February 4, 2016
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Building a future for neighbors in need

BY TONI CASHNELLIJeff Scheeler, Chris Schuermann and Frank Jasper at the St. Anthony Messenger / Franciscan Media building.

Chris Schuermann stops at the glass door on the Republic Street side of the St. Anthony Messenger/Franciscan Media building.

“This will be the grand entrance,” she says, imagining this spot a year from now. If all goes according to plan, this door will indeed lead to something grand – a center of services for the homeless and the working poor.

Chris, Executive Director of St. Francis Seraph Ministries in Over-the-Rhine, likes to dream big. And she’s pretty persuasive.

When she heard Franciscan Media was scaling back in-house operations and would need much less space, the wheels started to turn. Printing and shipping areas, the warehouse and a number of offices would all be vacant. What if that space could be used to consolidate the friar-sponsored Ministries now housed in three locations?

But the Ministries’ Soup Kitchen, Bag Lunch, Sarah Center and Cooking for the Family programs didn’t need all that room. So why not share the building with other non-profits? The friars embraced the idea. As it turned out, a number of faith-based agencies were looking for a home and the space was exactly what they needed.

The Province sees the property as a hub of helping services for neighbors in need. “It’s a win, win, win,” says Provincial Minister Jeff Scheeler, “a win for the Ministries, a win for Franciscan Media, a win for the neighbors – and good stewardship of the building.”

It’s ‘providential’

A zoning variance approved in December moved the project a step closer to reality. Today, Chris leads a tour of the floors from top to bottom, showing the space to be leased by Franciscan Ministries, the Center for Respite Care and Franciscan Haircuts from the Heart.
The existing layout suits their needs so well that it’s “totally providential,” she says.

Providential? Try “amazing”.

“There are 17 private offices up here,” says Chris, climbing the stairs to the third floor, where the Center for Respite Care plans to move its Medical Recovery Program, a convalescent facility for sick homeless people who might otherwise end up in a hospital ER. With the addition of window blinds, some rooms are move-in ready for patients. “We don’t have to change the design; it’s all here,” Chris says. “Each office is the exact square footage of a patient’s room. Some of the offices are large enough for two clients.”

All the patients on this floor – men on one side, women on the other – can use a community room to be located in the former library of Franciscan Media, as well as the interior courtyard where editorial employees once lunched.  They’ll have a nursing/medical facility in the offices that were used by FM’s Internet team. Health education and counseling that helps the homeless transition to a more stable environment will be part of the healing process.

The space is a godsend for the Center, according to Chris. Currently occupying a building that’s “partially condemned,” they’ve been looking to move for more than two years.

Above left, Chris Schuermann in her office inthe St. Anthony Messenger/Franciscan Media building; above, former Vine Street home of St. Francis Seraph Ministries; left, a soup kitchen guest Above, Jeff Scheeler and Frank Jasper visit a SarahCenter class in its new location; left, soup kitchen guests at St. FrancisSeraph School.Body and soul

One floor down, the Republic Street side of the building will house Franciscan Haircuts from the Heart, fitting for a corridor once occupied by Franciscan Media’s Human Resources division. The resource provided here will be personal grooming from head (haircuts) to toe (foot care).

Founded 27 years ago by Sr. Bonnie Steinlage, a Franciscan Sister of the Poor, Haircuts ministers to the poor and homeless, the elderly and disabled with a service designed to enhance their dignity and elevate their spirits. Ironically, since the closing in December of the St. John Social Services building on Logan Street, Haircuts has been homeless as well.

Down the hall, the Nurse Outreach Program operated by TriHealth and connected to St. Francis Seraph Ministries has already moved in. “There are two nurses working here,” doing home visits to pregnant women and the elderly, Chris says. From these offices, “They can triage somebody and send them to the hospital.”

So with all the people coming and going and Franciscan Media now located in the west end of the building, how will they insure safety and maintain separation? “It’s our No. 1 priority,” Chris says, explaining a system with multiple layers of security that includes coded key-cards, double-door entrances and metal detectors for the soup kitchen.

