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Br. Mike Dubec expecting angels

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A memory of Christmas Past

Obie and Mae Parker!  They gave me a great opportunity to demonstrate Christmas hospitality at an age in my young life when I had little notion of such a thing.  What was under the tree, gift-wrapped and bearing my name, was uppermost.  Sure, the entire Christmas season, well, at least the first 10 days or so getting us into the new year, was filled with church celebrations, festive food, gift exchange, playing in the snow while shivering in the cold whiteness, and family visits.  It was a great time to be a kid (mid to late 1950s) and absorb life experiences by the gallon.

people-2583943 200x267Of all the Christmas festivities, the events of visiting relatives, traveling from house to house, and receiving guests in our home remain most vivid.  For me the most touching visit came when our elderly neighbors, Obie and Mae, made their annual trek – a few steps journey next door – into our festively decorated living room to be seated, welcomed, and wished the very best of the Christmas season. Handshakes, hugs, and tender kisses were freely given and received.  Obie and Mae had no children, and appeared to be in their late 70s or beyond.  Well goodness, at my age of 10 or so, everyone appeared ancient, or at least nearly ancient.  Obie and Mae were Father and Mrs. Time to me.  They moved slowly and cautiously, bearing smiles and an inner joy and happiness that I couldn’t miss.  I loved them for being our neighbors, pretty much along in their senior years.  We were their family, in a way, looking out for them.

My dad would give Obie a carton of Winston cigarettes, which he enjoyed while listening to the radio.  Our houses were so close we could hear Obie’s loud comments to news or his favorite White Sox during the baseball season when windows and doors were wide open, welcoming the summer breeze.

christmas-2980687-001 crop 300My mother so graciously and tenderly shared a little gift of an apron or some such thing with Mae.  Then we proceeded to talk about how quickly the year was coming to a close, and what a good president we had in Dwight Eisenhower, or surely the ensuing year would find the White Sox beating out the Yankees for the American League pennant (happily fulfilled in 1959!).  As my parents served refreshments, we kids had to stay in the room and visit with our guests.  By then we had opened our presents, bringing delight to Obie and Mae, as they watched us play.

Looking back, it reminds me of Abraham’s and Sarah’s experience of the three angels who came by after a long journey and depended on nomadic hospitality for survival in the desert land.  Mid-December in northwest Indiana is nowhere near desert conditions, but genuine hospitality and neighborliness are crucial to survival of another sort.  In my Christmas days of long ago, Obie and Mae Parker were perhaps angels in disguise, looking for refreshment, companionship, family, and acceptance – all food for life that should grace every Christmas table.

If you have your own tale or memory of Christmas presence (and presents too, that’s just fine), take time to share it with someone.  Perhaps you too, at Christmas, have unknowingly entertained angels. God has been known to come caroling with songs of joy and hope, and even to “sit a spell” in one’s living room and visit.  “Here I stand, knocking at the door.  If anyone hears me calling and opens the door, I will enter his house and have supper with him, and he with me” (Rev.3:20.)  Receive God’s gift of Christmas, and … expect a visit!  A Blessed Christmas to you!

Abraham Receiving the Three Angels by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1667) Public domain

Abraham Receiving the Three Angels by Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1667) Public domain

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St. Al’s goes out to help the homeless

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Br. Michael Radomski comforting a man in despair.

Br. Michael Radomski comforting a man in despair.

With a backpack full of prayers

Br. Michael Radomski shoulders his backpack, steps out into the Detroit sunshine – and stops in his tracks.

“First, we pray,” he says, then asks the Almighty for wisdom to help those in need. For the next two hours he will seek them out on streets and in parks, offer them a sandwich and encourage them to talk.

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Br. Michael heads out with food and backpack.

On behalf of St. Aloysius Neighborhood Services, friar Michael is channeling God’s love to the reclusive homeless, those too skittish or embarrassed to say, “I’ve lost my way.” A member of the parish’s Backpack Ministry since 2008, he is there, he says, “to be present to people” who are sad, vulnerable, alone and afraid.

Just listening doesn’t sound like much. But to those who have nothing, it means everything.

No preaching

Michael’s roomy red backpack is stuffed with gloves, wool caps, t-shirts and hand warmers, all in demand on this bright but brisk afternoon. He fills a collapsible wheeled crate with bottled water and sandwiches donated by local parishes. “We try to have PB&J and some sort of meat sandwiches. If there are extras left over, we sometimes go to the library and pass them out to patrons who are homeless. Today we have homemade cookies, praise the Lord!”

