Flash Picnics

St. Al’s is building community,

one hot dog at a time



Marketing Associates did the cooking last week.Nothing brings people together like food.

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.

Top, members of Marketing Associates setting up last week’s Flash Picnic; above right, yesterday’s picnic was also a Health Fair; above left, it’s a chance to eat and greet.Involvement grows

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.

Come together

“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.”

Spirit of Francis pervades Alumni reunion

PHOTOS BY HENRY BECK, OFMTop, 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.BY FR. HENRY BECK, OFM

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!

  • Bigger and better each year: The Third Annual Holy Land Festival, July 16 at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C., is a microcosm of the life and culture of Christians in the Holy Land. It features exhibits, vendors, Mediterranean food for sale, panel discussions, demonstrations (including food and lavender wand-making), and free tours of the shrines and gardens. Hours for the festival, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Washington Holy Land Committee, are 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Read more at: www.myfranciscan.org
  • Friars are invited to attend the 150th Anniversary Mass and Dinner at Holy Family Parish in Oldenburg, Ind., on Sunday, Aug. 21. To RSVP, please call 812-934-3013 (Option 2, business office).
  • “St. Francis Seraph Ministries and the Center for Respite Care is now a finalist for the 2016 IMPACT 100 Grant for $101,500,” according to Ministries Director Chris Schuermann. Finalists were announced this week. “Needless to say we are very excited to make it to the final round of consideration for this prestigious grant.” The recipients will be named Sept. 13 at the annual IMPACT 100 Dinner in Cincinnati.
  • Happy Social Media Day! (We are not making this up.)  Links to our website and Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube pages are at the top of the site. Click on the icons.
  • Fr. Jim Shappelle with his cousin, Greg“For me personally, he was the model of priesthood that I ‘understudied,’ but have yet to even come close to imitating!” Fr. Greg Friedman wrote following the death of his cousin, Fr. Jim Shappelle. Fr. Shappelle died June 28 at the age of 91 in Cincinnati. Among the parishes he served were All Saints, Mother of Christ, St. Anthony, St. Bernard, and St. Leo. “Other posts included a faculty position at the seminary and the Archdiocesan school office,” according to his obituary. The reception of the body is at 4 p.m. Tuesday, July 5, with visitation until 7 p.m. at the Cathedral of St. Peter in Chains. The funeral Mass is at 10 a.m. Wednesday, July 6, at the Cathedral, with Archbishop Dennis Schnurr presiding. Greg will preach the homily and preside at the reception of the body. Burial will follow at Old St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Price Hill.

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A Flash Picnic in progress at Capitol Park

Remembering Rudy

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.A couple of days ago, the Provincial Office sent out an e-mail with a number of items, among which was the text of a talk that Minister General Michael Perry gave to the Presidents of the Conferences last May.  I hope you will take time to read his reflections, because he is trying to help all friars assess the present moment and “Chart a Course for the Future.”  To entice you, I share what Michael calls Possible 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:

  1. An Order of brothers who seek to renew each day their personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and to follow the way of mercy, reconciliation, and forgiveness.
  2. An Order that seeks the way of minority and simplicity of life, embracing the Gospel value of living “sine proprio”, being set free to live with and become friends to the poor and marginalized, to refugees, and all who suffer.
  3. An Order characterized by a spirit of dialogue in all areas of life. This must begin within our fraternities where we commit to creating authentic and profound relationships that radiate the joy of the Gospel. From this manner of living together, we are then called to share this spirit of dialogue with others – in our ministries, and also in our efforts to promote peace, reconciliation, and harmony in our neighborhoods, cities, and world. This necessarily implies a willingness to enter into sustained dialogue in the cultural, ecumenical, and interreligious spheres.
  4. An Order characterized by a renewed missionary spirit, where the brothers feel compelled by Christ to go out and share the good news of Jesus Christ by a witness of life, where Provinces and Custodies will be willing to sacrifice the best of its members, allowing them to go forth in new ways, ad gentes, inter-gentes, intra-gentes, developing new forms for the living out of our Franciscan values in each friary (cf. Ite Nuntiates).
  5. An Order deeply engaged in combatting all forms of social sin (Saint John Paul II, 1984, Reconciliation and Penance, par. 16), and committed to the transversal values of justice, peace, integrity of creation, and reconciliation. Special attention should be given to the protection and healing of our common home (Pope Francis, Encyclical Laudato Si’).
  6. An Order committed to the grace of human work/labor, and to the management of its resources in a manner that is Gospel-oriented, transparent, legal, and ethical. The small booklet, Franciscan Management of Resources, offers a fresh and clear vision of how we are to use the resources placed at our disposal.
  7. An Order whose members at the level of Conferences and between Provinces and Custodies are committed to seeking the path of inter-conference, inter-provincial, inter-entity collaboration in a serious and progressively intense manner. Collaboration is about promoting a renewal of vision, courage, hope and joy, and rediscovering our common vocation and identity.
  8. An Order that nurtures the hope and dream that “all might be one”, that the three First Orders – OFM, OFM Conventual, OFM Capuchin – might begin a process of dialogue, exchange, collaboration, undertaking a spiritual and fraternal journey that could one day create the conditions for the re-unification of the Orders into the one Order of Friars Minor. Current moves in this direction include: Unified Franciscan Pontifical University in Rome (2018); 3-year itinerary for reconciliation, healing, and shared mission/fraternity (2016, 2017, and 2018); initiatives for the creation of inter-obediential fraternities-in-mission in the Holy Land, etc.


– Fr. Michael Perry, OFM


Send comments or questions to: sjbfco@franciscan.org


Top, members of Marketing Associates setting up last week’s Flash Picnic; above right, yesterday’s picnic was also a Health Fair; above left, it’s a chance to eat and greet.Involvement grows

  • Fr. Jim Shappelle with his cousin, Greg