Hopes are high

Obviously for director Chris, the highlight of the tour is the ground-floor space for St. Francis Seraph Ministries. In the cavernous expanse of empty shelves and discarded equipment, she outlines an ambitious plan to expand services that will require sizable donations and some creative visualization.

The Sarah Center has moved from its Vine Street site (the old St. Francis Bookshop), with dozens of bolts of fabric already piled on one side of the former “book-picking” area. The sewing, quilting and jewelry making taught here have more than practical applications. Self-esteem, empowerment, sisterhood: All are the byproducts of learning a marketable skill.

The Bag Lunch program benefits day laborers who can’t afford the food sold at job sites and folks in transitional housing. “We’ve had a lot of requests to expand this program” beyond the 800 lunches prepared and distributed each week from the former Canticle Café at Liberty and Vine, Chris says. That’s doable in a facility with much more space for food storage. (In collaboration with Findlay Market, the Ministries’ Cooking for the Family program will have more mobile locations.)

St. Francis Seraph Soup Kitchen, long housed in the basement of St. Francis Seraph School, would move to the old print shop and a shipping area in the Media building. This would free the school space for after-hours programs and enhance security for the kids. Chris has high hopes for the new kitchen: seating for 250 guests; commercial equipment; dinner served five nights a week and the addition of breakfast.

“We really see this as a center not only to serve the poor but the whole neighborhood,” particularly the growing number of working poor.

With the blessing of Archbishop Dennis Schnurr and the friars’ support – not to mention the enthusiasm of Chris, its biggest cheerleader – it seems this project was meant to be.

“Isn’t this exciting?” she says. And best of all, “It’s so Franciscan.”

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Tim Lamb, OFMTim shared this photo of a papaya tree
near the novitiate in Uganda.
The traditional practices of Lent are prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Sometimes it helps to give a focus to those practices.ᅠSo this Lent,ᅠin an act of solidarity and support,ᅠwe are inviting the friars and our friends to focus these spiritual exercises toward our brother Tim Lamb, serving now with the friars of St. Francis of Assisi Province in Africa. Tim is living at the Franciscan Novitiate in Kakoba, Uganda, a village outside of Mbarara.ᅠWe invite you to pray for Tim and his confreres, to forgo some small pleasure this Lent, and to share a small gift with Tim’s community: a dollar a day for the 40 days of Lent.

Tim writes: “The money will be used inᅠtwo places.ᅠFr. Dismas (the guardian here)
has a personal project visiting the local prison. He could use about $1,000 for supplying medicine for sick inmates. The remainder I would direct to St. Francis Counsellor Training Programme (British spelling) where I have been working as an instructor. The money would go toward tuition for primary school teachers who are seeking a degree in counseling. They are pioneers in that they would be the first
school counselors in the nation.”

Tim will share with us periodically about his life, work, and these projects on his blog: www.omnesdonumest.blogspot.com. Our goal is to raise at least $5,000.ᅠ Your gift of solidarity ($40) can be sent to the Franciscan Mission Office and will be sent to Tim right after Easter. Tim may help us remember during this Lent: Omnes donum est;
all is gift!


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFMEmail To a Friend

Pope’s interview a springboard for reflection

(The Name of God Is Mercy; published by Piemme, 2016; $16.87 from amazon.com)


The title of Andrea Tornielli’s book-length interview is taken from “The Face of Mercy,” the Bull of Indiction for the Holy Year of Mercy, printed as the final third of this volume.

This Italian journalist interviewed Pope Francis last July, posing questions about the inspiration for this Year of Mercy, the pope’s experiences of mercy, and why mercy is central to understanding God.

Four days after being elected, Pope Francis preached at the Church of St. Anna at the working entrance to Vatican City. He said: “The Lord never tires of forgiving: never! It is we who tire of asking for forgiveness. We need to ask for the grace not to get tired of asking for forgiveness, because he never tires of forgiving.” Even sorrow for not repenting is itself the smallest opening to repentance.

To the journalist’s first question about the inspiration for calling this Holy Year of Mercy, the pope responded that this was an idea preserved in prayer. “I never trust myself in part because my first reaction is usually wrong.” A roundtable discussion with theologians in Buenos Aires years ago led one participant to suggest a holy year of forgiveness.

