Father Jeff Scheeler, provincial minister of the St. John the Baptist Province, came up with the idea of a local mall ministry.
"Some dioceses have had chapels in malls.
I've always thought that was an interesting idea being more accessible to people," he
"One Sunday I was out at Northgate Mall and I noticed they had a whole lot of open spaces and I thought maybe we could do something for Lent or Advent."
After discussing it with his
order's leadership and the Archdiocese of Cincinnati
, Father Scheeler
found support for the idea.
Prepared to pay rent, he
approached Northgate Mall management and they offered a space essentially rent-free.
envisions the environment to be much like the post-Mass atmosphere at a parish where the priest visits with parishioners on their way out.
The difference here will be that there's no rush to leave and there should be two friars available at most times.
Confession would also be available to those seeking it whenever a priest is present.
The friars' location in the Macy's corridor is a former shoe store.
turned the barren store into a comfortable and welcoming location in time to open the day after Thanksgiving, a day known as Black Friday and the biggest shopping day of the year.
The decor included posters of Franciscan ministries on the wall, scenes of the Nativity, a Christmas tree, a statue of St. Francis, reading material, some chairs for sitting, and a place to write and leave prayer intentions.
Also, of course, the Franciscans
themselves will be there wearing their habits.
One brother on Black Friday was playing Christmas carols on an accordion.
"I think people will be a little surprised to see us and they'll be curious and that's a good thing," Father Scheeler
said the friars considered collecting items or donations for the poor but noted "there are so many places that are doing that.
The friars may have envelopes to accept donations if someone chooses to do so, but that is not why they're setting up a shop in the mall.
"Our idea is basically just to kind of be a presence," Father Scheeler