U.S. Catholics ( the OFS?) and Islam

REPORT FINDS U.S. CATHOLICS (the OFS?) HAVE MUCH TO LEARN ABOUT ISLAM             (America Magazine Oct 28 2016/Michael O’Loughlin/Sept 12 2016)

“That could be the takeaway from a new report released on Monday that found fewer than two in 10 U.S. Catholics hold favorable view of Muslims, with many possessing little understanding when it comes to the beliefs of the world’s second largest religion.
When asked, “What is your overall impression of Muslims?” 30 percent of those Catholics polled said they held unfavorable views, 14 percent said favorable and 45 percent said they held neither favorable nor unfavorable views.”

The report was released by Georgetown’s The Bridge Initiative, a program at the Washington, D.C. Jesuit university aimed at improving public understanding of Islam while racking the public discourse on Islam and Muslim life……

The survey also asked about religion and violence. Forty-five percent of Catholics said that Islam encourages violence more than other relations while 24 percent said it encourages violence as much as other religions.”

Sadly today  we are witnessing a rise in islamophobia and anti-semitism. What responsibility do we have  to recognize and respond to what is happening in our communities? How can we do anything if we have little or no knowledge of these faith traditions?

Sisters and brothers,

Excerpts from our Rule and General Constitutions (paraphrased):

  • Let us individually and collectively be in the forefront in promoting justice by the testimony of our human lives and our courageous initiatives (Rule, Article 15)
  • Make our own contribution, … towards a civilization in which the dignity of the human person, shared responsibility, and love may be living realities (General Constitutions, Article 18.1),
  • Create  a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of fraternity everywhere (Rule, Article 13; General Constitutions, Article 18.2)
  • They should firmly commit themselves to oppose every form of exploitation, discrimination, and exclusion and against every attitude of indifference in relation to others. (Rule, Article 13, General Constitutions Article 18.2)
  • Work together with movements which promote the building of fraternity among peoples: (Rule, Article 13, General Constitutions Article 18.3)
  • Committed to “create worthy conditions of life” for all and to work for the freedom of all people. (Rule, Article 13, General Constitutions Article 18.3)
  • “Be in the forefront…in the field of public life”. (Rule, Article 15, General Constitutions  Article 22.1)
  • They should collaborate as much as possible for the passage of just laws and ordinances. (Rule, Article 15, General Constitutions Article 22.1)
  • Engage ourselves through courageous initiatives,…  in the field of human development and justice. (General Constitutions Article 22.2)
  • They should take clear positions whenever human dignity is attacked by any form of oppression or indifference (General Constitutions Article 22.2)
  • They should offer our fraternal service to the victims of injustice (General Constitutions Article 22.2)
  • Renounce the use of violence, (General Constitutions Article 22.3)
  • Take care that our interventions are always inspired by Christian love. (General Constitutions Article 22.3)

Let us pray to the Spirit for guidance as to how we individually and collectively should respond, remembering that a response is expected of us.

Where can we begin? Find out where the Mosque or Synagogue is located nearest to you. Reach out and make contact, offering your prayers and support. Participate with them in their ecumenical / interfaith efforts.  How about a fraternity day away to a holocaust museum. Or take a tour of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn.   Write letters to or call your local, state, and federal representatives in support of our sisters and brothers.

If you are in need of any help, please call on me. Resources and additional information can be found on the national web site  www.ofsusaecumenicalinterfaith.org.

If you are interested in working with us  in our  Ecumenical / Interfaith ministry, please let me know.

Peace and every good

Mike Carsten, OFS,

Minister, Troubadours of St. Clare Fraternity

NAFRA Ecumenical / Interfaith Committee Chair

So Long 2016

Farewell 2016!

Winter has arrived and 2017 is just days away. It has been an amazing year. Most importantly, we have welcomed Cindy and Kim back into active fraternal life. We are blessed beyond measure to have them both back.

