Get Updates

St. Anthony's Breadbasket E-newsletter gives you an opportunity to learn more about St. Anthony of Padua and how he continues to inspire the Franciscan friars in their work today, especially among the poor.

Home Page

Back to school in Jamaica

Posted on by

Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, Joan Cooney (Ms. Joans)  and her brother James with students from the 'Get Kids To School' program as they board 'Josey' the van that will take them to school.

Fr. Jim Bok, OFM, Joan Cooney (Ms. Joans) and her brother James with students from the ‘Get Kids To School’ program as they board ‘Josey’ the van that will take them to Mt. Airy All Age school.

The Get Kids to School (GKTS) Program in Negril, Jamaica fully sponsored 72 children last year making it possible for children to attend school every day.

Without the support of Franciscan benefactors and friends, many of these children would not have this opportunity for an education.  “We have to try.  We are the only chance some of these kids will ever have of rising above this poverty”, says Fr. Jim Bok, OFM.

Because of your support, uniforms, school supplies, early morning breakfast, lunch money and rides to school are provided as part of this commitment.

“Each school year we look forward to assisting as many children as possible. Thanks to Joan Cooney, called “Ms. Joans,” for her tireless volunteer oversight of our Get Kids To School program.

This year we are preparing to outfit 150 students.

See more photos at the St. Anthony’s Kitchen Facebook page.

Makiva (center) her big brother Zion (right), and a fellow student ready for school.

Makiva (center) her big brother Zion (right), and a fellow student ready for school.

Ricardo enjoys his breakfast at St. Anthony's Kitchen.

Ricardo enjoys his breakfast at St. Anthony’s Kitchen.

All dolled up in pink school uniforms.

All dolled up in pink school uniforms.

On the right, our faithful school bus driver Kwako

On the right, our faithful school bus driver Kwako

Thank you for supporting our ministries in Jamaica!


Read more

A big job for St. Anthony

Posted on by

Margot's diamond

At work, we share St. Anthony stories all the time.
Here’s one from Margot who works in the finance office.

Bless St. Anthony, I just love the way he works in my life.

One busy Saturday this July I was out and about — lunch with my sister-in-law and niece, my husband and our boys, running errands, putting away things at the house, walking the dog.  Later in the afternoon my boys watched a movie, so I crashed on the loveseat in the living room and fell asleep.

Half-awake some 20 minutes later, I ran my thumb over my diamond ring and realized that the points were bent up and the diamond was gone!!!

I had NO idea when I lost it, so I started to try to re-do all my movements during the day.

While I was going through that process, my sister-in law and niece stopped by the house and I told them I lost my diamond and please keep an eye out for it.

They asked, ‘What are you going to do?’  I said, ‘Well, the first thing to do is ask St. Anthony for his help.  This is what you say, “St. Anthony, my mother says you can find anything.  Can you please help me find my diamond?”

I even went back to the one store where I might have lost it and tried to recreate the exact same things that I had done there earlier.

At home while I was frantically searching, my husband just said, ‘Well, this is a big job for St. Anthony.’  But he didn’t get upset or help in the search for the diamond.

After accepting that the diamond was just gone, I actually got a good night’s sleep because I had no control over the situation.

I was awakened by my husband picking my hand up and putting my diamond into it.  He found it when he was starting the coffee, in the coffee filter bag in the corner cupboard!

You know, I remember reaching up there to get a funnel to pour out some of our new olive oil… but I still believe that St. Anthony found it for me and put it where my husband would find it!

Thank you St. Anthony!

     — Margot in Cincinnati

St AnthonyWe’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too.  Use our Contact Page or Email: or Call Colleen Cushard at: 513-721-4700.  Share your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page.  You can donate to St. Anthony Bread or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.

Read more

Br. Tim Lamb, OFM – Destination Africa

Posted on by

Br. Tim talks about his new blog, a spiritual diary called “Omnes Donum Est” (All Is Gift)

Br. Tim with his Missioning Crucifix

Br. Tim with his Missioning Crucifix

More than once Br. Tim Lamb, OFM, has been asked, “Why Africa?” “Why now?”

