Answering the Call

Answering the Call

The Franciscan Center in Baltimore, Maryland

On November 29, 2023, there was a joyous three-part celebration for the Friars of Our Lady of the Angels Province. The Feast of All Saints of the Seraphic Order coincided with the 800th anniversary of the signing of the 1223 Rule of St. Francis, marking the founding of the Franciscan Order. And, the Province assumed the sponsorship of the Franciscan Center in Baltimore, Maryland.

The Franciscan Center was founded in 1968 by the Franciscan Sisters of Baltimore, who merged with the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi in Wisconsin in 2001. Since it opened, the Center has assisted individuals who are trying to achieve self-sufficiency. Services have included providing hot meals, food, clothing, emergency aid, counseling, and technology training. On a typical day 400 to 600 people visit the Franciscan Center to enjoy a healthy meal from fresh ingredients. More than 200,000 meals are provided each year.

A special Mass was celebrated at the Shrine of St. Anthony in Ellicott City on the 29th.

“The Sisters opened the center in the late 60s with some of our friars,” said Friar Michael Heine, Minister Provincial of OLA Province. “But now as many communities are, the sisters are slowly divesting themselves and their sponsored ministries. And so, we decided to say ‘Yes’ to this invitation.

“I think this will open up wonderful opportunities for our Friars in formation with our ministries in Baltimore and in Ellicott City, because it’s a way and a sign of new life as we follow our father, Francis, in reaching out to those people who no one else wants to deal with, the people on the margins. We think it’s a perfect fit, and are really looking forward to working there.”

The Friars have supported the center’s ministries in the past, including the supplying of fresh produce from Little Portion Farm in Ellicott City. While the Center will maintain its independent board and operations, the Friars will provide spiritual support with the goal of maintaining the Center’s Franciscan character. They also hope to cultivate stronger connections with the broader Franciscan community.

“When we received word from Father Michael that the Conventual Franciscan’s Provincial Council had unanimously accepted our request to consider sponsorship of one of our most precious ministries, the Franciscan Center, we were not only delighted but relieved that this ministry would be in good hands,” said Sr. Joanne Schatzlein, OSF, Director of the Sisters of St. Francis of Assisi. “Our fervent wish was that our ministry would continue its Catholic Identity and remain faithful to the Franciscan Values. It is truly a gift of God that our Franciscan Brothers will continue the legacy of the Sister Founders into the future.”

The Franciscan Center has undergone significant renovations and physical improvements in recent years, including an indoor dining room, a client choice pantry, a training kitchen, a computer lab, an education center, a clothing intake room, and a new entrance.

“The sisters told me they needed help feeding the souls of those they serve at the Franciscan Center. That’s where the Friars will come in. We’ll continue the wonderful Franciscan spirit that was started by the Sisters and will continue under Our Lady of the Angels Province,” Friar Michael said.