Pope Francis describes merciful confessors he has known over the years. An old lady once told him in confession that without the mercy of God the world would cease to exist.

This book is valuable not only for the pope’s answers to Tornielli’s questions but also because those questions can provide a springboard for our own reflection. For example: What do you need in order to obtain mercy? What would you say to someone who doesn’t feel like a sinner? What advice would you give a priest about how to be a good confessor?

Pope Francis cites many examples from his pastoral ministry. He mentions a poor, single mother whom he helped in Argentina. She was grateful for that aid but also because he always respectfully called her “Senora.”

“When a sinner recognizes himself as such, he admits in some way that what he was attached to, or clings to, is false. The corrupt man masks what he considers his true treasure, but which really makes him a slave and masks his vice with good manners, always managing to keep up appearances.”

This book is available in hardback, paperback, as a CD, or as a download.

Books on blog

NCR has initiated a blog moderated by Sr. Dianne Bergant and Cincinnati’s Michael Daley (teacher at St. X High School).ᅠ It’s titled “The most important book I ever read”.ᅠ Click http://ncronline.org/blogs/ncr-today/take-and-read-law-christ to read Charles Curran’s reflection on Bernard Haring’s three-volume The Law of Christ, which was hugely influential in presenting an alternative to the manual approach to teaching/learning moral theology.

These blogs will be posted on Mondays.

– Fr. Pat McCloskey, OFM

  • Announcing Fr. Jim Bok’s appointment as General Visitor to  ABVM Province this week, Provincial Minister Jim Gannon wrote: “Jim is a good friend to, and very much respected by many Friars of our Province and throughout the Order of Friars Minor.” Jim’s response to the news: “It is a shock, an honor and very exciting – and yes, a little frightening.”
  • “St. Mary’s saying goodbye to head of its family” is the title of a Jan. 29 story in the Bloomington Pantagraph in which reporter Paul Swiech writes about the upcoming retirement of Pastor Ric Schneider and the departure of the friars (Family). Quoting Paul: “To St. Mary’s — a close-knit parish of 1,350 families and a small but spirited school of 137 students and 29 staff members on Bloomington’s west side — the loss is threefold: the retirement of the charismatic Schneider; the loss of [Neri] Greskoviak and [Kevin] Duckson; and the knowledge that Franciscan Friars will no longer be there.”
  • Fr. Larry Zurek and Fr. Page Polk have better things to do this Sunday than watch the Super Bowl. That’s the day they leave for Rome to be commissioned as Missionaries of Mercy by Pope Francis on Feb. 10.
  • Editor John Feister has a wide-ranging interview with General Minister Michael Perry about the future of the friars in the February issue of St. Anthony Messenger posted at: Messenger
  • Fr. Jim Van Vurst reflects on the Jubilee Year of Mercy in a brief video by Franciscan Media posted at: Youtube.
  • Reminder: The memorial Mass for Fr. Matthew Brozovic is at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 6, at Mt. Assisi (the School Sisters of St. Francis), 934 Forest Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • This Saturday (Feb. 6), Fr. John Quigley will present the first of three reflections on the Jubilee Year of Mercy. John’s 10:30 a.m. talk, “Mercy – The Force of God Awakening in Us,” is at St. Anthony Shrine in Mt. Airy. Fr. Larry Zurek follows on Monday, April 11 at 7 p.m., and Fr. Mark Soehner’s presentation is at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 2.
  • Tom Murphy has decided to leave the novitiate. We wish him well.
  • Another reminder: Visitors can check out the new Carol Dauwe Fine Arts Center from 5-7 p.m. this Saturday, Feb. 6, during an Open House at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati. According to RB, “The Fine Arts Center has permanent seating for 317 persons with an additional 200 floor seats. The center features a new thrust stage, state-of-the-art sound and video systems and expanded capabilities which will be used for fine arts and daily academic classes.” The Sound Body Jazz Orchestra will perform following the Open House.

Jamaica missionary Jim Bok will be General Visitor to ABVM Province.

The new fine arts center at Roger Bacon.

Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org