One answer lies in the reflection Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, gave for Tim’s missioning service Aug. 23 at St. Francis Seraph Church. “What is the meaning of life?” Mark asked, then skewed it slightly. “Jesus offers a different version,” he said. “He addresses himself to what gives life meaning.”

How do we know what feeds our soul? For Tim, the decision to become a mid-life missionary (he’s 61) was not an easy one.  But ultimately, the decision was rooted in his love for God, Mark said.  “This deep love has led him to trust, to take risks, to hear an inner call from this One who loved him so much. And it’s because God who started this journey, this adventure, first found Tim on the edges of that life. Now Tim wants to give back to his Beloved by going to the peripheries, to what looks to me like falling off the edge of the world to another world, to South Sudan.”

It looks that way to most people. Tim’s siblings, here from Texas and New Hampshire, were asked about his distant deployment. “It’s exciting,” said sister Bette Bell. “We have a new place to visit.” “Oh boy,” said Tim’s brother, Tom Lamb. “It’s exciting and a worry.” Tom’s wife Elaine said she’ll be offering “lots of prayers.”

South SudanInto the unknown

Adventure awaits: That was the consensus of relatives, friends and friars who gathered to share this going-away moment with Tim. There was anticipation mixed with the realization that much of what lies ahead is unknown – perfectly articulated in a song Br. Al Mascia, OFM, wrote for the occasion. “Oh my God, where am I going,” Al sang, strumming his guitar.  “The road I cannot see. I don’t know for certain where the road will end….”

Tim does know what the next few months will bring.  After he completes the Inter-Franciscan Missionary Program in Brussels, Belgium, he flies to Nairobi, Kenya, for acclimation to the Province of St. Francis in East Africa. “He’s assigned to the novitiate in Mbarara, Uganda,” Mark said. “He may help out in South Sudan,” counseling returning refugees, but that remains to be seen. “He’s not even sure whether he will get around by bus, or motorcycle, or camel or wildebeest.  But by this inspiration of the Lord, this breathing of God in him, he wants to ‘listen reverently to others with unfeigned charity, learn willingly from the people among whom they live, especially from the poor, who are our teachers.’”

Tim’s job, Mark said, “will be to take off the shoes of his own culture and be in awe of the ways that ordinary bushes are on fire with God.” For those back home, “Br. Tim becomes for us a model, but even better, a catalyst,” inspiring others to take risks, to let go.

Using your gifts

Fr. Tim's family: Elaine and Tom Lamb, left and Bette Belle, right, with Br. Tim

Fr. Tim’s family: Elaine and Tom Lamb, left and Bette Belle, right, with Br. Tim

Letting go is never easy for the relatives of a departing missionary. After celebrant Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM, called Tim forth to serve, sister Bette read an emotional blessing on behalf of her family. “Tim, as we all gathered for your Baptism, we witnessed your birth of new life which started your journey. Over the years while you made this journey you showed us your generous soul, which you gave freely and openly. Your wise soul, which always saw the best in all people, and your gentle soul, which was always sensitive to the feelings of others.  All your gifts have brought you here today for your new journey.”

As for the questions, “Why Africa?” and, “Why now?”, they were answered on Tim’s new blog, a spiritual diary called “Omnes Donum Est” (All Is Gift). As he wrote in one of his first entries, “I have been on this journey all my life.”

This story originally appeared in the SJB Newsnotes September 10, 2015.

Read more

Fr. Curt Lanzrath, OFM

Posted on by


Fr. Curt Lanzrath, OFM, with students from Texas A & M on a bus pilgrimage to help him move back to Cincinnati in 2007.

Fr. Curt Lanzrath, OFM, surrounded by students from Texas A & M on a 3-day bus pilgrimage to help him move back to Cincinnati in 2007.

Wherever he served, Franciscan Fr. Curt Lanzrath, OFM,
was remembered for his boyish grin & optimistic attitude.

Fr. Curt, a former chaplain at St. Mary’s and St. Francis Hospitals, died Aug. 4 at St. Margaret Hall in Cincinnati at the age of 90.

A native of Greeley, Kansas, he was one of five children. He was ordained June 8, 1954. Besides ministering as a chaplain, Fr. Lanzrath gave retreats and parish missions and served in parishes in Illinois, Indiana, New Mexico Louisiana and Kansas.

