‘A Church That is For the Poor’

Maria Hayes Franciscan World

The following is a compilation of this month’s news from the website and Facebook page of the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor, composed of provinces from the United States, Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania and Malta.

“How I would like a Church that is poor and that is for the poor!”

So said Pope Francis during a March 16, 2013 audience. Last weekend, the Holy Father received in a private audience General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, and the General Curia. During the meeting, Pope Francis highlighted the grace of being Friars Minor, expressed “in the simple and fraternal way of life through caring for and sharing with everyone, especially the poor and marginalized.”

Much of the news shared by the ESC this month focuses on friars’ work with the poor — specifically in Detroit and Philadelphia.

In Michigan, Br. Al Mascia, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, drives a Dodge Sprinter “Care’avan” to the Rosa Parks Transit Center on weekday mornings to hand out hot beverages, snacks, hand and toe warmers, gloves, hats and socks to those in need.

“This is a place where many people who may be homeless, may be poor, may be in need sometimes gather to get out of the elements,” Br. Al told Detroit’s local CBS station.

Br. Al’s ministry also includes the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace, an award-winning ecumenical and interreligious project founded by Br. Al. This provides the southeast Michigan area with the means to promote peace and reconciliation at a grassroots level through the arts, music, organic gardening and community service. Assisted by volunteers of various religious beliefs, Song and Spirit strives to provide those in need with nutrition, literacy, art and music programs, health education and cultural enrichment.

More information about Br. Al’s ministry is available on his website.

Nearly 600 miles away, Holy Name Province friars serve hundreds each day at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia. The soup kitchen was highlighted by The Philadelphia Daily News on March 11. In the story, Fred Dilger, OFM, and Michael Duffy, OFM, discuss the inn’s history and the importance of treating guests with dignity and kindness.

“The world is so hard out there that I don’t think I could go through what some of our guests go through and continue to soldier on,” Fred said. “But they know that starting at 4:30 every afternoon, they can come in and get a good meal. We don’t judge. We don’t proselytize. You don’t have to listen to an ‘Our Father’ before we hand you the food.”

The English-speaking Conference posted many other topics on Facebook, including:
•   A reflection titled “A Jesuit Pope with a Franciscan Heart” written by Fr. Thomas Washburn, OFM, of Immaculate Conception Province, the executive secretary of the ESC
•   Reflections by Franciscan missioner Jeff Sved, who is serving in Cochabamba, Bolivia 
•   The Vatican’s call for all religious to express joy in their vocations 
•   The music ministry of “The Singing Friar,” Br. Alessandro Brustenghi, OFM, and his tour throughout Ireland

The ESC provincial minsters will gather for their first meeting of 2014 the week of April 7.

— Compiled by Maria Hayes