AUGUST 18, 2016

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Parish takes a stand against trafficking



As Embra Bridges sees it, the Respect Life Committee has two roles.

“First of all, we pray,” says Embra, coordinator of the group at St. Mary of the Angels Parish in New Orleans. “Then we act.”

Until recently, “They were always focusing on the issue of abortion,” says Friar Pastor Dennis Bosse. “I told them, ‘You need to expand it beyond that. Respect Life is not single-issue oriented. There are other things such as imprisonment, the death penalty, human trafficking.”

St. Mary of the AngelsAt one of their meetings, Embra says, “We had Debbie Shinskie, the Respect Life director for the Archdiocese, speak to us. One of the topics was human trafficking, and we were really interested in that, so we ran with it.” July 21 the parish held a presentation on trafficking and how it plays out in plain sight in the New Orleans sex trade.

“We knew something about it but didn’t realize how widespread it was and didn’t realize the gory aspect of it, the way our young people are drawn into this world of sex for money, some drugged and held hostage as sex slaves,” Embra says. “Living in New Orleans we knew we’ve always had prostitution, especially around the French Quarter. The extent of how much human trafficking is affecting young people is something new to me. I’m a social worker and thought I’d heard it all. But some of the things I heard [from Debbie] just blew my mind.”

Scary reality

Left, Dennis Bosse, OFM; right, Jim KellyUnfortunately, says Dennis, “It’s really, really a problem in New Orleans,” a hub for human trafficking partly because of high-profile events like Mardi Gras and the Super Bowl. But year-round, Embra says, “It’s also very prevalent in the French Quarter,” especially in “gentlemen’s clubs”, the genteel term for strip clubs. Exploitation of the young, males as well as females, is rampant.

“A lot of the ‘dancers’ at strip joints are involved in human trafficking and prostitution, and some are no older than 18. Some of them are homeless, some are promised modeling jobs. Some are hooked on drugs or have low self-esteem or the breakdown of a home situation that causes them to cling to a pimp.” Debbie and a Respect Life team sometimes patrol the Quarter, distributing basics like toiletries to those in need. At clubs, Embra says, “She’s seen some of these young women go out and approach men and seen the pimp in the back actually watching these young ladies do their so-called jobs. I tell you, to sit down and listen to all that stuff leaves you in a daze.”

Young people are exploited at so-called “Gentlemen’s Clubs” in the French Quarter.Following Debbie’s talk, the Respect Life Committee did more than pray. They organized a program and invited the community. Debbie was asked to share stories. Pastor Dennis suggested another speaker: Jim Kelly, Executive Director at Convenant House, a shelter for homeless, runaway, and at-risk youth at the edge of the French Quarter.

“Fr. Dennis helped us advertise it” through newspapers and archdiocesan channels, Embra says. “We sent flyers to teachers, neighboring churches, deanery members, community organizations.”

The next step

Although the turnout for the event was less than 50, Embra was encouraged. “We had quite a few religious, one or two priests, parishioners from here and other churches. It was a diverse group.”

Attendees agreed to spread the word, but wanted to do more. “Like Jim Kelly said, this can’t just be information,” Dennis says. “There has to be commitment to bring about a sense of change,” such as organizing anti-trafficking protests in the French Quarter.

“We wanted to educate people so they can look for signs that someone in their family or neighborhood may be getting involved with trafficking,” Embra says, “or they can make donations to groups like Covenant House to help young people change their lives.” The Respect Life Committee at SMA is also collecting clothes and toiletries for residents of Covenant House, all of whom are 22 or younger, some of whom have babies.

The group is still committed to rosaries and to prayer vigils at abortion clinics, but “Debbie Shinskie wants us to get involved in prison ministry, to do a prayer vigil to pray for the end of the death penalty in front of a prison.”

In Embra’s 31 years at the parish, “We’ve always had some semblance of a pro-life group. I’d say since Fr. Dennis has been there we’ve really jelled and come together as a more organized group. Right now we seem to have a more clear vision of what Respect Life is about.”

At St. Mary of the Angels, it includes coping with the gritty reality of human trafficking. A mere mile from the church, “It’s going on, it really is,” Embra says. “You just gotta deal with it and hope to God something comes out that more and more young people can be helped.”

Some ‘lost everything’ in floods


“It’s bad,” says Juniper Crouch.Flood waters that spared St. Paul the Apostle Church in Lafayette, La., destroyed the homes of at least a half-dozen Secular Franciscans in the area, according to Friar Juniper Crouch.

“I just got off the phone talking with the Regional Minister of St. Joan of Arc Region,” says Juniper, OFS Provincial Spiritual Assistant, “and we have some members who lost everything.”

