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.

Called to conversion, called to explore and think.

An article from the current issue of the “THE CORD A Franciscan Spiritual Review” Grabbed my attention this past week.

I quote from an article written by Michael Cusato, O.F.M. one of the foremost Scholars on medieval Franciscan History in the field today.

He starts out his article by writing a couple of questions directed towards the Friars.

Question 1. Why are you poor?

In his response he states –  “ ……I would hazard to guess that a least a few (if not more) would answer my initial question – why are you poor why do you choose poverty – by claiming that you are poor because the Jesus whom you desire to follow was poor, and that we Franciscans are poor, because we follow the poor Christ. This was and is a truism in Franciscan formation and spirituality. Indeed, it was the primary reason given in the Middle Ages by many Franciscans themselves. But today, few Scripture scholars would describe the Jesus of the gospels as being a man who lived a life of voluntary poverty. The poor Christ, in other words was a particularly medieval understanding of Jesus. In fact, it was an image that had become prevalent only in the High Middle Ages – shortly before the time of Francis in the latter part of the twelfth century – and that this particular image would once again shift in succeeding centuries.”……..

YIKES! This article starting with this paragraph really caught me off guard. I must admit that I was unprepared to hear this message and, at first, was instantly repelled by its implications for me.  This is something I really did not want to hear.

Why is that?

Peace

Mike

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

 

30th Anniversary Celebration Convocation and Chapter – Order of Ecumenical Franciscans

OFS General Constitutions

Remaining faithful to their own identity, the fraternities will take care to make the most of each occasion for prayer, formation, and active collaboration with other ecclesial groups.  They should welcome with pleasure those who, without belonging to the SFO, wish to share its experiences and activities. (Art. 103.1)  The fraternities will promote wherever possible, fraternal relations with non-Roman Catholic associations inspired by Francis. (Art. 103.2)

The 30th Anniversary Celebration Convocation & Chapter Order of Ecumenical Franciscans convened on July 18, 2013, and we would be together at the Capuchin Retreat Center in Washington, Michigan until the 21st.  It was a time of excitement for me! After arriving, when all our brothers and sisters were present and before the start of any business, the community gathered in the chapel and entered into silent prayer and meditation.

On the following day, introductions were made, and I was honored to extend fraternal greetings (in the absence of Tom Bello OFS, National Minister, Anne Mulqueen, OFS, Interfaith/Ecumenical chairperson for NAFRA, and James Howard, OFS, Divine Mercy Region Regional Minister) to the brothers and sisters of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans (OEF).

The gathering was a delight to attend. It was a celebration of 30 years of shared history, business, the election and installation of two servant leadership positions, and prayer (of course a fair share of Franciscan foolishness).  Ed Shirley, OFS was remembered throughout our time together in fun and prayerful ways—he is surely missed!

The final day was highlighted by a wonderful presentation by Patrick Carolan of the Franciscan Action Network (F.A.N.). The evening Communion Service included a “Service of Profession and Renewal of Vows”, followed by celebration, conversation, laughter and Franciscan partying that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

The following day, as all were getting ready to depart, I offered to our brother Craig Robert Miller, OEF Minister General, our support and our love. I requested that the OEF consider to allow the brothers and sisters of the OFS of Divine Mercy Region’s neighboring fraternities to serve them at next year’s gathering (e.g. possibly handling transportation).

Our similarities (OEF and OFS) are many. As you know, the OFS’ guiding document is the Rule; the OEF follow the Principles.  I offer to you the following excerpts from each others’ essential writings.  After you consider these writings, read Pope John Paul II writing “Ut Unum Sint” also given to you here.

             

               Principles of the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans

Principle 1. We covenant together, as the Order of Ecumenical Franciscans, to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.  Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.

                       

 Rule of the Secular Franciscan Order

Article 4.  The rule and life of the Secular Franciscan is this: to observe the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by following the example of Saint Francis of Assisi, who made Christ the inspiration and the center of his life with God and people.

Christ, the gift of the Father’s love, is the way to him, the truth into which the Holy Spirit leads us, and the life which he has come to give abundantly.  Secular Franciscans should devote themselves especially to careful reading of the Gospel, going from Gospel to life and life to the Gospel.

