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Gift Ideas for Advent and Christmas

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 Prepare for Advent and the Holiday season with thoughtful books and gifts from our ministries

Advent prepares our hearts to receive Christ.  Franciscan Media is your resource for inspiration and holiday gift-giving.

Love is our missionLove Is Our Mission: Pope Francis in America by CNS, USCCB, and Franciscan Media

The Joy of Advent: Daily Reflections from Pope Francis by Diane M. Houdek

Preparing for Christmas: Daily Meditations for Advent by Richard Rohr

Advent with St. Francis: Daily Reflections by Diane M. Houdek

A Franciscan Christmas by Kathleen M. Carroll

Bambinelli Sunday: A Christmas Blessing by Amy Wellborn, illustrated by Ann Kissane Englehart

The Puppy That No One Wanted by Anthony DeStefano, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey

A gift subscription to St. Anthony Messenger magazine

~ ~ ~

St AnthonyThe Franciscan Monastery Gift Shop  in Washington, DC, offers everything from books and movies to hand-crafted objects from the Holy Land. Your purchases at the Holy Land Franciscan Monastery Gift Shop helps support the Franciscans in their mission of serving the people of the Holy Land and preserving the shrines of the Holy Land.

St. Anthony Soap with Medallion

Olivewood Musical Nativity

Olive Oil from the Holy Land

100% Cashmere Scarves

Sarah Center~~~

At the Sarah Center in Cincinnati, OH, women discover self, share healing, and create beauty.  Their Holiday Sale features hand crafted jewelry, quilts, handbags, paintings, decorative items and more all made by Sarah Center Artists and Local Vendors.

Friday, Dec 4th – 4pm to 7pm
Saturday, Dec 5th – 4pm to 6pm
Sunday, Dec 6th – 11am – 4pm
The Sarah Center
1618 Vine Street
Cincinnati, OH  45202
(513) 651-1532


Br. Mark at the St. Francis Retreat House

Br. Mark at the St. Francis Retreat House

St. Francis Retreat House in Easton, PA, operates a small gift and book shop to help subsidize the retreat ministry.

In addition to religious books, statuary and other religious items, the shop features food products and other items such as beer soap, Holy water soap, fruitcakes from Franciscans in Ava, MO, Trappist candy, mugs, biscotti, caskets and urns all handmade by monks, hermits, friars and religious sisters from all over the country. The gift shop is open every day. Hours vary, so call ahead if you plan to visit.

To order any of these items, give Brother Mark a call at 1-610-258-3053, extension #34, or speak to the secretary in the front office. You may also place your order via e-mail at and we will get back to you for all necessary information. Shipping charges are added to the items ordered and you can pay by credit card or check.


The Franciscan Friars and staff of the Province of St. John the Baptist wish you a Blessed Advent and a very Merry Christmas!

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Spirit-Filled Friar: Br. Al honored for his work

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brother al for dinner mp4 -2 from Echo Spark Films on Vimeo.

Passion for peace, a heart for the poor

Accepting a prestigious award, Br. Al Mascia did something very predictable: He turned the attention elsewhere.

He thanked those who came to the awards dinner, including eight friars, his mother Mary and his cousin, Toni Ann Petersen. He praised those being honored in other categories. He mentioned by name each group that donates supplies for his outreach efforts.

Dozens of the 400 attendees at the Oct. 14, 2015 Awards Dinner of the InterFaith Leadership Council of Metropolitan Detroit were there because they know Al. “This is the most people who ever came to support an honoree in the history of the dinner,” said Lucinda Keils, a colleague in ministry.

No one seemed surprised that Al was receiving a Community Service Award. “He is loving, hospitable, caring, compassionate,” said Brendan Shaffer, OEF, an Episcopal deacon. “He’s a spirit-filled man who lives out his Christian faith, who puts his faith into action.”

Br. Al

In the audience at Shriners Silver Garden in Southfield, Mich., were members of a religious and cultural coalition that promotes change through understanding. It included Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Catholics and Buddhists, all aspiring to the ambitious objective expressed by Al. “At the end of the day,” he said, “we are a family of religions working together to help bring assistance and healing to those no matter their creed, and daring by our example to move beyond mere tolerance of one another to friendship and, God willing, abiding love.”

