May 08, 2015

BY TONI CASHNELLINo photos are allowed at the retreat – except for a group photo given to inmates – so Kenn asked a team member to take this picture outside Warren Correctional.

For the most isolated members of society, there are few reminders of home.

Cookies are one of them. And like everything else in Kairos Prison Ministry, they are given with love.

Cookies are the calling card for Kairos, a weekend retreat ministry patterned after Cursillo and aimed at the prison population. For the past month, team member Br. Kenn Beetz has solicited home-baked cookies through Roger Bacon High School and St. Clement and St. Francis Seraph parishes. They came through in a big way. Thursday, Kenn loaded 180 dozen bagged cookies into the bed of his Ford truck and drove to Warren Correctional Institution in Lebanon.

The retreat he attended last weekend was geared toward 30 inmates who are respectfully referred to as “residents”. But when Kairos comes around, everyone at the prison gets cookies, including the guards.

Like 29 other members of his team, Kenn spent the past three months preparing for the three-day retreat, an ecumenical course in fostering faith behind bars. Kairos is built around talks, music and sharing at five “table families” that include residents, volunteers and an ordained clergyman. Even for a veteran – this was Kenn’s second retreat – the atmosphere and experience are hard to describe. A pledge of “Hear it here, keep it here” is made by the team to protect participants.

Warren Correctional Institution (lower part of photo) is divided into “pods” of cell blocks.No questions asked

Because of the setting, there are ground rules:

No. 1: “You can never accept anything from them or give them anything, not even a prayer card,” according to Kenn.

No. 2: “No proselytizing or putting down another’s religion.”

You are there, he says, “not to ask questions, but to listen and encourage. A lot of them [residents] have had pretty rough lives. One guy sitting next to me was wrongfully convicted” of a crime and spent 10 years behind bars before UC’s Innocence Project took up his cause. Most were “relatively young”, in their 20s or 30s, but a few were “lifers” with no hope of parole. All would receive a personal note of encouragement from each member of the retreat team.

An assistant table leader, guitarist Kenn was also part of the music ministry – “that to me is the most fulfilling” – and led a guided meditation on “the sufferings of Christ compared to being a prisoner.” Along with grace, love and mercy, “One of the big themes is forgiveness” of yourself and others, he says. During a “forgiveness ceremony”, residents were encouraged to list and absolve those who had failed or disappointed them – family members, lawyers, even the judge who passed sentence.

Saturday, Kenn and a fellow volunteer distributed cookies in their assigned “pod” or cell block, handing each inmate a bag of two dozen cookies with the greeting, “Cookies from Kairos. God bless you.” Without exception, “Everybody said, ‘Thank you’ or ‘God bless you’ back.”

A journey begins

At Sunday’s emotional closing, to which pre-approved guests were invited, a designated resident from each table spoke on behalf of his group. Kenn found it “very moving; I felt uplifted.” With encouragement from Kairos, some of the alumni will continue their faith journey after the retreat.

“It’s a ministry that’s very fulfilling,” says Kenn, who was reminded of his lucky lot in life. “I personally feel blessed that I was born when I was born and raised when I was raised. ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.”

At the end of the long weekend he climbed into his truck and did something a few of the residents at Warren will never be able to do. He went home.

(To learn more about Kairos Prison Ministry, visit

Market ‘gallery’ takes the cake PHOTO BY TONI CASHNELLIRight, John Quigley surrounded by his paintings at the Cake Rack; below, A customer enjoys pastry and a newspaper at the Cake Rack.


Just around the corner was an opportunity Fr. John Quigley could not ignore.

A resident of Pleasant Street Friary, John knew the comings and goings at Findlay Market, one of his closest neighbors in Over-the-Rhine. When a coffee shop on Elder closed, Jeannette Werle, a pastry chef with a popular stall at the market, moved in.

