, I have come to understand immigration from immigrants in the US, as well as those who live in Latin America. This issue is not about numbers, but real persons with hopes, desires, and difficulties. My experiences became amplified with my living at the Seraphicum with friars from all over the world, each with their own viewpoints and experiences. In a very Franciscan way, a chance dinner conversation about immigration one evening evolved into a morning symposium on the topic of immigration. I presented on immigration in the USA, while Friar Victor Mora from the delegation in Costa Rica offered a biblical perspective. There were other presentations, including a powerful and moving talk by refugees, whom the General Curia has taken into La basilica dei Santi XII Apostoli(Basilica of the Twelve Holy Apostles, in Rome). My presentation (a great personal accomplishment for me, giving a presentation for 45 minutes in Italian) included a panorama of the situation on the US/Mexican border. I spoke about the many social problems facing many in Latin America and the great problem of inequality in the Americas. I also spoke about the dangers immigrants face while trying to cross the border. One of the most moving and accurate accounts of the dangers involved in migration through Mexico and over the US border is Sonia Nazario’s Pulitzer Prize winning book ENRIQUE’S JOURNEY, our JPIC book of the month! This is story of a Central American boy’s dangerous journey to reunite with his mother in North Carolina. Our own Friar Luis Palacios tells the story of how, as a kid, he and the members of his youth group used to go to the hill by the train tracks to throw clothes and food on top of the passing trains. The migrant children, riding on the top of the trains, relied on such charity as they were often robbed and exploited throughout the long and perilous journey. Another part of my presentation focused on what the US bishops have taught in recent times, along with the texts of the 2000 pastoral statement: Welcoming the Stranger Among Us: Unity in Diversity and the 2003 pastoral statement: Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope. This was an enriching and challenging experience for me. I learned that many, including myself, are in many ways ignorant to the current situation of immigration. This makes it difficult for us to truly understanding the debates we are currently having. One of the best aspects of our symposium was the ability to share various points of view from many different cultural and experiential backgrounds. Through such an expression of the universal church, coming together and sharing ideas and viewpoints, I realized that the world could be truly united around the call for human dignity that is given to all of us equally by God.
With May just around the corner, this month’s JPIC Friar Focus highlights the beginning of a ministry to feed the hungry, by Fr. Paul Gabriel, OFM Conv. Friar Paul’s inspiration not only establishes a food pantry but also provides farm to table fresh food, for those struggling with food security. Fifty million Americans – 1 in 4 children – are not sure if they will have dinner this evening. A successful awareness-raising event at Duke Catholic Campus Ministry, a few years ago, was the screening of the movie, A Place at the Table. The Knights of Columbus even helped to fund a panel discussion where one of the women featured in the film spoke.
(Presented by JPIC Chairman, Fr. Michael Lasky, OFM Conv.)
JPIC Friar Focus: In his own words, Friar Paul Gabriel, OFM Conv. At Blessed Sacrament Parish in Burlington, North Carolina, the “Little Portion Food Pantry,” and the “Garden of the Incarnation,” came about as a result of the feeling that we, as a parish community, needed to have a ministry that provided direct service to the poor and disenfranchised. The parish gave monetarily to various service organizations in the community but provided no visible direct service on a continual basis. I felt that as a Franciscan parish striving to live Franciscan ideals, we needed something visible to the external community addressing current needs with the parishioners providing direct service themselves.
The demographic in the community contained a high percentage of undocumented people without identification that limited their access to social services and excluded them from government assisted food pantries. Through prayerful discernment, I came up with the idea for the food pantry and contacted parishioners who I felt would be open to this ministry; the journey began.
I contacted Friar Greg Spuhler, OFM Conv. who at that time was working at a parish in Cary, NC in the same type of ministries. Friar Greg was a significant person in helping us to get off the ground, along with many other service providers in the area. The biggest obstacle in opening the food pantry was making sure that were in compliance with all the organizations that certified such outreach. We had dedicated parishioners that worked us through that process. After the food pantry began, one of the parishioners asked me what we were going to do with all the vacant land around the new church. I replied, “We are going to share it with the community…if we are generous to the People of God, God will not be outdone in His generosity to us.”
Even though we were struggling financially as a parish, I felt we still needed to share what we had. It was at that time I came up with idea for the garden so that we could provide our food pantry with fresh produce for those we served, which was limited to canned produce. I chose the name, “Little Portion Food Pantry,” based on the love St. Francis had for the Portiuncula and, “The Garden of the Incarnation,” was based on the foundational basis of the Incarnation in Franciscan spirituality.
This experience was extremely rewarding for all of us involved as well as challenging at times. Those who worked in distribution at the pantry learned much about how the poor struggle for basics and felt a sense of fulfillment when we were able to help struggling families. For me as a friar-pastor, it was extremely fulfilling to see our desire for a more JPIC focused parish come to fruition.
A year after we began these ministries, I changed assignments. These ministries have continued to grow and have served many. These are the most current statistics (March 2017) from the Little Portion Food Pantry:
Screening–136 Families; walk-ins -19.
Distribution – 135 Families, 300 adults, 252 children (532 individuals).
Nearly 9,500 lbs. of food distributed.