Even if you consider them cockeyed optimists, you have to admire their resolve. The world is a troubled place, always has been, but it doesn’t have to stay that way. That theory inspired Al to co-found the Song and Spirit Institute for Peace with Jewish troubador Steve Klaper and his wife, Mary Gilhuly, a Catholic artist. They figured that preaching is more palatable if it’s set to music or committed to canvas, and that outreach means just that: You go out and find the people in need.

Introducing Al at the dinner, Mary described his ministerial journey in Detroit, from the Canticle Café warming center at St. Aloysius to his bicycle cart ministry, from his tuneful collaboration with Steve to their decision almost five years ago to create an interfaith institute promoting peace and service.

The Care-avan

The Care-avan

A donated Dodge Sprinter van made their outreach mobile. “With it,” Mary said, “Br. Al could travel as far as a tank of gas would take him, serving ice cream at church festivals in Detroit, hot soup to shelters in the tri-county area, warm clothing on the streets and healthy SnackPax to young children experiencing food insecurity at home.”

Acknowledging his gratitude in an acceptance speech, Al shifted the focus to “we”, as in, “We depend upon the kindness of both friends and strangers in order to perform our compassionate acts of community service.” While those who help “really get the part about feeding hungry children and serving the desperately poor, what isn’t so easy for some to understand is why we place such an emphasis on our work and services being ecumenical and interreligious to the core. Tell me, how else are our human virtues and ethics to grow? How else will we be freed from the terror, fright and fear of those we do not understand without attempting to understand them?”

Mary put Al’s ministry into perspective.

“It’s not enough to do good things for others,” she said. “Hopefully, we all do that. What sets a ‘do-gooder’ apart is when he/she inspires others to serve as well. That’s the stuff that creates a legacy.

“That’s Brother Al.”

This story first appeared in the SJB News Notes October 22, 2015
Photos © 2015 Toni Cashnelli

Br. Al Mascia, OFM (right) with his mother Mary and co-founders of Song and Spirit Institute for Peace Steve Klaper and Mary Gilhuly

Br. Al Mascia, OFM (right) with his mother Mary and co-founders of Song and Spirit Institute for Peace Steve Klaper and Mary Gilhuly

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This is what love looks like

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St. Al volunteer Joe Thillman with a guest

St. Al volunteer Joe Thillman with a guest

St. Al’s street ministry in Detroit

Joking, jostling and trading football cheers, volunteers pile into a van in the alley behind St. Aloysius Church in Detroit.

Serving sandwiches

Serving sandwiches

“Go Blue!” shouts Michigan fan Ann O’Flaherty. “Go, Irish!” returns Joe Thilman – no mistaking that reference. At 7:45 on a frosty morning in Detroit, people have no business being this cheerful. Yet here they are, clad in aprons that read, “St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services”, heading to the site of their street ministry. OLG postulant Andrew Koon, the newest member of this merry band, pulls his wool cap over his ears and joins in the banter.

Br. Ed Gura hands up the last box of bologna and cheese sandwiches, hops into the front seat and signals the driver. “Why aren’t you wearing a coat?” someone asks. Ed shrugs. He’s serving hot coffee today; that will keep him warm.

A few blocks later they park across the street from the Rosa Parks Transit Center, where a couple dozen people are already forming a line. On a day too chilly for standing still, folks shove gloveless hands in the pockets of their ill-fitting coats or flap arms and stomp the ground for warmth. Dorian Bellinger alights from St. Al’s van with a boom box, sets it on the sidewalk, slips in a Motown CD and turns up the volume.

Br. Ed Gura and Dorian Bellinger

Br. Ed Gura and Dorian Bellinger

As the Supremes caution, You Can’t Hurry Love, Ann and Andrew unload boxes of sandwiches, shampoo, lotion, hair conditioner and toothpaste. Ed opens the back of the van and reaches for coffee cups. “What’s your pleasure today?” he asks a woman in line, as though she were a customer at Starbucks. “Can I get hot chocolate?” she asks. “Have a good day, my friend,” Ed tells her, handing over a steaming cup. “In the mind of God are constant thoughts of you.”

