BY TONI CASHNELLIPostulant John Boissy helps with the outreach program at Prince of Peace.PHOTO BY TONI CASHNELLI
How do you help someone who has no job, no home, no hope?
You begin by listening.
Many guests of the Bridge Ministry at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church have lost everything, including their dignity. Postulant John Boissy is giving them something they rarely get – the chance to speak and the chance to be heard. For seven months John has volunteered here, down the street and around the corner from St. Francis Seraph Church in Over-the-Rhine.
Each Thursday he welcomes guests, assists at Bible study, serves lunch, and does a lot of listening. “His primary job is to build a relationship with these people,” says program coordinator Julie Mills. “Our job is to listen and love and leave the rest to God. John’s been good at that. If he’s not here, they miss him.”
Pastor John Suguitan is dreading the day John leaves for vacation and summer studies. “We’ve been blessed by him,” he says, patting John on the shoulder. “He’s one of us.”
Mentoring and referrals are the focus of Bridge Ministry, created with the goal of moving people from “dependency to independency,” according to organizers. Asked what attracted him, John says, “I felt it would stretch me. I’m more introverted naturally. Coming here would help me connect with people.”
The Bible study, structured around a relatable concept, encourages sharing. Last week it was “Fruits of the Spirit”. Today’s topic is Patience.
“I told you I have a problem with patience,” the pastor tells the 14 people sitting behind Bibles in the church basement. As he reviews a day that taxed his temper, one guy is dozing and a woman is texting on a cell phone. But most are intently following a printed list of scriptures that define and extol the virtue of patience. It is a quality some of these guests admit they lack. But it is a quality that, put into practice, might help stabilize their unsettled lives.
About half of the regulars at Bible study are homeless, invisible to or ignored by many who hurry past them on the street. “Some people have gotten out of prison and not found a job,” John says. “They made mistakes years and years ago and it’s hard to get back up.” The psychological scars are evident.
Little by little, the pastor draws them out. “Raymond, Above left, John serves up drinks and salad; above, John with Pastor John Suguitan; left, guests of the Bridge Ministry at Bible study.why don’t you read Page 2?” The issue of anger is raised by a woman dealing with her grandson’s bad behavior. “I don’t believe in corporal punishment,” she says. “I take things away from him.”
Prompted by the pastor, a man in a tan safari hat reads question No. 3: “What did God propose to do to His people in response to their great sin in Exodus 32?” One response – “God was patient and showed mercy” – draws an enthusiastic, “Yes, thank you Jesus!”
They end with a discussion of niceties that are sometimes forgotten in the daily struggle for survival: “If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything”; “Maybe you’ll get more with sugar than salt”; remember to say “please and thank you and excuse me and pardon me.”
Attendance at Bible study is a prerequisite for the lunch that follows: stroganoff-style beef and noodles, sautéed squash and salad. Greeting guests by name, John resumes conversations that started this morning when he served them coffee and doughnuts.
His first time here, “I was really nervous,” he says. “I’m not too sure what I expected. I was concerned about how to talk to them. In a way, it’s their own little community. But they welcomed me.”
Perched on a desk in the office, he waves goodbye as the guests depart. “See you next week,” one man calls on his way out. “God is love.” Another is headed to a job he just landed at a nearby restaurant. John congratulates him.
Through months of quiet conversation, “We’ve gotten to know each other,” John says. “A couple of them have had me pray over them,” an experience that has stirred his interest in a healing ministry.
Reminded that his helper will soon be gone, the pastor frowns. “We don’t want him to leave,” he says. “He definitely knows how to connect with others, how to give advice.”
John disagrees. “I’m better at listening.”
05/22/15 eNews Notes
In honor of the Jubilarians being celebrated Monday in Cincinnati, we asked Sr. Daria Mitchell to track down photos of them as fledgling friars. Pull out your jubilee list (in the Personnel Directory) and see if you can figure out who’s who. (Answers are on at the bottom of the website.) Let the guessing begin!
Children presented Michael Perry with flowers following his installation.
General Minister Michael Perry and Provincial Minister Jack Clark Robinson during the visit to Instituto Serafico, a center for the disabled and infirm.ESC PHOTOFinding the rhythm of Chapter
Brothers and friends: The work of the General Chapter continues. ﾠLast Thursday we had Evening Prayer at San Damiano. ﾠOn Monday, I had the great privilege of being the presider for Mass in the Portiuncula, and I remembered all SJB friars in the Eucharist. ﾠOn Wednesday evening we prayed Evening Prayer with adoration and benediction in St. Mary of the Angels Basilica. ﾠ In the meeting hall we heard reports on the financial situation of the Order; the surprisingly large numbers of friars who leave the Order in the years after solemn profession, and reports on each Conference of the Order. ﾠThe reports were followed by discussion in language groups. We took straw ballots for the office of Minister General, and on Thursday morning, after Mass in St. Mary of the Angels, we elected Fr. Michael Perry as the Minister General of our fraternity for the next six years. ﾠThe Vicar will be elected on Friday and General Council by Saturday noon. ﾠWe will certainly let you know those results.
Far left, Jeff presides at Mass at the Portiuncula; left, Alvin Te, one of our ESC reporters; above congratulating Michael Perry.Though it is not quite front and center yet, we are thinking about the final document which will try to share something of this experience with all the friars, and soon we will begin to formulate proposals for consideration. ﾠThis work will be done in Commissions whose task is to focus on the issues and concerns that have surfaced in the discussion. ﾠThe last Chapter of 2009 passed 61 mandates, and it is pretty clear to everyone that there will not be that many this time. ﾠWe do have to address some changes in the Constitutions and Statutes.
The Chapter planners wanted us to get out of the meeting room every once in a while, and be less “self-referential,” so on Wednesday morning we visited various places in the area where the poor are served. ﾠI visited a home where severely disabled and handicapped people receive gentle and personal care. ﾠ This is the same place that Pope Francis visited when he came to Assisi on Oct. 4 of 2013. The place really is remarkable in the love and attention given to the most vulnerable.
Speaking of Pope Francis, our audience with him has been changed from May 28 to May 26. ﾠWe have been assigned a Cardinal to accompany us, Cardinal Errazuriz Ossa from Chile. ﾠHe is a member of the “C-8,” the group of Cardinals Pope Francis has chosen to advise him on Church matters. ﾠHis presence has been humble, and his periodic interventions humorous and astute.
It has not been all work. ﾠWe gather each morning and evening for prayer. ﾠSaturday afternoon and Sunday were free for visits to Assisi. ﾠOn Saturday I was with a group, and on Sunday I wandered about alone. ﾠI took great joy in eating a slice of pizza and doing some people watching in the Piazza Commune. ﾠThere are folks from literally all over the world. ﾠI was able to spend some time in prayer before the San Damiano Cross in Santa Chiara and the tomb of Francis in the Basilica of San Francesco (or tried to, in spite of the crowds!). ﾠOn Saturday evening the ESC friar delegates and staff had a wonderful dinner at a nearby restaurant, something we anticipate doing again this Friday evening. ﾠEach evening we gather, either in language groups or with the entire Chapter, for recreation. ﾠLast evening we sang folk songs from various countries late into the evening. ﾠThe receptionist who was enjoying our singing asked the Americans to sing God Bless America!
All in all, an incredible experience, for which I am immensely grateful. ﾠWe are part of a great brotherhood!
— Fr. Jeff Scheeler, OFM Email To a Friend
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