In the past week 13 people died and an estimated 40,000 homes were damaged in some of the worst flooding in southern Louisiana and Mississippi in history. Although parts of Lafayette Parish were inundated – Interstate 10 just reopened today – “We’re dry here,” says Juniper. “There’s no standing water. Our streets got flooded but weren’t impassible. None of our parishioners has mentioned any hardships.” Farther south, “The water is up around rooftops and they’re using boats to bring people in and out.”

Historic flooding did not impact St. Paul the Apostle in Lafayette, La.Adding to the misery: More rain is expected, temperatures are in the 90s and the heat index is well over 100 degrees.

Juniper says fraternities not affected by the crisis will be sending donations and “whatever they can,” to help members affected by flooding in the St. Joan of Arc Region, which includes 15 fraternities in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi. “We’ll try to use Baton Rouge” as a collection center for contributions and basic supplies.

“It’s bad,” Juniper says. “There were a lot of people affected,” but it could have been worse. “Thank God we had as few deaths as we did.”

In the midst of tragedy, “The good thing here is to see people pulling together, helping each other out. There’s good coming out of it.”

(Donations to help Secular Franciscans who lost their homes may be sent to Juniper in Lafayette, La. Make checks payable to St. Joan of Arc Region.)

Don’t just sit there!Retirement is not life-giving if all we do is sit and bide our time.  Rather, it invites us to stretch so that we do not shrivel.  Stretching physically, emotionally, and spiritually is about getting up and going forth, as our health permits, from the sitting position to the position of seeking.Seekers are likely to have more enjoyment than sitters, although if all we can do is sit, we can still find enjoyment because God does come to those who can only sit and wait.  “Use it or lose it,” we like to say.  That may apply to our physical maintenance, our intellectual health, and our personal relationships.  If we can read the words of wise men and women in their written testimonies of spiritual growth, then read.  Of course, we may have some loss of eyesight, but we can also listen to stories of the spiritual life.If we can maneuver ourselves to venues of social outreach, then we get up and go.  If we can spend time and energy in church-related gatherings, we can preach the Gospel and give service either by word or our very presence.  If we have relatives or acquaintances, we can get up and visit them.No, we do not want to be invasive or intrusive, but we want and need to fulfill our own needs and serve their needs for intimate inter-personal relationships.  We prepare for the intimacy with Sister Death by giving and receiving the intimacy of our present relationships.Of course, at whatever friary we live, there are brothers who seek our listening ears and our affirming and encouraging presence and conversation for their intimacy needs.Fr. Dennet Jung, OFM
for the Senior Friars Committee

If you liked the first version, you’ll love the newly available Friar App 2.0. “New features are designed to increase the ways that you can connect with others in this prayer community,” according to US Franciscans. With the revised app you can: “Comment on prayer intentions; view Facebook profiles to learn a little more about each other; e-mail other users; see more easily anyone who has joined, commented on or lit a candle for your prayer; and be notified when new items are published via the app.” Read more on the US Franciscans website at:

The new novices gathered for a group portrait in Burlington.Thirteen men were received as novices Monday at the Interprovincial Novitiate in Burlington, Wis. Congratulations and good luck to all. Thanks to Friar Paul Reczek of ABVM Province for sharing this happy photo.

Today was Freshman Orientation at Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati. Welcome, Class of 2020! Tuesday the 23rd is the first official Freshman got their bearings atRoger Bacon High of classes. Newly ordained Fr. Roger Lopez joins the Theology Department and will work in Community Outreach.

  • St. Anthony Center in Over-the-Rhine has welcomed its newest resident. Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank, the area’s first and only diaper bank for families in need, is temporarily set up in the former shipping area of the building until remodeling begins. We love their mission statement: “Changing the Bottom Line for Families in Need”. Read more at:


Next week, the Councils of the seven United States OFM Provinces gather in Techny, Ill., north of Chicago, to reflect on the discernment of the past year about the revitalization and restructuring of our provinces.  We’ve looked at the proposed models in various provincial and interprovincial gatherings, and based on that feedback, the Councils will make a proposal about our future to be considered at our ordinary or extraordinary Chapters in the summer of 2017.

Any way you look at it, this is an important meeting.  We will be prayerfully listening and discerning, seeking God’s will, and I invite all our friars and benefactors to offer some special prayers for us next week.  I invite the friars to re-read our Rule, especially Chapter 10, where Francis encourages us: “Let them pay attention to what they must desire above all else – to have the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity.” Please join us in listening to the call of the Spirit as evidenced in the hopes and dreams of the brothers for our shared future.


– Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM

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Parish takes a stand against trafficking

Parish takes a stand against trafficking