June 06, 2019
BY TONI CASHNELLI
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLITop, Ann Marie Quinn and David Crank at St. Anthony Center; above, a dinner guest sits down to a hot meal.David Crank’s
That’s his job, the work for which he’s paid – and one of the hardest things he has ever done.
Five days a week, “I just go out here and stand,” he says, pointing to the doorway of the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Dining Room at St. Anthony Center. “Who I am is a Franciscan friar coming to work in my habit and being present. I just welcome people.”
Of course, it’s not that simple. Consider the setting, a soup kitchen in Over-the-Rhine, and the clients, many of them homeless, addicted or mentally disturbed. Quite often, “We’re dealing with desperate people,” says David – but he’s not doing it alone. His colleague and kindred spirit at the Center is a fellow Franciscan, Ann Marie Quinn, OSF.
If anyone understands the ministry of presence, it’s this Oldenburg Sister. Before she came here, “I had worked with people living in poverty for 30 years,” says Ann Marie, who previously served in Mexico and Montana. “But I had never worked with people with mental illness.”
Learning as they go, she and David are forging connections with the people who come here lost or lonely, in need of a meal, in search of acceptance they may not find elsewhere.
Hospitality is not uniquely Franciscan, but it is particularly Franciscan. To guests of the Center, ignored by or invisible to much of society, it means validation. David and Ann Marie are not psychologists or social workers or case managers. But they know that in the right place, at the right time, a kind word could save a life.
“All I do is give them time and attention and eye contact and let people know, ‘I am happy you chose to be here,’” says David, who works the “dinner shift” in his role as a part-time Client Services Coordinator for the Ministries. “This is more than a pleasant place where people can wait out the elements. Our primary reason for existence is to feed the hungry, and we do a good job of that. With Sister and I being here, we need more. We need to make connections. People with no exposure to the homeless just see bums on the street. These are our sisters, our brothers.”
Ann Marie thinks of the line from the film Avatar – “I see you” – when she greets guests for breakfast at the Center. “All of us need to be seen,” especially those living in homelessness or struggling with mental issues, she says. “We want to see them, and listen to them.”
Many clients are so downcast they are unable to return the greeting David offers them at mealtime. To him, they are known, and they are special. “I feel in some ways like a Dad waiting for his children to come home for dinner,” he says. “And when you don’t see them, if Joe, for example, doesn’t show up, or I haven’t seen that couple,” he tends to worry.
Ann Marie is becoming more comfortable in her role.Both he and Ann Marie are finding their level of comfort in dealing with guests’ lapses in medication or adverse reactions to drugs. Last year before she accepted a full-time job as Client Services Coordinator, “I wanted to make sure I was not going to be afraid.”
Encouraged by Chris Schuermann, the Ministries’ Executive Director, she started volunteering at St. Anthony Center, a space shared by seven partner agencies serving the homeless and impoverished. “I didn’t want to live in fear,” Ann Marie says. “I knew I wouldn’t work well if I was afraid of people. I love people. The opposite of love is not hate; it’s fear. If we fear, we can’t love them.”
“These are our sisters, our brothers,” David says.
The reality is, “It’s rough out there and it’s rough in here sometimes,” David says. “Last night we had a medical emergency and it triggered some behavior problems. It was like, ‘Oh my Lord, what happened?’ Occasionally, “A simple insinuation sets people off. Then we have to de-escalate” the situation. “I have to remember it has nothing to do with me in this setting. It has everything to do with their past.” It helps that “my habit is recognized as a religious symbol, a symbol of a peacemaker. When I throw my arms out and ask for peace, people listen. I wouldn’t have the encounters I have with them if I were not wearing a habit. It’s like a doctor wearing a medical jacket. This shows who I am.”
In his previous work with AIDS patients in Houston and mentally challenged people in Chicago, “The worst thing I had to deal with was a drunk. The worst thing here is people who are high on heroin. Someone could be shooting up and dying in our Guests can feel a sense of security here.presence and they have to have Narcan,” the emergency treatment for opioid overdose. “Those are the extremes. They can be very violent.”
On one wall of a small enclosed office at St. Anthony Center are a couple dozen photos of guests banned from the premises because they are sex offenders, have threatened others, exhibited “extreme intoxication” or tried to sneak a gun past a security guard doing body scans with a hand-held metal detector. Because of the stringent security, “People come here and know they’re safe,” says Ann Marie.
A video feed from multiple cameras in and around the building plays on a monitor with 36 real-time views. It fails to capture the daily drama.
Take a recent Friday morning, for example. At 6:30 a.m., Ann Marie arrives to check in the volunteers who make this ministry possible. She cheerfully calls to guests sleeping under the building’s overhang, “Good morning, rise and shine,” adding, “You can’t be blocking the door.” When just three volunteers turn up, staff members step in to fill the gap, including Director Chris. “We’re the only thing open from 7-9 every weekday,” Chris says of the line of people forming outside.
