On May 1, 2022, the Minister General, Friar Carlos TROVARELLI, visited Assumption Church in Syracuse, New York, USA. The friars have been serving there for over one hundred years. The church is a gathering place for those interested in justice, peace and protecting the environment as well as those committed to the New Evangelization.
The largest group of people in the United States who consider themselves religious, describe themselves as “Nones.” They do not participate in any religion. They think of themselves as spiritual, but they do not consider themselves part of any organized religion. Many of them have been disappointed by the failure of the Church to speak to their deepest needs. Others have been scandalized by the sexual abuse crisis or by a Church whose ministers seek power and privilege. Yet, these same people are seeking guidance that can help them live a moral life.
The friars in Syracuse, together with Adam EICHELBERGER (the program’s director, a layman), have established a program to reach out to the “Nones.” They remodeled the lower level of the Church of the Assumption to give it a spiritual atmosphere without being so religious that it might frighten them away. This space is called the Grotto, named after the large Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto which makes up part of the room. The friars invite local people to join them for coffee, dinner, etc. The aim is to build friendships, which will hopefully lead them to deeper participation in the life of the community. Each week, the friars host and livestream a “Sunday Service” (liturgy of the Word) as a way of introducing these persons to a liturgy in which they feel safe, which offers song, the Word, a practical homily, faith sharing, etc.).
It is hoped this program will lead some of them to want more, to participate in Mass which is celebrated in the upper level of the church. The program corresponds with St. Francis’ call to “heal wounds, bind what is broken, and bring home the lost.”
Friar Jude WINKLER, Assistant General for the Conventual Franciscan Federation (CFF)