Fr. Curt Lanzrath, OFM

Fr. Curt Lanzrath, OFM

Fr. Curt was a wonderful priest who found joy and appreciation for everything in life.  He was relentlessly positive.

After only one year of retirement, he decided that at the young age of 73, retirement did not really suit him. He became chaplain for the Poor Clares in Brenham Texas. Apparently, that was still too close to retirement because he quickly volunteered for what he described as one of the best experiences of his life as an unofficial but deeply loved part of the campus ministry at Texas A & M. He’d spend the day visiting with students, giving spiritual direction and hearing confessions.

For a man who really never had much interest in sports, he found he was an Aggie at heart!  He wore the logo with pride.

After nine years in Texas, Fr. Curt came back to Cincinnati to retire.  To show their love and appreciation for his life of sacrificial service, 23 students, former students and friends joined him on a three day bus trip pilgrimage to his new home in Cincinnati.  In honor of his example and because Fr. Curt counseled many students as they discerned their future, the theme for the pilgrimage was “vocations”. Throughout the trip, the bus was filled with prayer and song, and Mass was celebrated at stops along the way.

“In a world that teaches people to look out for themselves, there are some who remind us that our true calling is to give our lives to God and others.  Fr. Curt is one of them,” said Tucker Redding, one of those on the trip.

Before leaving, they all prayed for and over Fr. Curt wishing him joy in his new ministry.

Rest in the hands of the Lord, Fr. Curt.  We miss you!

TExas A n M edit 75 x 75 Portions of this article were taken from A Pilgrimage for a Priest by Mary Walker of St. Mary’s Catholic Center, Texas A & M University, NCDVD Volume 28, Number 4, Fall 2007.

Read more

Journey to Franciscan Life

Posted on by

The postulants and their directors celebrate graduation.  L - R: Carlo Shivel, John Boissy, Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, Thomas Murphy, Fr. Frank Geers, OFM, and Jonathon Douglas.

The postulants and their directors celebrated graduation. L – R: Carlo Shivel, John Boissy, Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM, Thomas Murphy, Fr. Frank Geers, OFM, and Jonathon Douglas.

Our men in formation come from all walks of life
and each journey is different.

We thought you might enjoy reading about what our young men experienced during their postulancy program (the first year orientation into Franciscan life).

Each of these men has moved on to the Novitiate program which will be another year forming their Franciscan identity and prayer life.  Please keep them in your prayers as they discern life as a friar.

Click on the photos below
to read their individual stories of ministry:

Postulant John Boissy is giving people something they rarely get - the chance to speak and the chance to be heard.

As a postulant John Boissy gave people something they rarely get – the chance to speak and the chance to be heard.

Postulant Jonathon Douglas races against the clock to feed families dependent on the food pantry.

As a postulant Jonathon Douglas raced against the clock to feed families dependent on the food pantry.

Postulants Carlo Shivel and Tom Murphy teach refugees what it means to become American.

As postulants Carlo Shivel and Tom Murphy taught refugees what it means to become American.

Read more

“I Woke Up Dreaming of St. Anthony”

Posted on by

Marian with her special rosary made from the roses from her husband Don's coffin.

Marian with her special rosary made from the roses from her husband Don’s coffin.

Patti G. of the Friar Works office
gave us her mother’s St. Anthony story.

My dear husband Don and I had a long and fruitful marriage of 66 years, 7 children, 18 grandchildren, and 24 great-grandchildren.  Two years ago he went to Our Lord but I have my memories and a beautiful rosary that my son had specially made for me.  The beads of the rosary are made from the actual flowers that adorned his coffin.

Don and Marian

Don and Marian

Every day I walk to Mass at Visitation parish and every day I remove the rosary from its plain black leather case to say my prayers.  It is a source of comfort and a tactile remembrance of my beloved Don.  When I return from church, I always keep the rosary in the drawer of a cabinet.

I have a tendency to lose things and worried that I might lose such a beloved item.  My daughter Patti suggested that I keep my name and address inside the leather case.  I never got around to doing that and one day, a few weeks ago, I couldn’t find the rosary!

I distinctly remember putting it in the drawer of the cabinet.  My daughter and I searched and searched.  We pulled out everything in every drawer of the cabinet.  Then we searched the whole house and the car.  Finally, I wrote a letter to our church hoping against hope that someone had found it.  Nothing.

