YouFra (Franciscan Youth) in Detroit, Documenting the Journey

 

Peace be with you as we continue to celebrate the Feast of St. Francis,

Sisters and brothers I want to keep you informed of our efforts to create a YouFra group in Detroit.

In the past months, the Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity has been in dialogue with the Pastor of Nativity of our Lord Parish and St. Charles Borromeo Parish Brother Ray Stadmeyer, OFM Cap, as well as Nativity of our Lord Parish DRE Joni Scott regarding the feasibility of engaging the parish youth/young adults in Franciscanism, if there is such a word. We have had several meetings that have born much fruit. This past weekend in celebration of the Feast of St. Francis I spoke to the parish about the possibility of creating a youth group. It was well received.

Some important details that determined our point of beginning.

  • The parish is in an impoverished neighborhood.
  • The parish is led by a Franciscan Friar that supports the effort.
  • The parish DRE also supports the effort.
  • We have a Fraternity member (Jerry Alderman OFS) that is active in the parish. Jerry did all the up front leg work with the pastor and DRE.

Method of introduction

  • Dialogue with the Pastor (for many months – almost a year)
  • Dialogue with the DRE (for many months)
  • Joint meeting with all parties involved to develop a plan of action.

o   Step 1 – Introduction to community

  • I spoke at the Liturgy  that highlighted the Feast of St. Francis, extending an invitation to the parish.
  • I spoke to those interested after that same mass (at a dinner reception) to explain our intentions and YouFra.
  • The DRE and Franciscan Member of parish talked to young people 14 – 18
  • They signed up 5 young people wanting to participate.

o   Step 2 – Our Plan

  • Supplement the Parish DRE teaching element with an action plan for the youth.
  • Bi monthly we (Troubadours) will gather with the DRE and young people.
  • After their normal religious instruction, we will engage the young people in an activity.
  • October 30 – the Youfra group will host a flash picnic for the community surrounding their parish, grilling hotdogs and serving those in need.
  • December – The Youfra group will travel to downtown Detroit and work with Kathleen Carsten, OFS, St. Aloysius Outreach, delivering groceries to the impoverished seniors.
  • February – The Youfra group will visit St. Bonaventure’s clothing warehouse and work sorting clothing for distribution to the poor.
  • Other activities involving targeted Franciscan efforts to serve the poor will be scheduled for the remainder of the year.
  • After each activity we will gather together for 15 minutes and discuss what we did, what was experienced, and how it relates to our Franciscan charism.

o   Step 3 – The Future

  • It is our hope that over the next year we will attract more young people
  • In one year we will expand this program from Nativity of our Lord Parish to St. Charles Borromeo Parish.
  • We will not work to create a second group but join the youth from the two parishes into a single entity.
  • Over the next 3 to 4 years work to create an active self-led Youfra group modeled on the NAFRA YouFra model.
  • Develop OFS Spiritual Assistance to walk with them and the Parish DRE’s

 

This winter we have been invited to speak to the DRE’s belonging to the Archdiocese of Detroit – Renaissance Vicariate at one of their major gatherings about the Secular Franciscan Order & Franciscan Ministries Inc. It is the wish of the DRE’s to work with The Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity and Franciscan Ministries Inc.  to create a model of ministry for young adults 18 – 34 that they can own (YouFra) that will reach across parish boundaries, that will engage young adults in ministry with the poor.

Wonderful Possibilities await us as we move forward together.

Wishing you Peace,

Mike

He approached in tears!

Kathy (my wife) and I were heading out the office  this morning  When we noticed again an ambulance sitting with its lights on at the corner of State and Washington Blvd. In the past couple weeks we have seen this several times–in the past few years more times than I can count. We cannot help but wonder and worry about the situation at hand and so often the news we get is not good.

Today the news was not good. About an hour after the ambulance left we were out on the street in front of the church  when Sam pulled up on his bicycle tears streaming down his face. “My Wife she just died!” he exclaimed. I am on my way to the hospital. “She is  gone”. He was still seated on his bycicle so all  I could do was reach out and hold his shoulder. Kathy and I struggled to control our own emotions. The work we do is not easy. We love the people we serve. They are our family and this winter and spring we have lost many members of our family to Sister Death.

