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The Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart Province have a long history of service in the community. Upon their arrival from Germany in the mid-1800's, the friars reached out to immigrant farmers and uneducated youth, establishing churches and schools to meet the physical, spiritual, and mental needs of the people. Their work quickly spread throughout the Midwest, from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan to Texas and Louisiana. As the province expanded in size and numbers, missionaries were sent out to Alaska, Brazil, China, Vietnam, and Africa.
The talents of individual friars helped expand their efforts into ever-new and unfolding ministries: Quincy University, AIDS outreach, Hispanic parishes, art and music development, a high school for African-American boys, a shelter and soup kitchen for the homeless, and more.
St. Louis has long been the hub of the Sacred Heart Province. St. Anthony of Padua Friary in south St. Louis city serves as its motherhouse, or provincial headquarters, and home to more than twenty Franciscan priests and brothers. Friars residing in the community there became increasingly aware of the growing poverty surrounding their own home – a neighborhood very much in transition, where refugees and ethnic minority groups were replacing a traditionally white population, where local stores and businesses were closing, where abandoned buildings were being boarded up, where crime was on the rise, and where a sense of urban decay was beginning to prevail.
In June of 1991, a group of these friars embarked on a new endeavor to reach out to the neighborhood. The Franciscan Connection began to provide emergency help to single mothers, to under-employed dads, and to the frail elderly of the community. A little financial assistance on a high utility bill, for example, could often save a homebound senior citizen from another night without electricity or heat, a backpack of school supplies and a voucher for new shoes could ready a young child for their first day in the classroom, or a Christmas basket could brighten a family’s whole holiday. Our new home repairs ministry is directly helping widows and other low-income families make their homes more safe, secure and healthy places in which to live.
In addition, the friars offer one-on-one support to those who come to their door, addressing the needs of the inner spirit while leading them on to other area resources and encouraging them in their pursuit to become self-sufficient. Volunteers have become involved. Schools, churches and organizations (e.g., Quincy University, Secular Franciscans, local Franciscan parishes, etc.) are now lending support. All individuals are served regardless of creed or color. And a renewed sense of community has begun to flourish in the neighborhood.
Our mission and vision are:
In the spirit of St. Francis and St. Clare of Assisi and through creative service in preference for the poor, the Franciscan Connection provides pastoral listening, respectful support and emergency assistance to low-income St. Louis area families in times of need.
Together with a team of dedicated volunteers and benefactors, we, friars and friends, envision a neighborhood free of substandard living conditions and a community where families truly wish to live.
Each year, over 500 families in need benefit from direct emergency assistance, home repairs and other support.
Countless others receive helpful information and referrals.