I was heartbroken but I couldn’t ask the rest of the family for help because I didn’t want my son to find out that I had lost his wonderful gift to me.  When Don was alive I was always asking for his help with the many things I misplaced.  What to do now?

My daughter reminded me that I had always instructed them as children to call upon St. Anthony.  So I prayed to St. Anthony and to my husband, Don.

That night I was very stressed when I went to bed.  At 4:00 AM I woke up dreaming of St. Anthony and Don.  I immediately knew to check the jacket pocket of a jacket that I rarely wear.  I had gone to a different church that day, St. Jude, and wore that jacket… reached in and there it was!

Thank you St. Anthony!


St. Anthony Statue at the ShrineWe’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too. Use our Contact Page or Email: or Call Colleen Cushard at: 513-721-4700. Share your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page. You can donate to St. Anthony Bread or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.

Read more

Br. John Barker, OFM

Posted on by

Br. John R. Barker, OFM

Br. John R. Barker, OFM

Remember in school there was always one kid who not only welcomed a scholastic challenge, he doted on it?  John Barker was that kid.  Academic stuff is my life, he says “This is what I do. It’s my ministry.”

As a biblical scholar and teacher, Br. John, 49, keeps attune to whatever is new about the oldest mechanically printed book in the world.  He is completing his dissertation toward his Ph. D. in biblical studies from Boston College.

To many, working on a Ph. D, would be enough, but Br. John’s studies don’t stop there.  He instructs several theology and biblical studies classes at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.  Somehow he organizes his schedule to include research, field study, writing articles and being a local minister.

He recently wrote an article on the Garden of Eden for The Bible Today. He regularly contributes Week Day Homily Helps for Franciscan Media and has published articles on the gospels.  He reads and speaks French, Hebrew, German, Spanish, and Greek.  He also reads Latin.   When there is a pocket of time, he preaches retreats and days of recollection.

He previously traveled to Israel, Greece and Turkey and he looks forward to taking a group of students back to Israel for six weeks in the fall.

To assure us it is not all work, he adds, “But I do enjoy reading murder mysteries.”   Gardening is another of his interests.  His preference would be more of a permanent place to plant because they rent at Blesses Giles friary. He also likes to cook and does a lot of that as do the other friars in the house.  Br. John said in years back, he enjoyed playing the violin and creating stained glass.

John knows he’s lucky to be doing something he loves, something he does well.  “It’s a tremendous blessing to do this and I am thrilled to able to do it,” says Br. John.

Br. John Barker jokes with fellow Franciscan friars Fr. Bob Bruno and Br. Colin King

Br. John Barker jokes with fellow Franciscan friars Fr. Bob Bruno and Br. Colin King

Read more

Immigrants discover the Heart of Texas

Posted on by

“There is more money in
selling children than in trafficking”

Photos by Delcia Lopez and Toni Cashnelli

A tired but happy mom and her son.

A tired but happy mom and her son. Photo © Delcia Lopez

Clutching a plastic bag and holding onto her toddler for dear life, the weary mother pushes open the glass door and steps inside, eyes trained on the floor. She looks up in surprise when first one, then another of the people standing nearby shouts, “Bienvenidos!” and begins to applaud. As more join in, the woman smiles shyly. Clearly, the last thing she expected was this wave of warmth and welcome.  The scene is repeated again and again as immigrants walk off a minibus and into the parish hall of a Franciscan church in McAllen, Texas.

“I get chills when families come through. It’s very moving,” says Deb Boyce, one of the greeters. “When they come in, the first thing we do is applaud.” Their gesture is the response to a modern-day exodus that began last year in Central America. Fleeing a future that held no hope, families began to move north in great numbers. And the place where many of them landed, after journeys that were long and dangerous, was Sacred Heart Parish.

In the past 12 months more than 20,000 undocumented immigrants, most women and children, have passed through this building, now called the Humanitarian Respite Center. McAllen, at the southern tip of Texas near the Rio Grande, has become ground zero for a crisis that no one saw coming.

Deb Boyce of Catholic Charities greets guests to the Humanitarian Respite Center

Deb Boyce of Catholic Charities greets guests. Photo © Delcia Lopez

Papers in hand, immigrants alight from the bus.

