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.
Monday of each week is my turn to work in my church’s Social Services Ministry. This 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 John Huebner
Brother John leads a weekly healing circle at Church of the Advocate Mission. The mission serves the homeless and struggling of the greater Asheville NC area.
Br John Ryan
Beginning in April of 2020 the idea of a “ministry of masks” kept pushing its way in my head. I knew I had the resources to cover the cost. I went to the manager of the building I live in and asked to put masks for people to take as needed, it took off. Everyday since there are free masks individually packaged in the lobby. From April 2020 through April 2021 2500 masks have been given away.
The fun part - Last Fall the packaging was Autumn colors ; Christmas Season the masks had seasonal patterns on them; for Valentine’s Day they were in small plastic bags with Valentine’s Day designs and a small foil wrapped chocolate heart; St. Patrick’s day the packaging had shamrocks (of course!). Easter is great fun - the plastic egg shaped containers used for candy each have a mask in them; Fourth of July will have American flag designs and the rest of the Summer will be masks with bright fun colors. In the big picture of things this is a small effort, done with care and love and Great fun. Gospel Life in a Franciscan Spirit, caring for others.
Br Andrew freely admits that his reason for starting to visit Saint Ann's Church for the Deaf was just to brush up on my ASL and re-immerse myself in signing and the Deaf community but that motivation quickly changed.
"You see, St. Ann’s has been without a priest for over 8 years and they had been relying on the monthly visitation of a Deaf priest. The other Sundays utilized a very cobbled-together liturgy, led by a lay leader, of the distribution of the Blessed Sacrament from the presanctified elements.
Our Bishop strongly desires that when the services of a priest are not available, the principle service be one of the daily offices. The Office of Morning Prayer was completely alien to this congregation so I quickly fell into the task of introducing them to, and shepherding them through, the morning office."
"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."
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.
Br Allen White
Launched in the summer of 2018 with the gift of just four books on the Poverello, the Saint Francis of Assisi Research Library officially launched its website and opened its doors to the public on the Feast of Saint Francis, October 4, 2020. Since its founding, the library has grown to become one of the largest research libraries of its kind in the world dedicated exclusively to the life, history, and study of Saint Francis of Assisi.
Our library’s ever-growing catalog of more than 800 books in 40 unique collections includes the titles of some of the world’s most recognized Franciscan scholars and authors writing on Franciscan philosophy, theology, spirituality, and history from the 13th to the 21st century. As such, the library is a Franciscan athenaeum—a sanctuary for anyone interested in learning about the Franciscan intellectual and spiritual tradition.
Finally, as a proud member of ATLA (American Theological Library Association), we are also a lending library offering most of our catalog, research assistance, and resource materials at little or no charge to registered friends of the library, including the brothers of the Order of Saint Francis (OSF), the world-wide Franciscan family, and both students and scholars alike working on various Franciscan research and writing projects around the world.