Our efforts engaging with youth and young adults are going better than ever envisioned, and we are developing relationships with Directors of Religious Education in the area. We are gathering with young people, teaching them about Sts. Francis and Clare and our Franciscan charism, and guiding them into a radical Franciscan vision of love and hospitality with the poor and disenfranchised. To date, we have held two Detroit Young Franciscans (YouFra) events downtown with more events being scheduled for every other month.

Our work serving the poor through Franciscan Ministries is also something that is taking on importance in our fraternity. This work is giving us the opportunity not only to serve but also to meet with and engage with young adults as they search for ways to serve.

This year our Fraternity has served a meal at St. Charles, and through Franciscan Ministries, given away groceries, clothing, winter coats, boots, hats, gloves, scarves, handwarmers, household supplies, televisions, sleeping bags, and the list goes on and on. That covers the stuff; but more importantly, are the opportunities of encounter and engagement as we foster relationships with people of all ages, faiths and nationalities, to sit and talk and be sister and brother one to another.

This Christmas we held our first annual Christmas Eve Lunch at the Canticle Café in Detroit.  Franciscan Ministries through Gary Goers, OFS has purchased a new trailer that will allow us to move out into areas that are served by no one; this is both scary and exciting.

Let us make no mistake about any of this, as we continue to move out of our comfort zones, we are reimagining and experiencing what it means to be a professed secular Franciscan. We take our vision of Fraternity beyond our local Fraternity gatherings, bringing our charism to life in service to the poor, the church, our families, our local community, and each other–bringing the Gospel to life.



Troubadours Winter 2016-17 Newsletter

Assalamu Alaikum

Assalamu Alaikum is the traditional Muslim greeting which is not something most of our sisters and brothers hear every day. Nor do we often hear positive comments when the name Allah is used in reference to God. There are in today’s world, certain buzz words that catch our attention and give us pause that makes our anxiety rise. What is the conditioned response to our angst? Fear.  Keep people out. We must “build a wall”.

My wife Kathy and I work and serve the poor on the streets of Detroit, a stone’s throw from the city of Dearborn.  Dearborn is home to the largest population of Muslims in the United States. If I have learned anything serving the poor on the streets of Detroit (which is so close to Dearborn), it is that poverty, misery, hunger, and fear know neither jurisdictional boundaries, nor recognition of or honor religious affiliations.

This past month, a young man volunteered with us as we served the poor. He is 19, a Muslim, and his family has sent him here from Turkey to escape the current political turmoil and violence in his homeland. He is a senior in high school learning our language and experiencing our culture. For this young adult’s parents, the United States is viewed and used as “sanctuary”. Coming to downtown Detroit and serving the homeless and poor was not anything that was on this young person’s radar when his parents sent him here for an education. Yet here he was. How did he come to us? He was brought by another 19 year old high school senior who is here in Michigan from Poland. They both are looking to serve, and at the same time, experience a place of peace and community. Imagine!  A 19-year-old Catholic high school senior works side by side, hand in hand with a 19-year-old Muslim high school senior, serving those in need regardless of race, ethnicity, or religious affiliation, serving with volunteers who are Secular Franciscans, Southern Baptists, Romanian Orthodox, Lutheran, and agnostic.

Our Rule, Constitutions, and National Statutes call for us in our Ecumenical and Interfaith efforts to move beyond talk. We are called to follow the example of the young adults I have mentioned above and fearlessly move out into our communities

From our Rule, we read-

Secular Franciscans

  • therefore, should seek to encounter the living and active person of Christ in their brothers and sisters. – Article 5

  • are stewards of the goods received for the benefit of God’s children. – Article 9

  • should set themselves free to love God and their brothers and sisters. – Article 12

  • with a gentle and courteous spirit accept all people as a gift of the Lord and an image of Christ. – Article 13

  • place themselves on an equal basis with all people, especially with the lowly – Article 13

  • seek out ways of unity and fraternal harmony through dialogue – Article 14

  • trusting in the presence of the divine seed in everyone- Article 14

  • strive to bring joy and hope to others – Article 14

We are called to set ourselves free to love God and our brothers and sisters – all of them.

