It is no secret that St. Anthony of Padua was a great preacher. People flocked to hear his heart-stirring words. One fine day in the countryside a large crowd of listening folks was growing larger by the minute and Anthony knew he had to do something to be seen and heard. The quick-thinking Anthony soon found a perch in a nearby walnut tree and preached aloud to the crowds. He was always looking for any means to call people to repentance and to embrace Jesus in their hearts.
About 20 years ago, the Friars serving in Syracuse, NY, responded to a similar challenge, finding an innovative way to be seen and heard. Like the old walnut tree that Anthony put to a use, our Friars looked at the large Carousel Center Mall, just two miles from their friary. Millions of people pass through the facility each year. Soon, the idea of having a Catholic chapel (with a modest religious gift shop) in the Commons Level of the mall became a reality. Its name is simply The Franciscan Place – Chapel and Religious Gift Shoppe.
The primary ministry is sacramental, done in the chapel nestled in the back, away from the noise of the mall corridors. Mass is oﬀered Monday through Friday. But the most important ministry is the Sacrament of Reconciliation, held multiple hours each week day and three hours on Saturday. In the latter days of Advent and Lent, two confessors are scheduled to accommodate the increased traﬃc of penitents. It’s easy to see what a great service this is.
The gift shop in the front section has expanded beyond religious articles to include educational and inspirational books, CDs, DVDs, etc., for children and adults. Income from sales helps to sustain the more important ministry done in the chapel.
In recent years Carousel Center Mall went through a huge expansion and changed its name to Destiny USA. With a lot of help from mall management and generous benefactors, The Franciscan Place was also remodeled and nearly doubled its size. The improved chapel is still the heart of the friars’ ministry and remains a “Peaceful, Prayerful Presence,” according to Fr. Adam Keltos, OFM Conv., the chaplain at The Franciscan Place.
After nearly two decades, this ministry has bloomed. Like St. Anthony, the Friars are still trying to bring God’s love and healing to people by being present where they are, and helping them find the Way, the Truth, and the Life –JESUS. †
To learn more about The Franciscan Place, including hours of operation and its address, visit them on Facebook by clicking here.
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