They open early for guests waiting in the rain. By 8 a.m., someone has scrawled what looks like a gang sign on the sidewalk out front with a Magic Marker. Shortly thereafter, Ann Marie calls the police to report hot coffee being dumped on passersby from a window next door.
“Our primary reason for existence is to feed the hungry, and we do a good job of that.”On this typical morning, several people are referred to agencies for housing or health issues. Ann Marie greets guests by name with a smile and sends them to the dining room with a pat on the shoulder when they are cleared by a security guard. “Morning, Sister,” or, “Good morning, Miss Ann,” a number of them offer. “Ken, how’s your back?” Ann Marie asks one man. “Most are regulars,” she explains. “Substantial numbers are homeless and drug-addicted.” Overhearing this an older gent says, “I never do bad stuff.” And she responds, “That’s why we like to see you every day.”
Of her job she says, “It’s very draining. It can take a toll when you see someone almost dying. It took 10 shots of Narcan to revive one guy after an overdose. One woman had a miscarriage in the bathroom. She was an alcoholic who said she didn’t know she was pregnant.”
Given the intensity, why did they choose this ministry?
For Ann Marie, it’s the feeling that “I know I am meant to be here.” For David, “A really good day has always been when my interactions with guests have been positive. Maybe having them say ‘hello’ back to me, or ‘thank you’ when they leave. Or when someone comes up and starts sharing with you.” As Chris has told him, “Your presence is making a difference and I’m hearing about it.”
When your goal is to reflect God’s love, what more could you ask?
Joan HiltonAt Mother Teresa of Calcutta Dining Room, “Volunteers are everything,” says David Crank, one of two Client Services Coordinators for St. Francis Seraph Ministries at St. Anthony Center.
If only they could clone people like Joan Hilton, who comes here three or four days a week to do “whatever they tell me to do.” In summer there’s a huge need for volunteers for the meal ministry, when regulars are on vacation and college students have gone home.
If you can spare a few hours a week to help at the weekday breakfast (7-9 a.m.) or dinner (4-6 p.m.), please call 513-549-0542 or email email@example.com to schedule a time. Small groups and families are also welcome to volunteer, but children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. The Center is at 1615 Republic St. in Over-the-Rhine.
BY TONI CASHNELLI
Cyprian Berens packed a lot of life into his 95 years.
PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLITop, Cyprian’s family members gathered in the chapel; middle, Greg with Junior Third Order alums; above, the statue from Cyprian’s room.Beth Mosher
Living proof of his influence filled the chapel during his funeral May 17 at St. Paul’s Archbishop Leibold Home, where Cyprian lived happily the last 16 years of his life. But Cyprian lived happily pretty much everywhere he went, according to the friends, friars, fellow residents and family members who gathered to celebrate his legacy.
Greg Friedman, an intern when Cyprian was Communications Director, talked about preparing a homily for his mentor. “It was fascinating that as I heard from people about Cyp,” Greg said, “each described a different ministry as Cyprian’s favorite or the one he really loved doing.”
Tim Sucher recalled Cyprian’s fallback phrase from his days in Communications. “Whenever he reported on a social event, he would end it with, ‘A good time was had by all.’ So let’s have this funeral where ‘a good time was had by all.’”
For Jerry Beetz, Director of the Office for Senior Friars, the essential Cyprian was embodied in a small statue from his room showing Jesus washing the feet of an apostle. The figurine sat on a table at the funeral with a smiling photo of its owner. It spoke volumes about humility and servanthood. Cyprian was equally comfortable with Third Order teen-agers and Popes, with novice friars and the elderly residents of Leibold Home.
“One thing I remember most was this statue of Jesus washing feet,” Jerry said. “This man [Cyprian] had no socks. I never saw him wear socks. He had traveled and his feet, gnarled and tough, showed it.” What struck him, he said, was that “Cyprian not only washed people’s feet, he let others wash his feet.”
His impact on youth was powerful and permanent. “I always felt like I was royalty when I was next to him,” said a former member of the Junior Third Order. “He made you feel that way.” A dozen cousins, nieces and nephews shared memories such as, “I grew up with Father Cyp very much of an influence in my life.” In the years Greg knew him, “Cyp always talked to us about all of you and involved his family in his life as a friar.”
Celebrant Mark Soehner welcomed family members who came to celebrate “a great, long life.” He surveyed the pews, saying, “I understand the Junior Third Order is here.”
Laughter erupted as one of them shouted, “It’s SENIOR now!”
In his homily, Greg pulled together the colorful pieces of Cyprian’s life “as we might put together a puzzle” to show the full picture of how he “witnessed to the greatest of all stories: the story of Jesus and his life, death and resurrection. As a pastor and as a communicator, Father Cyprian Berens did that many times.”