The route he takes varies, “depending on the needs that present themselves. It’s not so much about giving out stuff as being available. We don’t preach to them. We’re there to pray with or for them.” In a world that is often indifferent or disdainful, “It’s a chance to affirm their dignity. They don’t often get that.”

Everyone has a story. “Many have had a difficult life,” derailed by drugs, mental illness or a dysfunctional family. “We have certain regulars we’ve gotten to know and have seen for years,” then, out of the blue, “They’re suddenly gone, off the map, and we don’t know why.”

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Br. Michael helps John put on his new gloves.

Walking in groups of two or more, “We try not to let bad weather stop us,” Michael says of St. Al’s 25 backpackers, most of them lay volunteers who come once a week. “If it’s not nice for us, it’s not nice for the folks stuck out there, either.” The worst day ever? “Oh gosh, when the snow was up to our knees.” They actually found people waiting for them along the route. “Warming centers are great, but when we go out in the cold and snow, those we minister to have a sense that they really are loved.”

There’s a strategy to this, he says. “You approach people who are loners, less likely to go to a shelter. We try to give them the ‘once-over’” to find those truly in peril. “Our priority is those who don’t have the safety of a warm apartment to go to each night.” Since backpack supplies are limited, “We try to explain that we’re holding tight onto items for people in dire situations. It’s a tough thing to do, but it’s a necessary thing to do.”

Meeting friends

Michael heads north on Washington Boulevard, sidetracked by an unshaven senior sitting in the median of the street. He hails the friar, introduces himself as “John” and holds out his hands. John not only needs gloves, he needs help putting them on. “I had a stroke,” he says. Michael fishes a pair of gloves from the backpack and tugs them over the man’s gnarled fingers. “We’ll keep an eye out for a pair of mittens that would be easier,” he promises John.

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Prayers at a construction site.

“Brother Michael!” he hears, and turns to spot a friend. “Carla, you doin’ all right?” he asks a smiling, white-haired woman with a walker. She turns down a sandwich, preferring to catch up on the news while a small crowd gathers around them. Soon they are engaged in a lively conversation. “We often have a good time when we go out,” Michael says. “It’s a joy to meet people like Carla who are filled with joy” despite their circumstances.

At a construction site, a guy with a street-cleaning machine wants to talk. After being paroled from prison, the man spent four years looking for work. He would like to pray and give thanks with a man of God for the positive turn his life has taken.

Michael says his habit is rarely recognized. “Most of the time people are like, ‘What are you dressed up for?’ Most of them just know we’re ‘church guys’.”

Finding comfort

Up the street, he turns into Grand Circus Park. A dozen men are sitting around the drained fountain, hip-hop vocals blaring in the background. Faces registering anger, boredom or hopelessness, they come to life when Michael walks into view. “When we get to a certain part of a park, they come from other parts,” he says. “It’s like they have antennae.”

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At Grand Circus Park

A short queue forms quickly. “Got any socks?” a young man asks. Michael pulls out half the contents of his backpack before announcing, “There are no socks.”
“I’m allergic to peanut butter,” says another when he’s offered a sandwich. “What about chocolate?” Michael says, offering a cookie. These guys may be hungry, but they don’t seem destitute. Scanning the park, Michael points to a bench across the way. “That man is homeless. He’s wearing a coat that folds out into a sleeping bag.”

A middle-aged man named Aaron comes forward, face contorted in pain, and says he needs to pray. A dam of despair breaks loose as Michael petitions God, with Aaron sobbing, clinging, sinking to his knees. For the next few minutes there are no answers, only questions, but it’s obvious that this desperately sad soul has found comfort and catharsis. He wipes his eyes, gets to his feet and stumbles away.

“There are a lot of them like that,” according to Michael. “It’s hard to say, ‘My time’s up. Gotta go.’ You just can’t do that.”

Alone and confused

A bearded man with a finger wrapped in bandages wanders by looking so dazed that Michael is concerned. “You got a place to stay tonight?” he calls. “On the road,” the man says in heavily accented English. An immigrant from Nepal, he is alone in America.

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Br. Michael listens to an immigrant’s story.

“What do you believe in your God?” he suddenly asks Michael. “God loves you and me” is the friar’s response. “Some say Allah, some say God the Father; it’s all one God.”

For the next half-hour while the man sits quietly on a curb, staring blankly with his upturned hands on his knees, Michael is on his cell phone, trying to find lodging. Coming up empty, he scribbles a list of names, places and phone numbers.