Papers in hand, immigrant mothers and children alight from the bus. Photo © Delcia Lopez

“What could we do?” says Pastor Tom Luczak, OFM, the friar who responded last June when the trickle of immigrants turned into a flood of biblical proportions. “This is what the Gospel says: ‘I was hungry and you gave me food.’” Here at Sacred Heart, “The Gospel has become very real.”

‘Positive energy’

The Respite Center, next door to the rectory, offers just what the name implies: a bit of rest and relief. Outside it’s reminiscent of M*A*S*H, with a bookmobile-sized shower unit parked next to a half-moon tent lined with cots. Inside the center are comfort stations surrounding dozens of racks and stacks of clothing. Folding tables with bins of baby supplies and hygiene essentials line the walls. A kiddie corral is every child’s dream, a cornucopia of pull toys, books, stuffed animals, trucks and dolls. Alongside the kitchen is a row of dining tables draped in pink tablecloths and topped with sparkly centerpieces. All of it is coordinated by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, manager of the facility since Day 1.

Volunteer Alma Revesz

Volunteer Alma Revesz. Photo © Toni Cashnelli

Fr. Tom Luczak, OFM

Fr. Tom Luczak, OFM. Photo © Delcia Lopez


Much of it is maintained by volunteers like Alma Revesz, who loves the center and the people it serves.  “I think I am an addict to this,” says Alma, a grandmother who works here almost every day. “It’s positive energy. It’s beautiful when the children hug you and say, ‘Thank you, lady, for what you do today.’ I feel Jesus hugging me. I can see his face in all these people.”

Tom often stops by to meet the families. “I try to come and ask all of them who they are, where they’re going,” he says. And when they leave, “I like to say goodbye.” Today he’s playing peek-a-boo with a toddler who ducks behind his laughing mama. After a brief exchange in Spanish, Tom announces, “His name is Anthony. They’re headed to Virginia,” where relatives will give them shelter.

Monitoring device

Monitoring device. Photo © Delcia Lopez

Another immigrant sits next to an electrical outlet, a cuff around his ankle plugged into the wall. Whatever the reason for coming, “All of them are here illegally,” Tom says.  “The newest thing [since May 13] is that they’re starting to put these ankle bracelets on them to track them as they leave before they get to their court appearance” for a hearing on their status. Charging the device takes three hours a day – difficult for most, impossible for some. “It’s sad to see. The people come and they finally feel safe and now they’re being clamped with ankle bracelets like criminals.”

Fleeing violence

Their story has been beamed around the world by National Geographic, Chinese media and the BBC. Tom remembers the call that started it all.  Last June he and three other friars who share the care of two local parishes were in Chicago for the chapter of their province, Assumption BVM. On the phone was Sr. Norma Pimentel, a member of the Missionaries of Jesus and Executive Director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley.

She asked, “Fr. Tom, can I borrow your parish hall for a couple of days?”, and explained the problem – a surge in the number of immigrants crossing the border at Reynosa, Mexico, where the Rio Grande narrows. In the beginning, Norma says, “There were a great number of children coming” by themselves. “The Border Patrol and the Office of Refugee Resettlement were not prepared to handle it. They started creating a lot of facilities for unaccompanied children.”

Immigrants hear a presentation by Sr. Norma Pimentel

Immigrants hear a presentation in the Humanitarian Respite Center by Sr. Norma Pimentel. Photo © Delcia Lopez

Sr. Norma Pimentel addresses the guests.

Sr. Norma Pimentel, “There were a great number of children coming by themselves.” Photo © Delcia Lopez

Families were another matter. “The Border Patrol was packed with a thousand people at their processing facility and were only equipped to handle 300,” Norma says. To ease overcrowding, many were issued temporary papers and released “provisionally” pending a hearing. Confused and exhausted, they were left at the bus station to fend for themselves. “They didn’t know how to buy tickets,” says Deb. Guatemalans spoke indigenous languages no one understood.

Good Samaritans took them food and water. Catholic Charities stepped in, suggesting that a way station would help them get their bearings. A couple of blocks from the bus station, the parish hall at Sacred Heart was the perfect spot. “I had no idea how long this would be,” Norma says. But Tom told her, “Sister, you stay here until this ends.”