In the obituaries he wrote, Cyprian told stories about friars “to share with others a witness of the friar’s faith, of his struggles, of his love of God, in order to help those of us among the living to grow in faith and in love of God.”
Today, Greg said, we cherish “those puzzle pieces that are our own memories from Cyprian’s life,” pieces that tell “the bigger story.” Which of those pieces was most loved by Cyprian, most significant to his story?
“Was it Cyp’s international work in Rome with the finances of our global fraternity?” where “he had to learn Italian and foreign bookkeeping on the job”? Of course, he was assisted by some saints along the way such as Mother Teresa, whom he met frequently, and Pope John Paul II, who washed Cyprian’s feet in a Holy Thursday service. “Cyp once recalled, ‘Pope John XXIII told me not to feel confined in an office as Curia Treasurer, counting numbers all day. He understood because he, too, was a Bishop’s secretary when he was younger.”
Top, at a 4th of July party; above, preaching at a friar gathering. Greg said his “own best” story was working and living with Cyprian when he was Communications Director. “Cyp took special care of each man’s story and of the history of our province which he loved.”
When Cyprian was an international confessor at St. John Lateran in Rome, “In that time, it was the thing he most loved doing.” Of Cyp’s decade as pastor of St. Paul’s Parish in the Upper Peninsula, Dan Anderson wrote, “He often spoke of these years as among the happiest of his life.” And of Cyprian’s work at Leibold Home, where he was “deeply loved”, Greg said, “All you sisters and residents could well say that it was the best time of his life. And it was!”
The fact that every assignment seemed to be “his best” said more about Cyprian than any particular ministry. According to Greg, “As more than one friend or colleague said, ‘My own experience of Cyprian was that he was among the kindest and most compassionate people I’ve met.’” One friar told Greg how much Cyprian loved his brothers, saying, “The morning when I read the news of his death, though I never lived with him, I welled up with tears.”
What made Cyp so special, Greg said, looking at the entire puzzle, “was his conviction that in every experience of life we are sustained overwhelmingly through him who loved us,” as revealed in the readings chosen for the funeral. That conviction is “a living experience of meeting Christ in and through all that a grace-filled life reveals.” In his 76 years as a friar, Cyprian “shared in, and freely gave Christ to others in his compassionate relationships of ministry and life.”
Those whose paths converged with Cyprian’s – from the General Curia to a home for the aged – said they were lucky to be part of his remarkable story.
BY TIM LAMB, OFM, Director of Vocations
PHOTO BY TIM LAMB, OFMTim Amburgey, here with the Admissions Board, will join the new Postulancy class.On May 18 and 19, The Postulancy Admissions Board met at St. Anthony Friary in Cincinnati. There were four men presented to the Board. Three were recommended to the Provincial for admittance to the 2019 Postulancy class which begins Aug. 14, 2019. On May 23, 2019, Provincial Mark Soehner approved the applications of Phillip McCarter, William Compton, and Timothy Amburgey. The forth man at the Admissions Board, David Abernathy, received a favorable report and is asking for admittance in 2020.
Phillip McCarter, 28, is from the Price Hill neighborhood of Cincinnati. He is a 2009 graduate of Elder High School. He and his family converted to the Catholic faith in 1999. He is currently employed at Advanced Distribution as a warehouse shipping clerk in Hebron, Ky. Since graduation from high school he has worked in other warehouse jobs including UPS.
William Compton, 23 years old, is from Tampa, Fla. He is currently employed at a Publix grocery store where he has worked since 2015. He and his family knew our late brother Rock Travnikar. He has been very involved in his Parish, St. Lawrence, as an altar server and cantor at Mass. He is also involved in volunteer community activities.
Tim Amburgey, 44, is from Lynchburg, Ohio, north of Cincinnati off US 71. He currently works as an evening shift supervisor at Deluxe Entertainment Services, which is involved in electronic motion picture distribution for companies like AMC theatres. He converted to the Catholic Faith in 2011 and was a Methodist. He is a member of St. Columbkille Parish in Wilmington, Ohio, but does go to other parishes in the city on Sunday. He has been very involved in civic organization in the past, including the Boy Scouts of America and the Lions Club.
These men will be joined in the Postulant program at Holy Name College in Silver Spring, Md., by Brian Menezes, who was approved earlier this year.
Dave Abernathy, who is 45, lives in Freeburg, Ill., and works as a Police Officer in nearby Belleville, located in the southern tip of Illinois. He is the youngest son in a family of 10 children (five boys and five girls). Dave is a graduate of Western Illinois University with a dual major in Criminal Justice and Spanish. He is very involved in parish events when his work schedule allows. He applied this year in order to ensure his place so that he can work the coming year to earn a retirement as a police officer.