“I wish there were more I could do for you,” he says, handing them over. “I will hold you in my heart and pray throughout the night. God will look out for you. Place it all in God’s hands.”

Armed with a bag of hand warmers, mittens, sandwiches, and directions to a shelter, the man sets off across the park. “I feel so unable to help in any way,” Michael says. “It aches to not know what happens to them. That’s the only part of this ministry I don’t like.”

Some days, there are rays of hope. “Periodically we meet somebody who is back, better, who has a house and has found work. One such person is Angelique, a young, timid woman who was ever gracious and appreciative” of the help she received. “She kind of disappeared for a while. Then one day we were out and someone called, ‘Hey guys! Hey, St. Aloysius!’ It was Angelique,” greeting them with a smile and a hug. “She got a home, lined up a job and got her life back on track. It was wonderful to see.”

With his load lightened, Michael heads for St. Aloysius and his other duties. He will be back here next week, praying for more happy endings.

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Br. Michael Radomski with a friend on Washington Blvd.

This story first appeared in the SJB News Notes and


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St. Anthony, a spiritual bloodhound

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 Patricia found a ‘miraculous friend’ in St. Anthony

As a convert, I had never heard of St. Anthony until middle age. However, I soon found a ‘miraculous friend’ in him. He has found many misplaced and lost things for me and always left me feeling uplifted to boot.

St. Anthony & candlesTen months ago I lost my wallet just before Christmas with virtually my whole life in it including my driver’s license, money and all my plastics. I reported it to the police and after a few weeks and begging St. Anthony to help out, I proceeded to replace all that was in there. I said to my family that this must be a tough one even for St. Anthony.

Ten months later there was a knock at the door and 2 young lady chemist assistants asked if I had lost a wallet and asked my name. Apparently I had left it in a chemist shop that I seldom visit.  When it was found, it had been placed ‘temporarily’ in their lost property bin and forgotten about. It was soon covered over with various other things being flung in hastily because of the Christmas rush.

It was only when it became full that they unearthed it and found that only my address was on things and no phone number. They turned up on my doorstep nearly a year later, with wallet in hand. Nothing had been changed. Everything including the cash was still in there untouched. I thanked the girls and St. Anthony out loud and insisted they take a reward for themselves for their trouble. I was overjoyed to have something so personal back in my life.

Maybe I was meant to change all those cards for some reason. Who knows? St. Anthony does pick his time occasionally, but if it’s findable, he is like a ‘spiritual bloodhound’ on the job and seems to be inexhaustible. He is so very loving. I tell one and all about him.

Thank you, adorable St. Anthony.

Patricia in Australia

CandleWe’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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St. Anthony, evangelizing with a question and a smile

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Where do lost items go?

In the mail several years ago I received a gift. St Anthony in a round disc that was an animated hologram and a key chain.

Anthony coinI hooked it on the zipper of my purse with a strong chain link and constantly got questions from Catholics and questions from non-Catholics which gave me the opportunity to share the story of his life with perfect strangers.

Then one day it was gone.

The heavy chain was also gone and I realized it was no accident. Someone had carefully detached it from my zipper. I looked everywhere I could think of retracing steps to no avail.

I talked to St. Anthony asking him to find it for me. Weeks passed. All my life, from childhood, he had always found lost objects for me.  Not this time. I missed the cheerful little disc that made people smile and found myself wondering where lost things go. I don’t know where the keychain went or how such a secure fastening was undone however I did have an answer from St. Anthony.

He gave me a sudden understanding that someone needed that little disc that brought a smile and left a question. Someone needed him. He’s still out there someplace evangelizing with a smile.


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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The New St. Anthony Center

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St. Anthony Center

New Franciscan collaboration

Working with St. Francis Seraph Ministries, The Franciscans are spearheading a very unique partnership with local non-profit organizations.  The new St. Anthony Center (SAC) will become a “hub of services” all in one place to serve the poor.  Currently the old St. Anthony Messenger building at the corner of Liberty and Republic Streets is being remodeled and when it is complete this new facility will house 6 different social service agencies at one location.

The newly renovated St. Anthony Center, scheduled to open mid-November 2017 will be the new home for the following agencies:

SAC logo white 345 x 300• St. Francis Seraph Ministries which includes the Soup Kitchen annually serving
30,000 meals; the Bag Lunch Program providing 800+ bag lunches each week for
day laborers and residential treatment centers; The Sarah Center teaches women
sewing, quilting and jewelry making empowering women into job skills and small business opportunities; Cooking for the Family teaches families basic cooking and nutrition skills to feed their family affordably, using locally grown food.

