By Father Jud Weiksnar
As Buffalo’s neighborhoods join the economic resurgence the community is enjoying, many people, some for the first time, are discovering Larkinville and all it has to offer. Food Truck Tuesdays, Live at Larkin and new restaurants and breweries are breathing new life into the neighborhood, located along the Seneca Street corridor between downtown and South Buffalo.
For the Franciscan friars, this area, known previously as The Hydraulics for its hydraulic canals, has been home since 1858.
As we await with joyful anticipation the arrival in the United States of Pope Francis, this is a good opportunity to remind people, or to introduce them for the first time, to the important work we do with many of the poor and distressed who are not yet part of Buffalo’s revitalization.
Our services to the poor and disadvantaged operate out of the landmark St. Patrick’s Friary on Seymour Street, and are now known as Franciscan Ministries of Buffalo, a collaboration of religious and lay people. Our outreach includes the St. Patrick Food Pantry, St. Francis Thrift Shop on Clinton Street, Prison Ministry, Ministry to the Poor and a Summer Fun program that has helped hundreds of children over the years from a wide range of ethnic and racial backgrounds.
There is no question that the situation in Buffalo is on the rise. Some are calling it the new Buffalo, but for many, their situation has not improved. It’s been well-documented that Buffalo is the third-poorest city in the country, with more than 30 percent of the population living below the poverty level.
On Monday Slow Roll bike rides, which epitomize the new spirit in Buffalo, one can see how within just a few blocks neighborhoods transition from wealthy to weary, and from hip to heartbreaking.
When a young Catholic architect visited our friary, he said it evoked the image of the “field hospital” that Francis has used when he said, “The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.”
We’ve been blessed with support from neighborhood businesses that recognize that amid the boom, there’s still a tremendous need, even an obligation, to help the less fortunate.
The pope is coming to America as a pastor to visit those on the periphery: the homeless, the imprisoned and the least among us, as he calls everyone to joyous and generous service.
The field hospital is open. We hope that people will be motivated by the visit of Francis, by his words and actions, and will look for ways to donate their time, talent and treasure through places such as Franciscan Ministries of Buffalo.
Father Jud Weiksnar, OFM, is secretary of Franciscan Ministries of Buffalo.