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Brother Al and the Canticle Cafe View Comments
By Text and photos by Marylynn Hewitt

A careful look spots Brother Sun and Sister Moon on Al’s cart as the #21 pulls up and Al reaches out in service.

I was sitting here waiting on the bus, about freezing to death, the first time I saw him,” Kelly Howard says of Brother Al Mascia and the Canticle Café mobile unit. She recalls the line forming at the Rosa Parks Transit Center in downtown Detroit and people walking away with coffee and sandwiches. “I said, ‘Free? Are you serious?’ So I got me a sandwich and it was wonderful. I was going to the doctor, didn’t eat, you know. I’m a diabetic, so it really helped me out.”

Five days a week, teams of volunteers minister in the style of St. Francis, who left the walls of Assisi to help others. The first official run of the bicycle-cart ministry, which includes a back-end trailer loaded with seasonal necessities such as hats, gloves, scarves, socks, and hand- and foot-warmers, was Christmas Day 2010.

The mobile-units ministry follows an 18-year tradition of St. Aloysius Parish (served by the Franciscans of our own St. John the Baptist Province) opening the doors of their community center’s Canticle Café six mornings a week. Visitors to the Café would find coffee, along with donated breakfast food.

The Café, part of the parish’s community center, was a respite for men, women and children who had no home or needed a meal; a place to warm up in the winter or cool off in the summer. Seniors in nearby subsidized apartment buildings also gathered for fellowship and weekly grocery bags. Then, this past October, the building holding the community center and parish offices was shuttered.

“Once we learned that we would no longer be able to remain for a number of reasons, including safety reasons, we started exploring the possibility of renting space of our own. That led to dead ends,” says Brother Al, coordinator of street ministry.

The parish offices were moved across the street and are tucked into a small area of the ground floor of the rectory, attached to St. Aloysius Church. “We Franciscans still felt a tremendous need to remain and serve and minister in downtown Detroit, and we’re committed to continue to do so,” says Brother Al, even without a brick-and-mortar structure.

Brother Al, once a New Yorker, remembered the vendor carts plying their goods in New York and the well-known Passover song “Dayenu,” sung at every Seder meal. The song, listing the mighty acts of God, says that each act “would have been enough.” Brother Al thought about a cart: Even if that’s all we have, that would be enough. The Canticle Café would be reborn—on wheels!

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Marylynn G. Hewitt, S.F.O., owns MGHewitt Communications, based in the greater Detroit area. In June 2010 she wrote the award-winning article “Father Don Archambault: Uniting People for God” for this magazine.

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Antonio Lucci: Antonio studied with and was a friend of St. Francesco Antonio Fasani, who after Antonio Lucci’s death testified at the diocesan hearings regarding the holiness of Lucci. 
<p>Born in Agnone in southern Italy, a city famous for manufacturing bells and copper crafts, he was given the name Angelo at Baptism. He attended the local school run by the Conventual Franciscans and joined them at the age of 16. Antonio completed his studies for the priesthood in Assisi, where he was ordained in 1705. Further studies led to a doctorate in theology and appointments as a teacher in Agnone, Ravello and Naples. He also served as guardian in Naples. </p><p>Elected minister provincial in 1718, the following year he was appointed professor at St. Bonaventure College in Rome, a position he held until Pope Benedict XIII chose him as bishop of Bovino (near Foggia) in 1729. The pope explained, "I have chosen as bishop of Bovino an eminent theologian and a great saint." </p><p>His 23 years as bishop were marked by visits to local parishes and a renewal of gospel living among the people of his diocese. He dedicated his episcopal income to works of education and charity. At the urging of the Conventual minister general, Bishop Lucci wrote a major book about the saints and blesseds in the first 200 years of the Conventual Franciscans. </p><p>He was beatified in 1989, three years after his friend Francesco Antonio Fasani was canonized.</p> American Catholic Blog Father, we are all sinners. I am a sinner. I beg for the grace to never judge the actions of others, since it is possible that I might do the same things if I were in their situation. I ask this in Jesus's name, Amen.

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