Franciscans Downtown, A Ministry of Presence; Reflection, Conversation, and Refreshment
"A place of Gospel Refreshment; Rest and Conversation on the stories of our lives."
Franciscans Downtown, is not only a place that I like to volunteer at several times each week, but also a place that I like to share with all of my guests, including a few out of town visitors that stopped by today.
A few years ago my friend, Fr. Placid Stroik, retired from 30 years of service at Covenant House in New York City. He moved back to his home state of Wisconsin, where he took a position as a Chaplain at large convent near Manitowoc. He still found himself with spare time and energy and a desire to take on another outreach mission.
While visiting family in his hometown of Stevens Point, he noticed a vacant storefront, from an old tuxedo shop called Andrews Downtown. This is when Fr. Placid’s plans started to gel. Placid then activated a network of volunteers and secured financing from his order, The Franciscan Friars of the Assumption BVM Province, to open this mission and run it for the first year.
Franciscan’s Downtown was to be a “a place for Gospel refreshment … an oasis to read, listen, reflect, write, talk; sharing with one another stories of our lives.”
Though this mission was started by a Priest, who already has a full time job on the eastern side of the state, it did not take long to gather a full crew of steady volunteers to keep the mission alive. Currently, we have two Franciscan Priests, a couple of Franciscan Nuns, several members of the Secular Franciscan Order, along with numerous other Catholic lay people from the community.
We seem to have a multi-functional mission in the community we serve. A certain percentage of our guests include people from the general community and the local parishes, who are seeking a little bit of gospel refreshment and conversation in their week. Another welcome part of the community that has joined us are the homeless, who enjoy refuge from an often hostile world for a few hours each day.
I am always impressed with the activities that are presented in our little Downtown home. Some days are very busy with concerts, movie days, discussion groups, bingo, and other special events.
Many days it is much quieter at Franciscans Downtown and you will find people from the community enjoying our library, coffee, refreshments, and conversation.
Sometimes we will do things in conjunction with the many Catholic parishes in town, like the recent Mercy Marathon, offering reconciliation during lent and other special occasions, and having a Priest available to fill in at the many parishes around town.
Regardless of the activities of the day or the hour, one thing that is always on our mind while working at Franciscans Downtown is the importance of the Ministry of Presence.