• Tri-Health Outreach Ministries provides R.N.’s and Community Care Workers for home visits to the elderly and pregnant women in the urban core.  This program of personal health care within local neighborhoods keeps overall medical costs down while offering a higher level of medical care to the most vulnerable in the community.

• Center for Respite Care is a 24 hour medical recovery facility for the homeless when they are released from the hospital.  Clients receive medical care, personal support and assistance to break the cycle of being chronically ill and homeless.

• Mary Magdalene House is an oasis of hospitality providing a safe place for those in need to take a shower, care for their personal hygiene and grooming, have their clothes laundered, use a phone or receive messages or mail.

• Sweet Cheeks Diaper Bank helps to diaper babies in need collaborating with local agencies who care for pregnant women and new mothers.  Over 16,000 babies in the local community need diapers every month and diapers are an essential need for a babies well-being.

Overall this new collaboration will continue the long Franciscan tradition of serving the poor and it will be a lasting legacy of the Franciscan Friars from the Province of St. John the Baptist in over-the-Rhine.  Now the underutilized St. Anthony Messenger building will become a safe haven for anyone in need.  This new facility the St. Anthony Center named for the patron saint of the lost and forgotten will be devoted now to the care of the poor and the homeless.

RSVP for the Open house here.

More information can be found at the SFS Ministries website

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Advent & Christmas with the Franciscans

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One of the many nativities from around the world at 'A Franciscan Christmas' at the Christian Moerlein Event Center

One of the many nativities from around the world at ‘A Franciscan Christmas’ at the Christian Moerlein Event Center

“May the coming Advent Season be a time of joyful anticipation & hope.
–SJB Provincial Minister Fr. Mark Soehner

Advent-2017Join the Franciscans in your journey through Advent to the birth of our Savior.

The first day of Advent is Sunday December 3.  The editors of St. Anthony Messenger magazine have created an Advent booklet to fit in your pocket.  ‘Wait in Joyful Hope: Daily Reflections for Advent with the Blessed Mother’ is free.

Just send your name and address to and we’ll mail you your copy today.

Offer valid in the US only.  If you live outside of the US, contact us for the electronic version.

Click here to learn more


Guardian Br. Norbert

Guardian Br. Norbert

“Lessons & Carols”

We need a Savior to be born into our world and into our hearts.

Join Shrine Guardian Br. Norbert Bertram, OFM, and the Franciscans at the National Shrine of St. Anthony for:

“Lessons & Carols”
Sunday, December 10
4:00 pm

It is a program of six scripture readings and Advent carols sung by the choir and the congregation that are meant to help us prepare for Christmas.

Click here to learn more


Br. Tim Sucher hosts, "A Franciscan Christmas"

Br. Tim Sucher hosts, “A Franciscan Christmas”

A Franciscan Christmas

Nativities from around the world, a Dickens Christmas village, a running model train and much more await you at “A Franciscan Christmas” at the Christian Moerlein Event Center.

Special events include Saengerfest Choirs, a visit from Santa Claus, and an Open House with the friars.

November 24 – January 1, 2018

Live Nativity

Stop by St. Francis Seraph Church and say hello to the sheep, goats, and donkeys who greet you as you enter the courtyard.  Relax by the fountain and meditate on the Holy Family at this outdoor nativity display.

November 24 – January 6, 2018

Click here to learn more

Stop by to pet the sheep at St. Francis Seraph Church

Stop by to pet the sheep at St. Francis Seraph Church



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A Franciscan Christmas 2017

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For unto you a child is born

Bring your friends and family to ‘A Franciscan Christmas’ in historic Over-the-Rhine in Cincinnati.  Enter the courtyard of St. Francis Seraph Church on the corner of Liberty and Vine to meditate on the Holy Family or pet the goats, sheep, and donkeys in this Live Nativity.

Nativity‘A Franciscan Christmas’ continues at the nearby Christian Moerlein Event Center. You’ll see a Christmas Creche display featuring nativities from around the world.  Fr. Joachim’s model trains, a Dickens Christmas village, a huge Santa Claus display, and lots and lots of decorated Christmas trees with comfortable chairs where you can sit and enjoy a beverage or food from the Christian Moerlein Taproom.