As the queue begins to move, Dorian holds up a hand: “Can we take one second to praise the Lord?”

Making friends

Most breadlines remind you how hard life can be.

This one helps you forget. Amidst the music and camaraderie, it’s more like a party at which every guest knows everyone else. “We’ve been friends for five years,” says a grizzled guy named Lloyd, throwing an arm around Joe.

He like a little coffee with his cream and sugar

He likes a little coffee with his cream and sugar

“I’m wondering what’s become of Phil?” Ed asks Ann’s husband, Dennis, his compatriot at the coffee station. “I haven’t seen him in a long time.” Richard, the next guest in line, holds up a cup. “The usual?” Ed says. Richard nods and smiles. “I’d like a little coffee with my cream and sugar.” The jokester behind him steps forward and announces, “I’ll take a latte.”

Most of these folks are regulars, says Ann, an 11-year veteran of St. Al’s street ministry. “It’s a mix of people,” says Ed, who with two years of experience at this calls himself “the new kid on the block.” Some are homeless and come directly from rescue missions like COTS, the Coalition On Temporary Shelter. “Some have places to live but are low-income,” including a number of seniors.

“This is sister Chris,” Ed says, pointing to a woman sporting a jaunty striped cap. “She always wants her coffee with cream and sugar. One day she’s gonna surprise me.” A middle-aged man named Anthony thanks Ed for the coffee and reveals, “I’m going to Hawaii,” then confides in a stage whisper, “I have my summer house in Detroit.”

It’s been “humbling”

St. Al'sDorian sets a box on the sidewalk beside the food table. “I’ve got some pants and shirts I want to give out,” he says, sparking a flurry of activity. Joe greets each person in line with, “Good morning, good morning,” occasionally adding, “Go Irish!” Ann immediately counters, “Go Blue!”
Postulant Andrew, who hails from California, south of Palm Springs, looks cold and is cold. He chose St. Al’s as one of his ministries because “it would push me to my limits and challenge me.” So far, “It’s been a humbling experience. We have a lot to learn from people on the streets.” After three weeks at this, he says, “People are starting to look familiar. I just don’t know their names yet. All are needy, some not as much as others. Some people we give more than two sandwiches because of the way they’re living.”

A hand-written note on the window of the van reads, “God never promised us a convenient life.” On this stretch of sidewalk, at least for a moment, the cold and the cares are forgotten.

The philosophy of ministry is obvious: Joy is contagious. Pass it on.

Help and hope

“They’re so happy to see us, so thankful,” says Ann, explaining why she’s here every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. You’re sharing more than coffee and sandwiches, says Dorian. “The biggest thing you share with them is love. It makes them hopeful. People need to be loved.”

Each coffee customer receives a special greeting. “I like that smile,” Ed tells an older woman. “Keep smilin’!” When people need to talk, he leans in and listens intently, responding with a few quiet words or a pat on the shoulder. Everyone who wants one gets a hug.

An hour after they started, St. Al’s volunteers have dispensed eight gallons of hot beverages and distributed 150 sandwiches. Dorian picks up the boom box as his colleagues fold the table and pack the leftover toiletries.

“You guys ready to blow this pop stand?” Ann asks.

“Good job today,” Dorian says. “God bless.”

Learn more about St. Al’s in Detroit at:
More photos at Flickr

This story first appeared in the SJB News Notes November 12, 2015
Photos © 2015 Toni Cashnelli

L to R: Dennis O'Flaherty, Br. Ed Gura, OFM, Ann O'Flaherty and postulant Andrew Koon

L to R: Dennis O’Flaherty, Br. Ed Gura, OFM, Ann O’Flaherty and postulant Andrew Koon


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Animals can’t hide from St. Anthony

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St. Anthony purr-fectly finds this elusive feline

St. Anthony finds animals also!

St. Anthony has helped me too many times to mention but this one takes the cake.