BY TOM SPEIER, OFM
Chief Photographer’s Mate Robert F. Sargent/ National ArchivesOne of the first waves of soldiers heading for the shoresMy brother-in-law, Robert Stieritz, was an infantryman in the 90th Division that landed on Utah Beach in the Normandy invasion of 1944.
He rarely spoke about his experiences, but I recalled him sharing the anxiety of the men as they trained in the English port of Portsmouth for months, waiting for the big day they sensed was coming. His 358th Regiment was held back on D-Day itself while the 359th took part. On D-Day Plus 2 his regiment sailed off for a diversionary attempt from Utah Beach to draw the attention of the Germans. They ended up crossing farm fields in France. On the way after landing and wading ashore, his unit crossed a stream and the men were forced to carry their rifles over their heads to keep them dry. It was then that the tip of his finger was shot off, for which he received his first Purple Heart. (I can only imagine what that meant later to realize how close that bullet came to his head!)
His unit was crawling on their hands and knees when they confronted the first of the famous “hedgerows” marking the farmers’ fields in France. My brother-in-law mentioned looking up and seeing a German tank’s cannon over his head hidden behind the hedgerow. He looked around and found his unit had hunkered down some distance back in a farmhouse. So Bob took off running back, with machine gun bullets kicking up dirt around him as the Germans spotted him. He jumped in a few shell craters along the way for shelter but finally made it safely back to the farmhouse. This was the ONLY experience Bob shared with me and never did with his family.
Ultimately he landed in the hospital for his finger but returned to fight all though the war, including the Battle of the Bulge, until his unit linked up with the Russian army. Bob was awarded a Bronze Star for Valor, Combat Infantryman Badge with Four Battle Stars, plus his Purple Heart and numerous other decorations. A modest man, but a true hero!
(Pvt. 1st Class Robert Stieritz was just 18 when he took part in the invasion of Normandy. After the war he had a longtime career with the U.S. Postal Service. Robert and his wife Suzanne, Tom’s sister, had five children, 11 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. He died in 2003, seven years before Suzanne.)
Fellowship and fun
PHOTO BY FRANK JASPER, OFMJubilarians Leonard Cornelius and Alex Kratz at St. Monica-St. GeorgeThe other night all the stars aligned and the four friars from Pleasant Street were actually together for the first time in months. Murray Bodo and John Quigley had been giving retreats and pilgrimages in various places in the country and abroad. My own schedule keeps me on the road a lot between visitations during the “school year” and then attending workshops and conferences (I’m at a CMSM workshop now). Al Hirt holds down the fort for most of the year as pastor of a busy university parish.
We had quite a time that night as we gathered around the dinner table, some of our roses from the front rose bush on the table, sharing a delicious pasta meal and salad created by John, and catching up. We began with significant spontaneous prayer before the meal. We told our stories that were full of heartache and laughter. Lots of laughter. We noticed the movement of God’s Spirit in each of our lives. We had ice cream and berries.
I had a similar experience at our Jubilee celebration on Memorial Day. Here the focus is on the stories and pictures from the lives of the brothers that have lived our Franciscan way for 25, 50 – we even had a brother with 80 years, Miles Pfalzer! We celebrated Eucharist together at St. Monica-St. George with the good preaching of Greg Friedman. Afterwards, we seemed to inhale the hors d’eouvres and caught up with brothers we hadn’t been with for a while. We were invited to dinner tables set up with festive flowers. We publicly gave tokens of esteem and thanks for those brothers celebrating this significant year.
Most of our lives are not lived at this level of intensity. We have our daily prayer together, we work, we return to our friary dinner tables and we give God thanks for this daily bread and another undeserved day. But underneath is the reality of the Kingdom that we get a glimpse of during these festive moments.
— Fr. Mark Soehner, OFM
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PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLITop, Ann Marie Quinn and David Crank at St. Anthony Center; above, a dinner guest sits down to a hot meal.David Crank’s goal is “to project the loving presence of Francis and God.”
She had a lot to learn. Her first day visiting the facility next door, “I got hit in the face” by a guest who was fearful of contact. “I touched his shoulder and he started screaming.” “These are our sisters, our brothers,” David says.When he hurled his baseball cap at her, it was “a clear reminder about boundaries” and the fact that “it wasn’t about me. It was about what he needed.”
He was a pastor in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and General Treasurer of the OFM Curia in Rome. He ran the province’s Communications Office and trained novices in Cincinnati. His influence was PHOTOS BY TONI CASHNELLITop, Cyprian’s family members gathered in the chapel; middle, Greg with Junior Third Order alums; above, the statue from Cyprian’s room.widespread and wide-ranging. “He really touched a lot of people’s lives,” said Beth Mosher, part of a Junior Third Order group for which Cyprian was spiritual director in the 1970s.