BY TONI CASHNELLI
Marketing Associates did the cooking last week.
Just ask anyone who’s ever attended a Flash Picnic organized by St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services in Detroit. For the past four summers, these impromptu cookouts have made fast friends of senior citizens, office workers, tourists, the homeless and construction crews who might otherwise go their separate ways.
The premise is simple: Volunteers set up a grill in a public spot, usually at a park or in front of St. Aloysius Church. Over a couple of hours they cook and serve hot dogs, chips and water at no charge to anyone who wants a quick meal.
“What it does is give people an opportunity to interact with the poor and socialize and break down barriers,” says Mike Carsten, Director of St. Al’s Neighborhood Services. “It’s not pointed to the poor, it’s pointed to the community. Everybody just comes and has a hot dog and talks.” Depending on the weather and helpers, anywhere from 20 to 40 cookouts are mounted each year.
The picnics were an outreach effort started the summer after St. Al’s moved its ministries from Washington Boulevard. After the first event, “Other people and groups saw it and asked if they could be involved,” Mike says. “I got a phone call one day and someone asked what we called this.” At the time, “There were flash dances and flash mobs going on. I even saw on the news some people got together and sang opera in a mall. So I told them, ‘It’s a Flash Picnic’.”
Corporations, college students and church groups from the Archdioceses of Detroit and Lansing have all stepped up to host picnics. “We have private individuals who gather with friends to hold them. The typical cost is about $160 to $175; with that we feed probably 150 people.”
St. Al’s provides the grill and the location. Mike sends out a schedule listing all the supplies needed: hot dogs, buns, chips, bottled water, condiments and napkins. “It says on the schedule, ‘You can help purchase supplies,’ but we don’t want the cost to be a barrier to people who want to help,” so Neighborhood Services foots the bill about half the time. “We try not to advertise” – hence the “flash” designation – but Mike posts a schedule where neighbors can see it. “Some of the seniors we serve are really hungry” and appreciate a heads-up on the next meal. “They’re not only hungry for food, they’re isolated and very lonely. By giving them notice it becomes an event for them.”
In the past week Capitol Park was the site of two Flash Picnics, one hosted by office workers from Marketing Associates, another by nursing students from the University of Detroit, who turned it into a Health Fair with free blood pressure checks.
“It’s interesting to watch it come together,” Mike says. At yesterday’s Flash Picnic, “There were probably 40 or 50 construction workers sitting in the shade, all these guys in hard hats mingling with all these people from the community.”
For some folks, “It is a big step to come out and be so intimate with the community in downtown Detroit when everything on the news is so negative.”
But as a way of bringing people together, “It’s the simplest thing on earth.”
Top, Henry Beck with other members of the Class of 1970; above right, Richard Rohr preaches at San Juan Diego Chapel; above left, Nan and Dave Imhoff (’70) in the Sandia Mountains.
Following upon the great energy of our Franciscan restructuring meeting, several of us friars stayed on for the Franciscan Alumni Assn. Reunion June 23-26, also held in Albuquerque. We joined 35 former seminarians and friars and their wives and families and other Southwest friars to enjoy four days together.
Our time together was filled with prayer, meals and conversations, sight-seeing around Albuquerque and Santa Fe, a wonderful “welcome fiesta” at J.D. and Gale Moya’s home, a delightful night on Friday with Murray Bodo and his reflections about his life and the gift of teaching, and a Mass at San Juan Diego Chapel with Richard Rohr breaking open the Word for us on Saturday evening. Following Mass we gathered for a festive meal at “The Becoming Place” (OLG’s archive center) and celebrated our brothers, friars Gino Correa, Gilbert Schneider, and Richard Rohr with FAA’s annual Christian Life and Humanitarian Awards.
Most significantly there was a real spirit of “Franciscan family” among us all. One conversation that lasted from breakfast to almost noon among several of us stirred the reflection that the fraternity and vision of the FAA alums is very similar to the spirit among lay folks around Francis and the early friars. “Once touched by the Franciscan charism this energy stays with you for your lifetime” was witnessed by many. Most gathered at the reunion are still involved in the mission of Christ with a Franciscan spirituality at work in them.
We wondered together how we might deepen and strengthen these Franciscan ties with one another. How can we open the dialogue with alums from the contemporary Franciscan formation programs to join in the joy and mission of this Franciscan “fraternity” of alums and their families? With the work of restructuring, how might we be a catalyst for bringing together the alums and their families from the other provincial communities? Many of us felt that the Spirit of Francis is stirring something wondrous and creative in our midst. May God continue to lead us all! See you next year in Cincinnati!
PHOTOS / ST. ALOYSIUS NEIGHBORHOOD SERVICES
A Flash Picnic in progress at Capitol Park
Rudy, the bright, gentle German Shepherd who welcomed visitors to Mother of Good Counsel Friary in Hazard, Ky., went to heaven on June 22. A loving and loyal companion to friar Mike Dubec, Rudy was 11½ years old.
PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFM“A spirit of dialogue” should characterize the Order, says Minister General Michael Perry.Minister General Michael PerryPossible Steps for Renewal of Life and Mission.
I would like to suggest to you elements of what I call a new Franciscan hermeneutic for living the Gospel in the 21st Century. These are based on the Documents of the Order, and on a reading of Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and Encyclical Laudato Si’.
These elements include:
– Fr. Michael Perry, OFM
JUNE 30, 2016
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