“I congratulated her on getting the space,” John said. And then he looked around. Jeannette had landed a prime spot on the south side of the market, with a second connected storefront. One room would be the kitchen and display space for The Cake Rack Bakery and its European-style breads and pastries. The adjoining room that would serve as sit-down space for customers was “unfortunate”, John says – not so much bad as boring.

“I don’t know what to do,” Jeannette said. But John did.

“I have some things I could hang there,” he said, then led her to the Friars Studio on Main Street where he paints, leads classes and displays his own and other friars’ works. The problem there is, “When I’m gone it’s closed,” he says.

Jeannette liked the idea of showing paintings in her “spare” storefront. “She said, ‘You could even sell them there.’” John said tactfully, “It would be nice if you could fix that up.” Donating his time and materials, “I painted the room for her and designed the space.”

Then he hung paintings. Jeannette is building a following, and so is John. So far, “I’ve sold three pieces in about a month,” he says. The baker’s hours are a boon for the artist. “Here I have my work out 12 hours a day and I don’t have to ‘babysit’” the space.”

It’s a first step, says John, who plans to post photos by Greg Friedman and hopes to show paintings by other friars.

Jeannette is happy, John is happy, and customers are developing a taste for local artwork.

(The Cake Rack Bakery, 113 W. Elder St., is open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday and 8 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. Visit

Free to be children of God

Prison ministry opens eyes, changes hearts

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  • Mother of Good Counsel and Holy Cross parishes were well represented Tuesday at the ordination and installation of John Stowe, OFM Conv., as Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Ky.  “In his remarks and actions it was very clear to us what a Franciscan heart our new Bishop has!” says MCG’s Pastoral Associate, Pat Riestenberg, an attendee along with Fr. Mike Chowning, Br. Mike Dubec and Br. Jerry Beetz.  “It was a beautiful service,” says Pat, who snapped this photo of the friars at the Cathedral of Christ the King with Bishop Stowe. “Br. Mike did the second reading and did a wonderful job! Fr. Mike was in the opening procession with all the clergy.” A native of Lorain, Ohio, Bishop Stowe succeeds Ronald Gainer, who was installed last  year as Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa.


Mike Chowning, Mike Dubec and Jerry Beetz with Bishop John Stowe.

Alumni will return to the old seminary.

The meeting site for the General Chapter is Domus Pacis Assisi, next to St. Mary of the Angels.


The General Chapter of the Order begins in Assisi on Sunday, May 10, and ends on Sunday, June 7.ᅠ At this meeting the leadership of the Provinces and Custodies will gather to assess the current state of the Order and set a course for the next six year.ᅠ We will vote on some proposed changes to the Constitutions and Statutes and elect a Minister General, Vicar General, and General Definitorium.ᅠ I go with some mixed emotions; how can one not be excited to be in Assisi, to meet friars from all over the world, to participate at this level, and have an audience with Pope Francis!ᅠ But it is a meeting, and a month-long one at that, with the tedious moments and schedule that any meeting brings, so I do expect some sympathy for that!ᅠ I hope you will connect with us by means of the daily communications sent out by the ESC.ᅠ I promise to pray for you in all the holy places, and trust that you will be supporting all of the capitulars with your prayer, that we might be open to the Spirit.ᅠ I leave on Friday, May 8, and will return on Monday, June 8. During my absence, Provincial Vicar Frank Jasper will be available to assist you.


— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM Email To a Friend

Prayer for the
General Chapter

Most High and Glorious God,
you have called us to follow the footprints
of Your Beloved Son
as Lesser Brothers of Your servant Francis.

Send Your Spirit to enlighten our hearts
as we prepare for the
General Chapter of Pentecost
at St. Mary of the Porziuncola.
Renew in us the joy of the Gospel,
that we may proclaim in our time
Your mercy and goodness towards all.

May the Lady of the Angels,
the Virgin made Church,
accompany us as we follow her Son,
Our Lord Jesus Christ,
as we make our way to You,
who live and rule in perfect Trinity
and simple Unity,
and are glorified,
God almighty,
for ever and ever.