Franciscan Corner: Where the Friars Meet the People

Posted by John Feister on 11/28/17 7:00 AM

Where Franciscans Meet the People | Image: Franciscan Media

In the mid-1800s, Bishop Purcell recruited Franciscans from the Tyrol region of Austria to come to Cincinnati to serve. And in the ensuing century, they have revitalized a struggling community.

The friars worked for a German-language Catholic newspaper, and then published their own magazine, St. Franziskus Bote. In June 1893 came the first issue of St. Anthony Messenger. We’ve published from Cincinnati all these years, most of them from the same location near the Liberty and Vine streets intersection. We’re next to our provincial motherhouse and St. Francis Seraph Parish, in historic Over-the-Rhine.

Our neighborhood, once teeming with upwardly mobile immigrants, became one of the nation’s poorest during more recent decades. To their credit, the Franciscans remained here, even as the descendants of German immigrants headed for suburbs. Race relations in the neighborhood became an issue, even as recently as 2001, when riots resulted in days of the city being under curfew. Friars, robed in brown, took to the streets with a message of peace and reconciliation.

Today, the well-to-do are moving into our neighborhood. What will happen to the poor? No one, rich or poor, wants a decrepit, unsafe neighborhood. Some sort of mixed housing seems to be the answer, and the friars are part of the conversation to help see that happen. The Franciscan Friars | Photo: Mary Catherine Kozusko

Behind our building, for example, is St. Anthony Village, a housing cooperative for neighborhood residents, started by the friars.

The friars are engaged with the community, witnessing to Gospel values, especially through St. Francis Seraph Parish and school, and the St. Anthony Center. In the middle of it, Franciscan Media strives to do the same to a much broader community, throughout the United States and well beyond.

Do we reach the poor through our media? Probably not so much these days, honestly. Do we bring the stories of those who are poor to the public eye? You can count on that, among our mix of features. And in our own way, perhaps we are a leaven of justice in our society.


Franciscan Media, a non-profit organization founded by the Franciscan Friars of St. John the Baptist Province, seeks to spread the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis.

On this Giving Tuesday, please know that your generosity helps the friars to evangelize. Click here or the image below to help us in our efforts.


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Categories: Franciscan Friars