Serving Christ in the Poor

02-26-2017Encountering ChristTom Dwyer

What could draw a group of men to leave the countryside of Flemington to venture into the inner city of Newark? Nothing short of the love of Jesus Christ and His poor. For this reason, once a month several members of St. Magdalen’s parish travel to aid the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in serving the poor.

The Franciscan Friars are a men’s religious community based in New York City. They live very simply, like the poor they serve, seeking Christ as their only possession. This community of priests has opened up friaries (houses) in several different cities to serve those in need—one such friary is in Newark. The Blessed Sacrament Friary was formerly a Dominican monastery that fell into ill repair as the nuns became increasingly unable to care for the property. Several men who worked on Wall Street put together a group of investors calling themselves ‘Friends of the Friars’ and purchased the building 11 years ago. Since then the monastery has been on a journey of restoration and mission.

A ‘company’ of men from St. Magdalen’s led by John Yanuzzi (affectionately known as ‘The Mayor’) became Associates of the Franciscan Friars four years ago after John attended a men’s retreat with them. He saw how the friars interacted with the poor and was touched, but he also saw that their building was in need of some serious repairs. The Associates support the mission of the friars to make Jesus Christ known through utilizing their varied talents. Wherever there is a need, God provides. One such ‘need’ was to repair the plumbing. John asked the ‘master plumber’ Harry Stocker to come on board to help. Harry felt that St. Padre Pio (a Franciscan Friar himself) was really the first to commission this help since he feels the saint told him in prayer to “help my brothers.” Harry soon recognized the need for an assistant so after a little more prayer, Gene Lewandowski entered the company of men trekking to the friary. As for me, soon my former life aboard yachts and my wood working skills were put to good use. I had the privilege of rebuilding the extern’s chapel that is adjacent to the main chapel, bringing out the beauty of the old woodwork, much of which had been neglected for nearly a century.

‘The Mayor’ continues to invite others to come to the friary and many have answered the call. Come join us if you can; there you will find the peace which surpasses all understanding and which will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.