The gospels tell us about those things that Jesus did while here among us. Feeding people, teaching, healing, comforting, raising from the dead, and who knows what more that was not later written down. Of course, we believe that Jesus is still here among us, within us. Franciscans, as well as all Christians, are called to continue the work of Jesus in the world. Teresa of Avila put it well when she wrote, “Christ has no body now on earth but yours.” We are the Body of Christ. It is our place to continue the work of creating the kingdom of heaven now, here on Earth. From the very beginning of his conversion experience Francis saw the need in himself to help others in need. He worked with the lepers, the most outcast of his time. He helped the poor. When other men began to join him he taught them the importance of ministering to those in need.
In the Order of St. Francis each brother looks at the community in which he lives and determines what ministries he will perform. We are all called to serve within the church and outside the church. All of the friars serve in some manner within the churches they attend. They serve as Eucharistic ministers, acolytes, lectors, prayer leaders, rectors, and many other services within the church. Some of the brothers are priests and deacons and function as such within their parishes.
However, all of the friars are also called to minister to those in need outside of the parish community as well. Many of them work at feeding the hungry in various forms, such as breakfast or lunch programs, food banks, or distributing food to people in poor communities. Many also work with the homeless in a number of ways providing shelter, helping them find other services, and just being present to them and letting them know they are not alone.
There are several brothers who work in healthcare in various forms such as a physician, nurses and those who provide other services to the sick. Some provide counseling, and others hospice care or just visiting the sick, offering comfort. We have brothers who focus their ministry on the elderly, checking on those who are alone, or providing spiritual sustenance to those in retirement homes. A few brothers also expend their energy on fundraising efforts to support various charities. We have friars who work with children in various capacities as well, tutoring, counseling, or special needs.
Often some of the most personal ministry is simply with that person the brother meets on the street, or on the bus, or at any place, being the presence of Jesus to someone in need. This is who we are who we are called to be. This is the building up of the kingdom of God.
Br Chuck, "The main emphasis of my ministry is two-fold; serving as a liturgical presence in the two churches where I am a member, and serving the homeless population, and those facing the possibility of homelessness, in Tucson, Arizona.
At church I serve on the Pastoral Care Team and as a member of Community of Hope International. I visit and take Holy Communion to those who are not able to physically come to church services because they are in hospital, are residents of Assisted Living or Skilled Care Facilities, or who have chronic medical conditions that confine them to home. I “take Church” to them. On Sundays I serve as a Sub-Deacon and Chalice Bearer. On those Sundays that we have a Healing Service, I am one of those commissioned to individually pray for people with the inclusion of laying on of hands and anointing with blessed oil.
Monday of each week is my turn to work in my church’s Social Services Ministry. This five day per week ministry helps homeless and unemployed or underemployed people by paying for bus passes, state I.D. cards, and assistance in obtaining birth certificates. We serve as advocates for people facing eviction by contacting their landlords, attempting to work out a payment plan. We also provide referrals to, and information about, the various community service agencies and free mental health and medical clinics available in our metropolitan area. We often meet with 12 to 14 people every week day. In this ministry I strive to treat every one I meet with dignity and respect as a fellow child of God, and to provide them with some hope, so that they feel better when they leave than they felt when they walked in.
Two days per month I volunteer at the Franciscan run Poverello House, a daytime drop-in center for homeless men. My jobs are cooking the noon meal, socializing with and getting to know the men individually and listening to each of their “stories” (without casting judgement), and cleaning the bathrooms and showers.
Like St. Francis, the greater part of my ministry is helping those who are hurting; those whom the rest of society looks down upon and strips of their dignity. I am "out in the marketplace.”
Br Rich, "Once a week I volunteer at the at the Homeless Chaplaincy, were we meet with about 30-50 people and talk about surviving on the street using spiritual practices. I believe my true ministry is to just walk around town, sit with my homeless friends, listen to them, give and receive advise, and let them know how much they mean to me. They are the face of God, and it is my honor to be their brother."
Br Rich is an Eucharist Minister in his parish and provides services to about 20-25 people once a month at a retirement community with some taking on very active roles such as Reader, or Prayers of the People.
Another ministry of Br Rich is at the St. Vincent de Paul Society at the "Homeless Prevention Desk" helping people with rent, utilities, as well as finding items such as furniture, services for permanent housing, substance abuse, and medical help. We serve about 600 meals a day.