In addition on to canned food and dry goods we distributed the following: Panera Bread – 532 lbs. Carrots – 370 lbs. Produce – 95 lbs. Lettuce – 60 heads Eggs – 140 dozen Meat – 480 lbs Cheese – 60 packs Margarine – 60 lbs. Additional cereal – approx. 280 bags/boxes Sweet potatoes – 750 lbs. Blueberries – approx. 240 packs Obtained 1180 pounds of produce (sweet potatoes, carrots and blueberries) from SHFB at zero cost.
Stuff A Truck – Weekend (Mar 11/12) donations to this month’s collection totaled 1,248 lbs.
Additional items were donated prior to distribution.
Presented by Our Lady of the Angels Province Friar, Fr. Ericson de la Peña, OFM Conv., who served in Campus Ministry at the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC.
Pope Francis expressed his hope of our sharing Christian values with the young by presenting “Jesus Christ as the meaning of life…” (Vatican Audience, 2/13/14). In my ministry at Catholic University, I personally try to foster in vivo encounters with Christ by focusing on the meaning of life that is found through our Franciscan calling to minority, for we are told by St. Francis that Christ willing chose to be become poor. Teaching minority as a lifestyle has brought me, and those I serve, up close to the poor and the marginalized (whom St. Francis loved dearly with special devotion.)
Our campus ministry is always offering opportunities for us to meet the poor and to help them. This is good, but not enough. It was in a homily earlier this academic year that a friar asked the students how many volunteered for service projects, or in particular at a soup kitchen. Nearly everyone’s hand was raised in the air. Then the friar asked for another show of hands, for those who actually took the time to sit, share a meal, and have a conversation with the people at the tables. He was asking if the value of minority, of our truly being “lesser brothers and sisters” was operative. He was asking if our charity moves into minority, as a way of living and interacting with other that may seem a bit reckless at times.
A mission trip to Costa Rica two years ago brought together students from CUA, Duke, & UNC, stirring a real Franciscan passion for charity, justice, and peace within us. During the week friars and students went out to meet the homeless and the severely disabled persons who were left in institutions that would care for them. One of the tasks that our students bravely performed was to wash and clean the bodies of the sick amid the horrid conditions they found them in. The repulsive stench was certainly not for the weak heart, yet none of the students assigned there backed out, some even vied to get the spot! I was deeply moved by the compassion I witnessed from our young missionaries, and honestly caught by surprise at how these privileged youngsters were reckless in associating themselves so closely and tenderly with the poor.
The mutual edification during the mission trip did not end after our day of service but continued on through the evening with a daily reflection of our encounters. Touched by the human suffering they witnessed, these encounter engendered a greater desire in them to reach out and give of themselves more completely as lesser brothers and sisters.
Two students from CUA returned to Costa Rica after college, as FrancisCorp volunteers, and one of the two became Catholic during her time there. Another has just been accepted to return to Costa Rica as part of next the next FrancisCorp group, while yet another one has volunteered at an extended volunteer mission in NY.
Our Franciscan charism of fostering charity, justice and peace, when presented through the lifestyle of minority, resonates strongly with the youth. We simply cannot relegate this core values to the side, for if lived authentically we will find ourselves not working solo in our mission. Instead we find ourselves, like St. Francis, among the poor and the youth, discovering together Jesus Christ as the meaning of life.
JPIC (Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation) Friar Focus:
From the January 2017 Newsletter by Br. Michael Duffy, OFM Conv. DNP, APRN-BC,
Elms College School of Nursing Professor &
Coordinator of the Accelerated Second Degree Program
Br. Duffy pictured 3rd from left – top
This newsletter has been created to offer a word of thanks to our sponsors and benefactors and to update you on our recent nursing clinical experience in Mandeville, Jamaica, West Indies. Senior nursing students from the Elms College, Accelerated Second Degree Program and second year DNP students spent two weeks in country completing ten days of clinical in a variety of settings.
Clinical Experiences This year our time began on a National Holiday, January 2nd, so clinics were not operating. Sr. Barbara Whyte, FMS, Director of Nursing at St. Joseph Hospital, Kingston, JA gave us a tour of the facilities. The day was punctuated with an opportunity to help “make gauze pads in the OR.” During the days that followed we staffed session clinics in Bull Savanah, Santa Cruz and Maggotty. These clinics were staffed by one faculty NP, one student NP, one faculty RN and three student RNs. The recurring theme: making use of the resources you have.
These ten days of clinical are intertwined with opportunities to visit the open-air market in Mandeville – and experience the crowds, the taxis, the un-refrigerated meat market and the ever-present aromas of cooking soup and roasted breadfruit, burning styrofoam or ganga. No trip to the Caribbean would be complete without a trip to YS Falls and Treasure Beach; or a stop along-the-way for curry goat, jerk pork or coconut water
Because of Your Support
These days allowed our students from the Elms College, School of Nursing, to see 1,000 patients, and travel the length and breadth of the Diocese of Mandeville, Jamaica, WI. Special thanks to the College Administration, the School of Nursing, the Franciscan Friars – OLA Province and Mr. Henry and +Dale. No one was denied care (and treatment) because of your financial help– THANKS!
Side Note: One of the very successful projects created by Br. Duffy is the caRe vaN, which provides free healthcare to the homeless and underserved of Chicopee, including blood pressure checks and monitoring, blood sugar checks, foot care, episodic first aid, minor wound care, patient education on these and other topics, and other healthcare needs that may arise. For more information, please visit a prior post on one of the events that featured this very needed service.