 

Ut Unum Sint

Encyclical of Pope John Paul II

…Thus it is absolutely clear that ecumenism, the movement promoting Christian unity, is not just some sort of “appendix” which is added to the Church’s traditional activity.  Rather, ecumenism is an organic part of her life and work.  And consequently must pervade all that she is and does; 20.1

 


 

…What unites us is much greater than what divides us. Pope John XXIII; 20.2

 

It is very difficult to describe this joyful encounter. We all were welcomed completely—brothers and sisters giving of themselves!  OEF brothers and sisters were pilgrims, traveling by bus, train and some by airplane—mostly absorbing the cost of their travel and spending up to 20 hours coming to the meeting and 20 hours going back home.

They inspire me through their love and dedication.

Peace

Mike

New Beginings

 

In the last week of November, I brought one of my potted plants into the house for the winter.  It was very green and had no evidence of any budding flowers.  So I decided to put it in a warm, well-lighted area, with plans of maintaining it until spring.  But guess what?  When I went to water it, a tiny bud greeted me!  And now after two weeks, I have a beautiful daisy-like flower all dressed in orange.

But for this plant to survive and thrive, it needed to be relocated.

In the past two months, the St. Aloysius Community Center too had to be “relocated.” Years of relationships built on care, nourishment, and love, now benefits the St. Al’s Community Center as it has become a Ministry without walls.  We are meeting people where they are:  in the streets, in their apartments and homes, and in their hearts—addressing the needs of mind, body, and spirit!  Our relationships are surviving and most importantly thriving. 

As we relocated, we needed a way to store donations. Through initial storage space at Our Lady of La Salette Parish in Berkley and the work of dedicated volunteers, the newly formed St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services has been able to store and prepare donations used in our ministries.

In a few short months, we have been given another promising opportunity. Our sister parish, St. Josaphat in Detroit, has wonderfully asked to become an active companion in ministry to our brothers and sisters in Detroit.  St. Josaphat is an advertisement icon for the City of Detroit. With its beautiful cross spires, St. Josaphat boldly stands along southbound I-75 on Canfield (ten minutes from St. Aloysius) as a welcoming gateway to Downtown Detroit.  Fr. Darrel Roman has graciously offered the parish hall for much-needed dinner/party space for St. Aloysius’ Parish and the Senior Program. But also, the basement and second floor area of the parish hall can be utilized for storage of donated groceries and clothing. And a bonus for our volunteers is safe and abundant parking space—free of Downtown Detroit meter maids!

An orange daisy is a joyful gift of nature, unexpected yet so welcome especially in the darker days of winter.  We are so grateful for all the volunteers and parishes who have given so much to the St. Aloysius ministries. We welcome St. Josaphat as our new companion. May we all be God’s instrument of peace and joy as we serve our brothers and sisters in downtown Detroit.

Early Morning in the “D”

It’s 6 a.m. on a cool damp September morning. Volunteers are slowly arriving. Our first 12 gallons of coffee are brewing, and my cup is full as I am standing outside in front of the old double wood doors that are the main entry into the Community Center.

To my right and just across the street is the newly remodeled Westin Hotel. The building is wonderfully lit up and is already a buzz of activity; people are laughing and milling along the street. In front of the hotel, Eli the doorman is calling for a taxi from among the line of taxi cabs that wait along Washington Blvd. and serve the hotel patrons. The long line of taxis slowly moves forward.

To my left the buildings are all closed down; there has been no life in them for years. There is only darkness. Within the shadows you can sense quiet slow movement, as people are working their way to the bus station. About 10 feet away sitting on the steel pipe guardrail that protects the flower bed, I notice a shivering man with his hands buried in his face. He is wearing rags and beside him on the sidewalk is a torn plastic bag holding what I would guess all of his possessions. There is movement at the man’s feet; several rats are scurrying around him and over his torn shoes investigating the plastic bag. One of the rats, sitting on its tail in front of him looks to be trying to get his attention. We are immersed in silence. I take a couple steps toward the man, the rats scurry away. I wish them good morning.  I hand the gentleman my coffee. He gives me his blessing. Another day begins at St. Al’s.