Br. Andre Lemay, OFM, with a recent arrival.

Br. Andre Lemay, OFM, with a recent arrival. Photo © Delcia Lopez

As Norma soon learned, the families sold everything, risked everything to escape extortion and brutality from gangs and drug cartels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. Children were being kidnapped for gang recruitment, slave labor, the sex trade, and most terrifying of all, harvesting of their organs for transplants. “There is more money in selling children than in trafficking,” Norma says. One parent was threatened: “If you don’t give us your child I will kill him in 15 days.”

Pulling together

Taking only the clothes on their backs, they hired coyotes (smugglers) to get them here on foot, by bus, in the backs of big rigs, on top of trains.  “A great number are lost in Mexico,” according to Norma. “Many people die without anyone knowing.” For Tom, “The saddest thing is people who get separated from their families” along the way. “Husbands have been killed. There have been many pregnant ladies. Babies have been born here.  It must be so bad [where they came from], it’s worth taking the risk.”

The first guests were welcomed to the Respite Center on June 10, 2014. “There were 200 a day when it first started,” Tom says. “It was unorganized; nobody knew what was happening. Nobody knew the magnitude” of the problem. A former provincial minister, Tom is no stranger to crisis, but “Last summer was unbelievable.”

Initially, “It was 24 hours a day,” says Friar André LeMay, OFM, part of the parish team at Sacred Heart. “I said I couldn’t keep this up. People from all over the world were inundating the center.” Press briefings were held to accommodate national and international media. In the midst of this chaos, something miraculous happened.

Showers and sleeping accomodations

Showers and sleeping accommodations Photo © Toni Cashnelli

Clearing the table as guests finish their soup

Clearing the table as guests finish their soup. Photo © Delcia Lopez

Volunteers showed up from every corner of Hidalgo County and beyond. Doctors and nurses donated time to treat minor injuries and examine expectant mothers.  High schools and colleges sent students to help. Jews, Muslims and Protestants pitched in. “The project has been supported by every religion in town,” Tom says. “It’s a wonderful example of how people of different faiths can work together.” The Salvation Army made chicken soup – and they’re still doing it.  The City of McAllen offered transportation to and from buses and gave Sacred Heart free parking and locations for the meetings, parties and Quinceanera celebrations that had to be moved.

A year later, the media spotlight has shifted, but the immigrants keep coming – not only from Central America, but from Brazil, Cuba, Africa, India and the Ukraine.  The Respite Center is apparently here to stay. “We’re looking at the possibility of building a parish hall for Sacred Heart” to replace the one they lost, says Norma.
Meanwhile, it’s business as usual.

Pilgrims and strangers

“We usually get a wave of people in the morning,” says Deb, who is Development and Communications Director for Catholic Charities. “Sometimes we don’t get notification of how many people are here until they show up.” With center director Eli Fernandez on vacation and a couple of regulars fighting strep throat, Deb is showing a new volunteer the ropes. “Be sure to stay with the family throughout the process,” she says. “This afternoon we have 75 coming in so we really need help. Ay-yay-yay!”

Volunteer Mayra Garza with a language "cheat sheet"

Volunteer Mayra Garza with a language “cheat sheet”. Photo © Toni Cashnelli

A volunteer helps a family find the right sizes.

A volunteer helps a family find the right clothing sizes. Photo © Delcia Lopez

Two blocks away at the bus station Mayra Garza, a Sacred Heart parishioner hired by Catholic Charities, meets a group dropped off by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  Dispirited, disoriented, they move in slow motion as though roused from sleep. A toddler too tired to stand hangs onto the belt of a mother holding a plastic sack in one hand and a manila envelope in the other. Nothing – not the ride, not the commotion – could wake the exhausted babies draped over shoulders.

In Spanish, Mayra explains the drill, then translates. “I asked them if they want to go eat and take a shower,” she says. One woman responds in Spanish, “Oh, thank God!” They enter the Respite Center to cheers and applause and are directed to folding chairs for an orientation from Norma. What she’s saying, according to Alma, is, “‘We’re gonna give you clothes. The volunteers are giving you their time just because they love you.’”