In the next couple days and beyond we will be with Sam as he grieves for his wife.

Pax et Bonumthe-buddhas-cremation-at-kusinara

Mike

 

“Creating an opportunity of encounter”

This past Sunday, the Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity spent the day in service to the poor, serving a meal at St. Charles Borromeo Parish on Detroit’s east side. It is always an interesting adventure. The Parish volunteers flow in and out of the kitchen as the meal is being prepared. The kitchen, by the way, is a transformed classroom with old blackboards still hanging in place behind the freezers.  The lasagna is placed in the oven, salads are tossed and refrigerated, and dessert cakes are cut and made ready.

IMG_2164

After mass, the good people come down to the basement and are seated waiting for grace to be said prior to the meal.

As the people filter into the seating area there is a loud voice shouting to any and all that might break the rules “TAKE OFF YOUR HAT”. It is extremely disruptive to hear and not very welcoming. It reminds me of an experience I had at the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi a short time ago. As I wandered in amazement looking at the frescoes on the ceilings and walls, there was a friar seated in a place of authority using a microphone within the sacred space saying, “SILENCIO-SILENCIO”. I guess he wanted silence in the Basilica and yet he was making much more noise keeping everybody quiet than the pilgrims were making as they wandered the basilica in awe of Giotto’s work! The friar had a job to do and by heaven he was going to do it. The same could be said for the help at St. Charles–yelling across the room for the one or two people that wandered in out of the cold rain to take off their hats–that was their job. They had the authority and by golly they were going to use it. I, however, found the events in both locations disconcerting. unwelcoming, and an obstacle to intimacy and relationship.

All the while,  everyone was being seated and grace was quickly said. A line was formed and the people were fed. For our part, we did what we were asked to do, exactly how we were asked to do it;  yet there was something missing for me. The long serving table created a dividing point, a barrier. We were on one side of the table and they (the guests) were on the other.  There was no opportunity for dialogue and relationship–not much time even for a smile to be shared.  We were not able to be brother and sister one to another. In fact, when we were done serving, we (the fraternity) took our food into the kitchen and sat and ate together. Again we were separated from the people, within a walled space. All in all, it was a very sanitized experience. These were for the most part our sisters and brothers that had just left the Table of the Lord having received his body and blood. We could have gone out and sat with those we were serving, but it did not happen. In this regard, we as a fraternity have some work to do. Yes we served/fed the hungry. But we failed to step through our own isolation, failed to step through the walls that were created to maintain order and break bread. We did not celebrate; we were not Eucharist with the people that were present.

Did we actually  fail at anything?  No not really!

It was a wonderful and enjoyable experience. We as a fraternity are continuing to step out of our comfort zones. Trying to give life and action to our  vocation. With a bit more experience and a little more help, we will be able to go out to the people and “break bread” with them, quoting Pope Francis, “Creating an opportunity of encounter”.

From our Rule of Life

Article 13

AS the Father sees in every person the features of his Son, the firstborn of many brothers and sisters, so the secular Franciscans with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ.

Article 19

Mindful that they are bearers of peace which must be built up unceasingly, they should seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue, trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone and in the transforming power of love and pardon.

Messengers of perfect joy in every circumstance, they should strive to bring joy and hope to others…..

With great joy we will struggle to do this alone and this ministry  most certainly cannot be accomplished in fraternal  isolation, behind any kind of barrier (table) that separates us. Putting a serving of lasagna on a plate is a good  beginning. But it is only a first step in a journey of  admitting and overcoming our own  fear, distrust, and prejudice. To be truly alive,  truly loving and caring, we must continue to step out into the unknown as we seek  “To encounter the living and active person of Christ in our brothers and sisters….” (Article 5, Rule of Life).  This is our call to conversion and a continuing challenge, becoming people joyfully recognizing and encountering our God in each other and in our sisters and brothers.