It is my honor as the Ecumenical and Interfaith Chair to assist each of you to fulfill the plea of the National Fraternity.

O Breath of God, unite us in action!

2016-2017 Theme of the National Secular Franciscan Fraternity – USA

The Ecumenical and Interfaith Committee is here to help you in your journey, to encourage you to action, and then to help you tell your stories.

To empower you to “live the gospel of our Lord” and “make present the charism of our common Seraphic Father”.

To that end we have created a new Ecumenical and Interfaith website,                                         http://www.ofsusaecumenicalinterfaith.org

The web site is active; the list below is our beginning.

  • A page for each Committee component
    •  Ecumenical and Interfaith
    • Joint Community on Franciscan Unity
  • Calendar of events
  • Photo gallery for your Ecumenical and Interfaith photos
  • Interfaith prayer services for your use, and
  • Links with related information.

Yes – O Breath of God, unite us in action!

Assalamu alaikum / Peace be upon you

Mike Carsten OFS

Ecumenical and Interfaith Committee Chair

Our e-mail address – NAFRA@ofsusaecumenicalinterfaith.org

Share with us your Ecumenical and Interfaith experiences, photos and stories.

Please let us know how we can help you.

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,


Only Two More Classes

 It is Friday morning after the long Labor Day weekend. The office is very busy. The morning street ministry has just ended and the work at our Warehouse for the Poor is just beginning. I just have to grab a cup of coffee and sit in the chair and take a deep breath.
The door buzzer sounds, and I see at the door one of our seniors, Steve. We (Steve and I) have had many conversations about the neighborhood and those in need. This was our first conversation about his own personal needs. Steve like so many others in the neighborhood has never asked for help. His struggles are similar, but he has done his best to take care of himself. Two years ago he entered a college program and has been working very hard. He applied for student loans and has acquired a fair amount of student loan debt. “Only two more classes to go and it will all be completed,” he proudly told me earlier this summer. Then it’s back to work.

As fall was approaching he was preparing not only to complete his studies and receive his degree, he was very excited about the prospects of returning to the work force. This morning though he was depressed and carrying a burden. You see the college he was attending was ITT-Tech. This past week, ITT-Tech closed their doors nationwide. He had been calling the college ever since he heard the news. Two classes to go and now nobody answers the phone. He cannot receive his degree. He cannot get his credits transferred. He appears to have lost it all. All this time and effort; all his personal money spent. He now has a load of debt for student loans with nothing to show for it.

Steve is the third person this week that I have spent time with talking about their despair and desperation regarding the closing of this institution. Depression is just too easy a description to place on these good people. In our surrounding neighborhoods this story is replicated over and over.  

On September 8, “Taking Back the Night” a prayer group started by the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office of Black Catholic Ministries held a prayer vigil on the corner of McClellan and Gratiot, asking God for peace on the streets of the city they love. Detroit has the second highest murder rate and the highest violent crime rate in the country. Yet as bad as these two statements are, they do not offer a complete picture of the struggle experienced as many of the city’s citizens fight to maintain their dignity.

The struggle for an education, the lack of work, clean water, affordable housing, safe and successful schools, viable transportation systems, the struggle against human trafficking, yes even human trafficking, and the lack of any kind of response to the issues of mental illness—all are challenges that underlie the violence that works to crush the spirit of these wonderful people.

It is in this setting that we immerse ourselves, where together with our benefactors and volunteers we seek to encounter Christ, welcoming Steve as he struggles with his current setback. Together we work to “create worthy conditions of life” for all that live in or pass through our community.





A Change of Course, Care for Creation

“We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighw…

Source: A Change of Course, Care for Creation