Dates and Hours for the Live Nativity in the St. Francis Seraph Courtyard:
Thursday November 24 – Saturday, January 6, 2018
1:00 PM – 7:00 PM Daily

Dates and Hours for ‘A Franciscan Christmas’ at Christian Moerlein Event Center:
Friday November 24 – Monday, January 1, 2018 when the Christian Moerlein Taproom is open for business.
Wednesdays 4:00 PM – 10:00PM
Thursdays 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Fridays 4:00 pm – Midnight
Saturdays Noon to Midnight
Sundays Noon – 7:00 PM

December 29, 6:00 PM – Open House! Celebrate the Christmas Season with the Friars. Light refreshments served.

Donations are welcome for the support of St. Francis Seraph Church and School.

St. Francis Seraph Church, 1615 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45202 (at the corner of Liberty and Vine)
Click here for Directions.

Christian Moerlein Event Center, 1621 Moore St., Cincinnati, OH  45202
Click here for Directions.

Br. Tim Sucher surrounded by families visiting the Franciscan Christmas at the Christian Moerlein Event Center

Br. Tim Sucher surrounded by families visiting the Franciscan Christmas at the Christian Moerlein Event Center

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Daily Reflections for Advent with the Blessed Mother

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Wait in Joyful Hope

Dear Friends,

We are happy to bring you the 2017 pocket book of daily reflections for Advent. This year, we honor our Blessed Mother with Wait in Joyful Hope, created by our friends at Franciscan Media.

Thank you for allowing us Franciscans to accompany you in your journey through Advent to the birth of our Savior. May this season of anticipation and hope prepare your heart to welcome the Lord with Joy!

Thanks for all you do for us. We are most grateful.

Fr. John Bok, OFM

AdventTo receive your free booklet, send your name and address to and we’ll mail you your copy today. Or call Colleen Cushard at 513-721-4700 ext 3219.

Offer valid in the US only. If you live outside of the US, contact us for the electronic version.

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Older Adults Leverage Age for Greater Returns

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Planned giving Charitable gift annuities provide donors with an immediate tax deduction, guaranteed fixed payments for life, and the satisfaction of providing future support for the Franciscans.  As annuity rates are based on the age of the person establishing the annuity, older donors benefit from higher rates.  Gift annuities can provide payments to one or two people, either jointly or successively.

Annuity rates 2017 The minimum amount required to establish a gift annuity benefitting the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province is $20,000.  Gift annuities can be funded cash or stock.  If funded with stock held for more than one year that has increased in value, donors will bypass a significant portion of the capital gains tax.

Here’s an example:

Mary Richards, age 75, establishes a $20,000 gift annuity.  Based on Mary’s age, the annuity rate will be 5.8%.  Mary will receive an annual annuity payment of $1,160 for life, regardless of how long she lives. $875 of Mary’s annuity payment will be tax-free until 2029. She will also receive an immediate tax deduction of $9,154. Upon Mary’s passing, whatever remains in the annuity account passes to the Province of St. John the Baptist.

For more information about gift annuities, without obligation, contact Colleen Cushard, Co-Director of Franciscan Ministry & Mission, at 513-721-4700 or .

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Friars share their journey

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Friars tell why they chose to follow St. Francis in a series of videos.

“I felt a sense of being home,” Fr. Colin King says of his decision to join the Order of Friars Minor.

“I fell in love with Franciscan community when I was in high school and made a trip to the Franciscan Seminary,” says Fr. Greg Friedman

“Who am I as a child of God? Who is God asking me to be?” were the thoughts going through Fr. Cliff Hennings’ mind as a young man discerning his life’s calling.

“You need to discern what you feel called to, drawn to, by the God who sustains your life at every second of your life,” advises Fr. Bob Bruno on finding one’s vocation.

“When I visited the Franciscans something clicked,” says Fr. Roger Lopez of his search for the right fit in his vocation search.

“My experience from the very beginning was great. And so I was happy to continue the journey and commit my life to it,” says Fr. Jim Bok of choosing the life of a Franciscan friar.

“Follow your dream. If you feel a call, talk to someone about it. And be persistent in following it and finding out the truth if this is the vocation for you,” advises Fr. Robert Seay to men considering a religious life.

How do people discern their calling? Fr. Richard Goodin, Associate Director of Vocations, shares his dreams of helping people walk across the bridge of discernment.

Would you like to talk with us about how you can become a friar?
Contact Fr. Page Polk, OFM, Director of Vocations at
or Fr. Richard Goodin, OFM, at

Vocations office: 513-542-1082 or 800-827-1082

Learn more online at:

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