 

She Left Her Bed in a Hurry…

Tuesday morning’s weather made me want to stay in bed and pull over the covers—it was raining and cold—a typical November morning.  Nonetheless, my day needed to start, and so I made my way to St. Al’s.  As I walked to our office, we had a guest who left her bed in front of our doorway—looked like she left in a hurry. She left her blankets and a bag of belongings.  I say “she” because there were thin women’s stockings and paperclips on the bed that may have been used to hold back her hair. The word on the street, too, was that it was a woman who slept here, but no one knew her. She didn’t come back the rest of the day. Ron (name changed), who worships at St. Al’s, neatly folded up her belongings and put them aside behind one of the pillars.

The following morning when I arrived at St. Al’s, the bed was spread out and left just as it had been on Tuesday, only several feet away from St. Al’s front door.  Our guest had left in the same manner and nowhere to be seen.  Today her belongings would not be spared.  The maintenance man from the former chancery building bundled the blankets together and put them out by the trash can.

We may never meet our guest—I wonder what her story is.  Is she a daughter, sister, mother, grandmother?  Is she struggling to pay bills on minimum wage earnings?  Is she showing signs of health problems in mind, body, and spirit?  Will we ever meet, and will Neighborhood Services have the opportunity to provide her with help to address the issues of homelessness?

Downtown and Midtown Detroit’s landscape is changing with all the renovations of buildings and razing of old houses and office buildings.  But let there be no mistake, our homeless brothers and sisters are not gone.  They may be pushed here and there, have no place not even a blanket to call their own, but they do have St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services to reach out to through our street ministries, whole health ministry, and a place to worship.   Our brothers and sisters will always be with us.

Mother Theresa gives us a beautiful thought of action; she says, “Together let us do something beautiful for God.”  It is our hope that we can continue together with you to serve our brothers and sisters in need in Detroit.

She Left Her Bed in a Hurry 1

A Chance Encounter

A Chance Encounter

It’s a very dark Tuesday morning, January 13, 2015 at 6:30 am.

The wind was blowing hard and the temperature probably about zero—must be a chill factor of at least 15 below zero. As I was driving to work at St. Aloysius, I was thinking about how cold it was. My teeth hurt and I had a brain freeze going on from the few minutes I was outside getting the car ready to go.

As I moved through the streets of Detroit, I pulled up to Mack Avenue and Beaconsfield on the East side.  Down the street I could see traffic coming but something caught my eye. In the headlights I saw a person walking in the street. Drivers worked their way around this person and the only way I could see anything was in the headlights of the oncoming traffic. I paused at the intersection to see what was going on. Slowly the person walking in the street made their way to the front of my car. I stared in disbelief—right in front of me walking down the middle of the west bound lane of Mack Avenue was a teenage male. He was barefoot, wearing only boxer shorts and a tee-shirt. I watched as he walked by the intersection. Cars were whizzing by him on his left. I hopped out of the car and yelled to him but he showed no response at all. I walked into the street and yelled again. Still no response from him. I returned to my car and made my first call to 911.  6:37 a.m. showed on my phone. After requesting both police and EMS to be sent to the site, I put on my emergency flashers and pulled out behind him and followed creating, as best I could, a shield from the traffic coming from behind. He made no sign of knowing I was present. After some distance, he came to Alter Rd—a main intersection with a stop light. The teenager stopped and waited for the light.  While sitting at the light, I called 911 for the second time and gave them an update as to his location.  Almost ten minutes had passed. When the light turned green, he walked through the intersection and progressed down the road passing the entry to a major gas station located on the corner. Once by the entry, he turned back and walked up to the gas station; he went inside. The night shift person on duty pushed the young man outside by motioning with his hands—the way you might try to move a wayward dog out of a yard. Three times the attendant forced the young man out of the store. Three times the young man wandered back in. It is now 7:17 and for the third time I called 911. After my conversations with dispatch after asking where not only the police were but what has happened to EMS, I was told my call has gone out and they are both working to respond. I walked up the attendant and introduced myself. I informed him that I was waiting for the police and EMS to arrive and that I was watching out for the teenager until they arrived. The attendant then took the young man into the station and let him sit down next to the window. I had a coat that was donated during the Christmas Giving effort; I took it in and wrapped it around him. He shook uncontrollably and tears were running down his face. The attendant brought him hot coffee and a pair of socks.

