Monday, June 7, 2010

Awed and Humbled

The directors of two agencies being honored by Secular Franciscans for their work with the poor and marginalized deferred attention from themselves, saying they don’t do God’s work for the recognition.
Even so, they each choked up a little after receiving the Mother Marianne Cope Award during St. Joseph Fraternity’s 150th Anniversary celebration June 6 at the Radisson Hotel-Utica Centre in Utica, NY.
“This is bittersweet,” said Rev. Deacon Gil Nadeau, director of Mother Marianne’s West Side Kitchen, because “we just lost one of our volunteers,” Tony Weber, who died May 28 at the age of 87. Tony had a strong prayer life, spending time in the Perpetual Adoration Chapel every week, he said. Tony came to the soup kitchen Wednesday nights, where “he made thousands of sandwiches.” Tony lived a Franciscan way of life, preaching the Gospel by example, like so many of the volunteers, the deacon said.
“So we dedicate this award to Tony Weber and all the volunteers who never ask for recognition.”
Rev. Bill Dodge, executive director of the Rescue Mission of Utica, said he was “awed and humbled” to be accepting an award from Franciscans that is named after Blessed Mother Marianne.

He mentioned how Mother Marianne went out of her way to provide amenities to her leprosy patients and treated them with dignity.
“It’s hard to think of any type of people who are more marginalized in any society than lepers,” he said. “The thing about marginalized people is that dignity needs to be restored.”
Mother Marianne’s “compassionate work with the lepers of her day is a powerful example of what reaching out and changing lives means to the Rescue Mission of Utica.”
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The day began with special recognition for the 150th anniversary during Sunday mass at St. Joseph-St. Patrick’s Church. Fr. Adam Keltos, OFM Conv., the banquet speaker, concelebrated mass with Fr. Richard Dellos, pastor, who praised the Franciscan fraternity’s service and made note of special guests – secular Franciscans from around the state, the Rev. Dodge and his wife, Laura; state Sen. Joe Griffo, and state Assemblywoman RoAnn Destito. At the end of mass, the two legislators presented a joint resolution from the New York State Legislature honoring St. Joseph Fraternity and the Secular Franciscan Order.
At the banquet, proclamations from other elected officials were read, including one from Utica Mayor David Roefaro, and three from U.S. Congressman Michael Arcuri. In one, the congressman commended the fraternity for its heritage of service, and the other two were congressional certificates praising West Side Kitchen and the Rescue Mission for “serving the needy” and “ameliorating hardship in the community.”
In presenting the Mother Marianne Cope Award, Fraternity Minister Katie Koscinski noted that the award’s namesake walked in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi nearly 700 years after his death. Before becoming a Franciscan sister, she grew up in Utica and was active in what today is St. Joseph-St. Patrick Church. “She reached out to the marginalized of her day – the lepers of Hawaii. Today, the recipients of the Mother Marianne Cope Award also reach out to the marginalized of society.”
Just over two years ago, she noted, Deacon Gil and Father Dellos challenged parishioners to “come down off the mountain.” In less than two months, parishioners, secular Franciscans and others had come together and opened West Side Kitchen, serving lunch six days a week to the jobless, the working poor and the homeless – “treating hungry children and adults as blessings” and “serving over 50,000 meals in the first two years.”
The Rescue Mission, she said, serves the poor, the homeless, the mentally ill and those struggling with substance abuse. “They strive to change lives and bring new hope to the hopeless. In 2009, their Addictions Crisis Center served 891 individuals. Their Emergency Shelter provided 6,040 nights of care…A total of 122,888 meals were provided three times a day to their residents and to community members.”
Father Adam, the keynote speaker, encouraged secular Franciscans to study and live their Franciscan Rule of life.
“It’s not long,” he said. “It’s just hard…” because “it means living the Gospel.”
“We are united with that energy and spirit of Francis and Clare, to do what? To live the Gospel.”
He encouraged them to wear the Tau cross all the time because one never knows when it could spur the question, “What’s that?”, and spark the awakening of a Franciscan vocation.
Noting the Rule’s generous use of the term, brothers and sisters, he said: “Francis of Assisi said we’re all brothers and sisters, including the animals and the sun and the moon and the stars… and as such, we have to renew and rebuild the church.”
After the banquet, as people lingered and chatted, the Rescue Mission’s Rev. Dodge commented to Fraternity Secretary Marsha Kistner that he really admired the Franciscan Tau cross. She removed hers from around her neck and presented it to him.
“You have no idea what this means to me,” he said.