New York City Church Launches New Ministries

Jocelyn Thomas Around the Province

NEW YORK — Caring for the elderly and the infirmed, tending the gardens, and preserving memories with photos are the themes of three new ministries at St. Francis of Assisi Parish on West 31st Street in New York City.

The Caregivers Assistance Program, the St. Francis Gardening Ministry and the St. Francis Photographers were all launched in the past three months since Andrew Reitz, OFM, began his new assignment as pastor. He said the three new ministries will make the already vibrant community even more engaged.

The ministries are an outgrowth of community needs along with using the gifts and talents of the parish, Andrew said. For example, more than 200 parishioners expressed an interest in photography, so the church developed the photo ministry. “The church has a need for people to volunteer and capture in photos our life here at St. Francis as we celebrate at so many events and liturgies,” said Edward Trochimczuk, the parish’s director of volunteer ministry. “So the Spirit provided the gifts, and the Spirit showed the need, and voila! the staff decided it’s time to launch a new ministry. That is what we are supposed to do as the Church. That is part of what it means for all of us — pastor, friars, staff and parishioners together — to practice good stewardship.”

The Caregivers Assistance Program, or CAP, offers trained volunteers from the parish to help those caring for sick relatives or friends at home. The volunteers help make doctor appointments, do basic housecleaning, gardening, pet care, manage paperwork and offer companionship.”

Helping Those Who Help the Sick
“If you are a caregiver and caring for an elderly, sick or infirm person, we can provide you with a variety of services, according to information on the parish website. “Our volunteers come primarily from our worshipping church community,” said Trochimczuk, who leads the program.

Volunteers will go to the home of the caregiver and assist for an hour or two during the week, Trochimczuk said. “Volunteers can help with are doctors’ appointments, house-cleaning, grocery- shopping, gardening and pet-care, managing paper work, and just offering a listening ear.”

The caregivers are parishioners from St. Francis of Assisi Church. “Our volunteers come primarily from our church community,” Trochimczuk said. “They have been interviewed and screened, have undergone background checks and have attended a training program at St. Francis. This program was developed and designed by a volunteer, Lucille Giffone, who was a caregiver for elderly parents, said Trochimczuk. “She realized there was a great need for assisting those who care for others.”

Giffone presented the concept as a possible volunteer opportunity, Trochimczuk said. The program is building its core of key volunteers.

Maintaining the Gardens
Trochimczuk also coordinates the St. Francis Garden Ministry, which held its first meeting on Aug. 9. This ministry will take care of the upkeep of the parish garden on 32nd Street and the large planters in the Peace Garden, he said. 

“Parishioners who have a green thumb — or even a brown thumb — can put their planting, trimming, fertilizing, mulching, weeding and clean-up skills to work,” he said. “It’s sometimes difficult to find a green space in the middle of Manhattan to garden,” he said, “so this is a great opportunity to get your hands dirty in the earth.” The project currently has six people interested in the ministry and experience ranges from an organic gardener to a person who has never pruned a plant. The first goal of this ministry is to spruce up both areas just in time for the feast of St. Francis. This ministry is a response to the not-so-healthy looking plants that seem to be surviving in both areas of the church.”

Compiling Pictures of Parish Events 
Also last month, Trochimczuk and Joseph Nuzzi, the parish’s director of evangelization, launched the Photographers Ministry. “Clearly this community is gifted with many people who enjoy photography,” said Trochimczuk.

Composed of volunteer photographers of all skill levels, this new volunteer ministry, led by Nuzzi, will take pictures at St. Francis of Assisi Church.

“With the many wonderful services, events, volunteer opportunities happening, we tend to forget to take pictures,” said Trochimczuk. “This group would allow our volunteer photographers to attend events, take pictures and e-mail the photos directly to us for publication on our website, church bulletin or just for archival purposes. The group is also interested in photographing the great architecture of the church, stained glass windows, and the beauty of the great mosaic. St. Francis Photographers are already planning field trips to local museums of photography, the botanical gardens and other areas of interest that would allow for great photographs.”

The photography ministry met twice in August. Information about the group can be obtained by contacting or visiting the parish website.

Information about all parish programs can be found in the St. Francis of Assisi bulletins and on its website.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

Editor’s note: New ministries at other parishes around the Province will be publicized in future issues of this newsletter. Information should be submitted to the HNP Communications Office.