CALVARY PROVINCE – In the last economic depression in the United States Venerable Solanus Casey was the friar assigned as porter at St. Bonaventure Monastery in Detroit, the capital of the automobile industry in the United States. Following the ancient Capuchin tradition of offering something from our own table to those who come to our doors hungry and asking for something to eat – Venerable Solanus found himself overwhelmed by the numbers of newly unemployed men coming to the door asking for food. He asked Fr. Herman Hess and the Secular Franciscan fraternity if they could prepare a pot of soup and have some bread so that he could send those who would come to the door over to the Secular Franciscan hall. The next day there was a line of people circling the block waiting for soup and bread. Eighty years later, the Capuchin soup kitchen continues to serve over two thousand meals each day at two different sites in the city of Detroit. The pastoral team includes three Capuchin friars, more than fifty employees, hundreds of volunteers and tens of thousands of benefactors.
Unlike the image of America often portrayed in films and mass media, there are large pockets of persistent poverty. Each of the provinces in North America seeks to respond to the needs of the poor in its own way. In some instances, this ministry to the poor is organized through the parishes staffed by Capuchins. A few provinces, however, have also started direct ministry to the poor through initiatives like the Calvary Province’s Capuchin Soup Kitchen. The Capuchin Soup Kitchen is a human service organization of caring and loving people inspired by the spirit of St. Francis and sponsored by the Capuchins of the Province of St. Joseph and concerned benefactors. It is at the heart of the Capuchin Ministries in Detroit, Michigan. It is also linked to the fame of Venerable Solanus Casey, the first U.S born male declared Venerable by the Catholic Church. (Find more at http://www.solanuscasey.org/ )
Over the years, the work of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen has expanded its services. Besides a hot meal, it serves the materially poor with clothing and household necessities. It responds to psychological needs by providing rehabilitation or through improving motivation and self-esteem. It also provides for social needs, such as support systems and meaningful relationships. Over the years it has created a service center which today collects clothing, furniture and canned goods, and distributes five hundred pieces of furniture and forty thousand pieces of clothing a month. Daily the service center gives out boxes of canned food to approximately one hundred fifty families.
Every person who comes to the Soup Kitchen for assistance is welcomed, without regard to race, sex, age, color, national origin, religious preference, handicap or income. In order to be a healing force in the spirits and lives of needy individuals, the Capuchin Soup Kitchen strives to provide encouragement, direction, and material assistance in promoting growth and wholesome independence with respect and dignity. This effort has led the Soup Kitchen to sponsor a drug and rehabilitation center for men in recovery, directed by a friar trained in drug and alcohol counseling; an afterschool program for children to give them positive and creative outlets for study and play while they wait for their parents to finish their work day; and Urban Gardening program to help people in the city learn how to grow food for themselves, and a bakery to give men coming out of institutions like prisons and jails an opportunity to learn a job skill and earn a job reference to look for work. More information can be found at the web site of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen: http://www.cskdetroit.org/.