My wife and I were watching my daughters cat while she was away . She is in college and lives alone and her only companion is her beloved cat.

We noticed the cat missing and searched for hours ripping the house apart checking the backyard and neighborhood, arguing about who let the cat out. I walked into the garage and while checking it I said, “St. Anthony I really need your help.  I don’t know if you find cats but please help.”

I walked into the house and the cat was standing there in the middle of the room.

That cat was nowhere to be found.

Thanks St. Anthony!


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.



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Capturing the Spirit of Pope Francis’ US Visit

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“They are going to see one of the most generous personalities currently in the world.”
–Tunney King, father of Br. Colin King, OFM

Br. Roger and Br. Colin with cut-out of Pope Francis

Br. Roger and Br. Colin with cut-out of Pope Francis

Br. Roger Lopez, OFM, and Br. Colin King, OFM, shared their front-row seat to the action leading up to and beyond Pope Francis’ canonization Mass of Franciscan friar Br. Junipero Serra on September 23 in Washington, D.C.

They captured the spirit, excitement, and hope with their videos of Pope Francis and interviews with lay people and Franciscan friars from around the world (including our own Fr. Bonaventure Bai, OFM, and Fr. Larry Dunham, OFM).

“You can be given the weightiest responsibilities, some might say
perhaps the most prestigious position in the Church, and remain the same person…
I see the same Bergoglio that I knew in 2003.”
– Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle from the Philippines.


“He comes as a man of faith, a man of peace.”
– Minister General Fr. Michael Perry, OFM

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila with Br. Roger

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila with Br. Roger

Minister General Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, with Br. Roger

Minister General Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, with Br. Roger

Watch all the interview videos on Youtube: Friars Roger and Colin experience Pope Francis’ US visit

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Mariemont on a Mission

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Lauren and classmates from Mariemont High School with Fr. Jim and friends in Jamaica

Lauren and classmates from Mariemont High School with Fr. Jim and friends in Jamaica

On Monday, June 29th, eleven volunteers from Cincinnati arrived in Negril, Jamaica. John, Amy, Lauren and Parker Getgey were making their fourth trip to The Capital of Casual and Lauren’s friend, Jackie, making her third.  This time they brought other high school volunteers—and school supplies, clothing and arts and crafts for a “camp day.”  Lauren and Jackie, having been to Negril in the past to assist with Bible Camp, wanted to organize a volunteer mission trip from Mariemont High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.  After months of planning and fundraising their dream was fulfilled.

I interviewed Lauren after they returned to the States.  After getting her responses to my questions, I have to admit that I was blown away by the incredible wisdom of this young girl.  I think you will be too.  Check out the interview.  I hope it makes you feel as good as it did me to know that you really are making a difference in the lives of the people of Jamaica.  Enjoy.

Lauren and friend

Lauren and friend

How many years have you done the mission trip to Negril?
I have been to Negril the past four summers.

What keeps you going back?
There is so much work to do/ to be done. Each year, I feel as if there is so much more I can do. However, the amazing people are what keeps me going back. I feel so loved and appreciated for everything we do for these people. Going to Negril is like coming up for a humbling, much needed breath of fresh air.

How old are you?
I turned 18 in September and started my senior year at Mariemont High School.

On your first trip, can you remember if there was anything that really surprised you or shocked you regarding the difference between here and Jamaica?
Though many people associate words such as “poverty” or “desperation” with a mission trip, I remember being completely and pleasantly surprised at the pure joy of the people living there. Despite facing hardships of daily life and struggling for survival, the people of Negril are some of the most joyous and gracious I have/ will ever meet.

Painting a house

Painting a house

Tell me your first impressions of Fr. Jim.
“This guy is a priest?!!” Of course, I am kidding. But in all seriousness, I immediately noticed how laid-back Father Jim was in all the Jamaican madness. From a crazy airport pickup in Montego Bay, to hosting a vacation bible camp of 50 kids in the church yard, Father Jim does everything with patience and in the best intentions of others. He is so gracious and puts everyone before himself. I wouldn’t have half the experiences in mission work if it weren’t for Father Jim.

