Ruth is a single mother of two from the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia. Cynthia is a homeless woman in New York City. Stephanie and George are parents who lost their son to a drug overdose. Alexandria and her family made the treacherous journey from Ecuador on foot and hitching rides from strangers. Different backgrounds of people who have never met, but their stories share a common denominator – the Franciscan friars.
In thanksgiving for help they receive from Franciscan ministries, Ruth, Cynthia and others are voluntarily sharing their dramatic, gut-wrenching stories in a series of videos for The Franciscan Challenge, the fundraising campaign that serves as the major source of funding for Franciscan ministry to the poor.
Perhaps you could share the links to this series of emotion-filled videos with your network of contacts or anyone you think might want to donate to The Franciscan Challenge so that we friars can continue to care for the more than 2 million children, women and men who come to us for food, clothes, medicine and other basic necessities. Donations also help to educate men studying to be friars, and to care for our elder friars who have given so much to so many.
In the videos, David Convertino, OFM, director of the national Development Office, says, “There is an old proverb: If there was one loaf of bread left in the entire world, the Franciscans would have it – because the friars would share this bread with everyone. Every. Day. We share the bread with dignity, love and compassion. It comes in many forms: nourishing food, stable housing, warm clothes, vital medical assistance, and other basic necessities for our struggling sisters and brothers in need.”
The videos are powerful and filled with raw emotion. In one, Ruth says she and her young daughters depend on food from St. Francis Inn soup kitchen in Philadelphia to survive. “I am homeless with two kids. I come here for help. Getting resources and support from the friars is phenomenal. My children love it here and we feel welcome,” she says.
Cynthia is a regular at the 31st Street outreach ministry. She sets up her folding chair outside St. Francis Church and chats with the friars as she waits for the Breadline to start up so she can get her favorite sandwich, roast turkey, a slice of cake, and a cup of coffee – sometimes the only meal for most of the homeless guests. In this video, Cynthia says, “Homelessness is a situation that comes upon you. People are out here for many reasons… To the friars, it doesn’t matter how people get here. They care for everyone.”
In another video, we learn of the heartbreaking story of Stephanie and George. It’s bad enough that George was recovering from cancer, and their medical bills put them in a financial hole. But their son, who struggled with addiction, died of an overdose and the couple had no money for his burial. The Remember Them ministry stepped in and gave their son, Daniel, a proper burial. George says in the video, “The angels came to help us.”
Alexandria and her family, and Valeria and her children, also from Ecuador, get help from the Migrant Center at the 31st Street church. “It’s so difficult for us. We don’t have any clothes. We arrived with nothing… just as we are. I thank God we found good people… the friars,” Alexandria says in the video as she fights back tears. Valeria says, “The help the friars give us is very great because if they weren’t helping us, the truth is, we wouldn’t have anywhere else to turn.”
“We ask all friars to pass along The Franciscan Challenge video series to everyone you know. These people took the time to share their heartbreaking stories – the real experiences of our poor, homeless, and migrant sisters and brothers. They put aside their embarrassment because they want people to know who they’re helping when they donate to The Franciscan Challenge,” said David.
“When you ask your congregations, friends and supporters to take The Franciscan Challenge, the message is this: Without your Franciscan heart and generous donations and support, the work of the friars would end. Help us help them. Help us share the bread. Everyone. Every. Day,” David added.