Shopping for Spirituality

HNP Communications In the Headlines

Several church communities in the Province have found that operating a bookstore offers a good opportunity to extend their outreach and ministry.

Parishes in three states — St. Francis Church, Brant Beach, N.J.; Sacred Heart Church, Tampa, Fla.; and St. Francis of Assisi Church, New York City — all have bookstores.

The Tampa bookstore is “a ministry of Sacred Heart Church and the shop personnel are aware of the influence that they can have on those who come into the store,” said Andrew Reitz, OFM, pastor. “Many people are looking for a book to read to help them grow in their spirituality or to comfort them when they are going through a crisis.”

Andrew, who is a big believer in the spiritual outreach of a bookstore, founded the Brant Beach bookstore in the mid-1970s while serving at the parish. His current church’s shop in Tampa is less than a year old and is already very busy, he said, especially during the lunch hour.

Tampa Bookstore Almost One Year Old
The Sacred Heart Gift and Book Store opened in October 2009 after being closed for 10 years. When leased store space in a building next to the church was available for more than a year, the friars and parishioners discussed re-opening a bookstore there.

Andrew negotiated affordable rent, and a parishioner who had recently lost her job agreed to manage the store.

“The rent offer that the owner gave was better than I could imagine,” said Andrew. After 45 days of set-up, the bookstore had its grand opening last October. ”What a great time to open with the holidays coming up, and weddings, first communions, confirmation and graduations around the corner.”

The store features gifts, religious items, CDs, books, Bibles, cards and more. The book selection is extensive, with a wide variety of Franciscan titles. Other products are stone carvings, Trappist jellies and honey, and items pertinent to the church, including a Christmas ornament, the 150th anniversary church calendar, a medal of the logo, and local notepaper and cards. No store would be complete without the basics — medals, rosaries, crucifixes, candles, plaques, garden statues, and periodicals.

“We are always looking for unique items,” Andrew added.

The store is open six days a week, Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and before and after weekend Masses.

Christmas in July Sale in New Jersey
On Long Beach Island, N.J., the St. Francis Shop, located behind St. Francis Church, is not just any religious bookstore, according to Lorraine Stack, manager for the past 13 years. The store, she said, carries many distinctive gifts and inspirational items, including some with a seashore theme since the parish is on the Jersey Shore.

The shop held a Christmas in July Sale last month, since the parish community, where Stephen Kluge, OFM, is the pastor, becomes inundated with vacationers and summer visitors. In addition to the regular religious inventory and cards, the Christmas in July Sale featured Franciscan soaps, military crosses, seaside music boxes, Trappist preserves, St. Francis holy water bottles, garden décor and St. Francis outdoor statues, seasonal items, glass sail boats and Irish items. Crocheted hand towels made by Sr. Kate Murphy, OSF, are always popular, said Stack.

The shop has been in operation for 34 years, and now is open seven days a week. It was expanded in 2004. Proceeds benefit the church’s food pantry which is part of the St. Francis Community Center.

“We have expanded our line of 14K gold religious jewelry, along with our regular crucifixes, crosses and medals,” said Stack. “The rosary selection now includes sterling silver rosaries, as well as beautiful venetian glass bead rosaries.”

The back room of the St. Francis Shop houses a collection of books, CDs and cards, including Bibles, study guides, missals of chants with accompanying music, Irish music and books on CD, and many writings on St. Francis.

The Place to Shop in New York City
St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street operates perhaps one of the largest and most prominent religious bookstores in Manhattan. From its humble beginnings as a parish pamphlet rack, the bookstore today is extensive. Managed by Alan Thomas, OFM, the St. Francis Bookstore offers Bibles, crosses, rosaries, gifts, statuary, greeting cards, music CDs. The store is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

“Additionally, we are very proud of our vast selection of religious gifts including rosaries, medals and crosses (both sterling silver and gold), wall crucifixes, statues and pictures, candles, along with a large selection of laminated prayer cards,” according to the parish website.

BookstoresA Church-Affiliated Store in North Jersey
Not all shops affiliated with churches are run by Province churches. Blake Pra Sisto, who left her job as assistant to Kevin Downey, OFM, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Pompton Lakes, N.J., opened a bookstore, The Parish Store, near the church several years ago. It is across the street from the Father Michael J. Carnevale, OFM, Faith Formation Center and supplies St. Mary’s and surrounding churches with books, gifts, and liturgical items.

As the final weeks of summer will soon be gone, parishioners and vacationers alike will continue to visit the cities, suburbs and shore. As fall approaches, shoppers will begin to plan — and shop — for the Christmas season.

— Wendy Healy is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today. Information about HNP ministries that sell books, music and similar items to community members is welcomed by the Province’s Communications Office. Send e-mails to Jocelyn Thomas at to be considered for a future newsletter issue.