What made you want to encourage your friends to go?
Every year on the plane ride home from Negril, I always think how lucky I am to be touched by the amazing experience of serving the people of Negril. With this said, I felt like keeping this experience to myself and my family would be a disservice to so many of my amazing friends. Everyone deserves to experience a life-changing trip. Its humbling and shapes us as young adults

How did you raise some of the money to go?
We asked for donations and prayers from family and friends. Along with that, we organized several fundraisers to make ends meet. On Valentine’s Day, we held a “babysitting night” which allowed parents of our community to drop their children off while they enjoyed a night to themselves. We played games, bounced on a bouncy house, made crafts, and watched a movie to finish off the night. We also ran a bake sale at our school-hosted basketball tournament. We sold baked goods for two days straight!

Hunger abounds in Jamaica

Hunger abounds in Jamaica

Do you have a story of something or someone that particularly touched you?
The people of Negril are always hungry. One year at our vacation bible camp, we heard a little boy cry in pain as his older sister twisted his arm at lunch. We later found out that the sister had the responsibility of bringing home food to her mother and sick grandmother. She had asked her younger brother to save his food, but he was so hungry that he continued to eat his meal until she punished him. Hunger is laced through the houses of Negril.

If somehow you or someone else were able to raise a lot of money for Negril, what would you like to see it used for?
One thing that never fails to shock me is the housing of Negril. Houses are small, many are built of scraps of tin and wood etc. Many houses only have one room. I hope to raise money to fund building of sturdy homes.

What was your most rewarding moment?
My most rewarding moment was when I met Miss Ellen, a 109 year old woman at the time. Miss Ellen lived in a one room house with four generations of family living in houses around her. Miss Ellen is very dependent on the help from others (for things like sitting up, getting her diaper changed, eating, etc). One day, as we made our rounds for delivering packaged meals to shut-ins, we stopped in to say hi to Miss Ellen. She immediately began to cry in utter shock that such a large group had come to see her. She sang a Bible hymn and thanked us repeatedly. For me, this moment stood out because it was the first time that I realized that people need love just as much, if not more, than they need clothes or food etc. Providing the people food and clothing was not the only way we were touching lives.

Lauren with Miss Ellen who is 109 years old

Lauren with Miss Ellen who is 109 years old

What would you like to see change in Negril?
There are so many things I would love to see change. One of the biggest issues is the unemployment rate in Negril. Often times, there are beach vendors that sell goods day and night for little to no profit. Ideally, having a place for these people, both disabled and able, to work or volunteer would be an amazing change.  The soup kitchen in Negril is run by locals. This phenomenon of the workers helping their own people is so important for unity and spreading God’s love.

Will you be going again next year?
Yes! Already counting down the days.

How can I help in your efforts?
Prayers and spreading awareness of this trip and the importance of serving others is a great way to start!

See more photos of the mission trip to Jamaica at:
Volunteers to Jamaica

Houses are built of scraps of tin and wood

Houses are built of scraps of tin and wood

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Sea, sand, and St. Anthony

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 The vastness of sand and sea can’t
keep St. Anthony from finding a treasured ring.

Years ago my husband took his aunt, our two little girls and myself to the beach. I was heavily pregnant with our third child and when we were preparing to leave my husband gave his wedding ring to his aunt to keep whilst he washed the sand off the girls and dried them off.

Just before leaving he asked his aunt for his ring (which she had placed on her finger). When she looked there was no ring on her finger. We all started looking but this is sand and sea and we felt there was little hope of finding the ring.

I suggested we pray to St Anthony.

Just as we were about to give up, my husband who was obviously upset went to stand on a log at the water’s edge with his arms folded and looking out to sea. Then as a wave passed the log he looked down and saw something shining so he bent down and grabbed a handful of sand where he saw the shining object which turned out to be – you guessed it – the wedding ring!


St Anthony & fishesWe’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.


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Back to school in Jamaica

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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 Br. 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!


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A big job for St. Anthony

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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.

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Br. Tim Lamb, OFM – Destination Africa

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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.

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