I went out to my car and sat parked near the window watching and waiting. Within minutes a car pulled up to the front door. A man got out and went in and up to the teenager. The youth stood up and followed him out to the car. I went up to the pair and introduced myself. The man said he was the young man’s father. He explained to me that his son was autistic and that he had somehow slipped out of the house. He had been looking for him. He thanked me for my help. After our conversation, the father loaded the teen into his car and drove away. It was my hope that the father had taken him to the hospital, but I have no way of knowing for sure.

I made my fourth and last call to 911. I let them know that the young man had been taken by someone who said he was his father and that he was taking him home; I informed them I was leaving as well.  The time was 7:24 a.m.  I hopped in my car and continued on to St. Aloysius.

The police never did show up. Neither did EMS.  I left earlier than usual for work that day.  Now I know why.

Peace

Mike

 

Indigence Cleansing in the “D”

 

Washington Boulevard was much busier this past month. The poor most especially the mentally ill were much more visible.  In September the buildings in Capital Park that we share the alley with expanded their renovation. So our shared alley is part of a construction zone now from State Street to Grand River. With this added construction/renovation, comes added security from the private security firm that the city has hired.  It is assumed the primary job of the private firm of course is building security. The buildings and construction materials are exposed and in need of being watched.

And yet a secondary task has been assigned to the city’s private security force. They are to clean/sanitize the area of any and all undesirable people. Who are the undesirable people? Why the poor of course. The homeless and mentally ill for sure. But it is not always easy to distinguish who the homeless and mentally ill are despite the best profiling techniques; so if you look poor, you are questioned.  And, as witnessed by this writer, if you don’t answer the questions correctly, you are escorted out of the area by a guy in a black uniform with a big gun. If you are homeless and carrying a backpack? Well forget it. The city parks or streets are not for you.

The city is slowly expanding its zone of indigence cleansing. Within the parish boundaries, that zone of indigence cleansing now has reached our back door. In the not too distant future, it will reach our front door. The poor we serve will continue to be pushed further and further out away from the dynamic central city.   The homeless and mentally ill will not disappear though it may be tougher for them to reach us. These issues are much greater and much more complicated and are in need of being addressed by the people of the State of Michigan and the US.

Compuware Corp.

 

June 17, 2014

For more years than I can remember, the Compuware family has supported the Ministries of St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services. When the Outreach Center was active and serving the poor, we could always count on them to lend a hand when emergencies came up by supplying coffee, bread, money and a more than generous amount of personal time.

The location has changed a bit. The model of service has changed a bit, but one thing that has stayed constant is the support of the good people at the Compuware Corporation.

Today, volunteers from Compuware Corporation can be found wearing Neighborhood Services aprons and backpacks, searching the streets of Detroit during their lunch breaks, looking for those most in need. They can also be found in our Kitchenette making hundreds of sandwiches to be given out to those whom are hungry.

For more than two years, the Compuware team has singlehandedly created mission and ministry.  At 7:30 am they are at the back door of the Church picking up needed supplies, sandwiches, cookies, socks and hygiene kits and more. Working together with Skillman Library staff they weekly set up tables and meet and greet dozens of people in need and address the needs of body, mind and spirit. After the noontime encounter, the Library invites all in attendance to sit for a spell and enjoy a movie.

We are grateful for the love and dedication of the good people that join us from Compuware Corporation. We are a volunteer driven organization. Without volunteers there is no ministry—no helping hand reaching out.

If you are looking for a way to give back and a ministry to participate in, please consider giving us a call.

Peace

Mike