A mom and daughter wait in line at a bus station.

A mom and daughter wait in line at a bus station. Photo © Toni Cashnelli

From the time they leave home, “It minimally takes two weeks, sometimes six weeks, two months” to get here, says Deb. “The journeys are horrific for them.  They’ve been held in a border detention facility for two or three days” in a climate they describe as “an icebox”.

After the families are registered, volunteers lead them around the room, stopping at a table where Sylvia Cardenas, 79, folds diapers and dispenses baby essentials.  “I’m an old registered nurse,” says Sylvia, a regular since the beginning.  “I like helping people because that’s what nurses do.”

Next to her 38-year-old Amy McCoy assembles travel packs – combs, toothbrushes, toothpaste and deodorant – for the journeys to come. “Oh yes, this is what I want,” a guest tells her in Spanish. “I get to feel human again.” Amy, a Baptist from Central Texas, moved here after a mission trip. “A guy from my home church is from Guatemala. He said, ‘You don’t know what this means to the people you’re helping.’ This cemented that I’m where I’m supposed to be.”

Refreshed, renewed

Sr. Anita Jennissen offers a stuffed animal as a comfort.

Sr. Anita Jennissen offers a stuffed animal. Photo © Toni Cashnelli

As families dine on chicken soup – a light meal is all they can handle – volunteers move among the racks, collecting shirts, shoes and pants in the sizes required.  Immigrants will leave their well-worn clothing behind. “There’s a magical moment when they get a shower and clean clothes,” Tom says. “Their whole disposition changes.”

Revived by food, children systematically work their way through each box of toys, many leaving with a stuffed animal they can hug or use as a pillow on the next leg of their journey.

“When they arrive and when they go, they’re a different person,” says Mayra.

“With this little bit of time you change their minds, how they see the future,” says Alma. “They are more strong, a lot of them told me. A lady at the bus station said,
‘Thank you. I was feeling dead. I have my life again.’”

Alma dons a hairnet in the kitchen to assemble 24 bags of cheese sandwiches, road food for those departing tonight. Sending them off to an uncertain future, “I pray and ask God to take care of them because there is nothing else I can do.”

In time they may forget the pain of the past.

But they will always remember a parish hall where they were treated like family.

Catholic CharitiesFor information on volunteering or making a donation, call Deb Boyce at Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley at 956-292-5852; or e-mail her at:

This story was originally published in the SJB NewsNotes July 9, 2015, written and edited by Toni Cashnelli.

ABVM Friars with a welcoming statue of Francis at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas

ABVM Friars with a welcoming statue of Francis at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas. L – R: Fr. Tom Luczak, Fr. Terrence Gorski, Br. Andre Lemay, and Br. Mario Nagy. Photo © Toni Cashnelli


Read more

St. Anthony’s help saves cherished memories.

Posted on by

50th Reunion EDIT 600

 Carolyn learns the message of St. Anthony Bread

Dear Franciscans,

I had lost my camera with the pictures from my 50th class reunion and had offered a reward or finder’s fee. 

I was in a waiting room and picked up a Catholic magazine and was reading the article about St. Anthony Bread so I prayed right there and then.

I found the camera and I felt I owed St. Anthony the finder’s fee.  I thank God too, that the magazine was there for me to read.

You do such good work.  God bless each of you.


St AnthonyShare your prayers with us and our online community at our Prayer Page.  You can donate to St. Anthony Bread or any of our ministries at our Donation Page.  We’d love to hear your St. Anthony story too.  Use our Contact Page or Email: or Call Colleen Cushard at: 513-721-4700

Read more

Celebrating Dad – Br. Michael Charron, OFM

Posted on by

Br. Michael Charron, OFM, and his father Robert

Br. Michael Charron, OFM, and his father Robert

Loving my father for who he is

“Sons and daughters talk of our fathers in terms of what they teach us and how they love us.  Fathers and mothers seem like gods initially.  The older I get, my dad becomes more human to me, a man I love for no other reason than who he is.  I love, appreciate and thank God this Father’s Day for becoming my God, so I can better love, appreciate and thank my dad simply for himself and for being himself.”.

Br. Michael took his Solemn Vows last year and is currently studying at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago.

Read more

Get Updates