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Prayer and reconciliation at the mall

Prayer and reconciliation at the mall

We’re not saying that editors at The New York Times were listening in to our conversations about how the church should make itself visible during the Christmas shopping season, but they could have been. Here’s the story:

Several days into the Christmas shopping season at the Northgate Mall here, the Rev. Dan Anderson stood improbably in a storefront between Sci-Fi City and the Loveable You Portrait Studio. An older couple, strolling past, slowed down to regard him.

Father Anderson, 66, wore the brown habit of the Franciscan friar, its plain humility broken only by a name tag affably identifying him as Dan. The former shoe store that he occupied contained holiday decorations, a brimming coffeepot and a life-size statue of the order’s founder, St. Francis of Assisi. On one table rested a glass fishbowl for prayer requests.

The couple asked Father Anderson if they could confess, and he guided them to a quiet corner. They spoke, he listened, and as the minutes passed, 15 or more, they gathered the courage to ask their question of both the friar and the universe: A relative of theirs had committed suicide. Was he in heaven?

As startling as the encounter may have been, it was also the precise reason Father Anderson and about 25 other friars based nearby in Cincinnati had set up temporary shop at the Northgate Mall. They opened their doors on Black Friday, which they promptly renamed Brown Friday in wry reference to their clothing, and they will remain until the afternoon of Christmas Eve.


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Troy Haliwell

As I read this, I imagined myself, with this large cross around my neck, standing in the middle of Vancouver Mall and smiling-saying Hello to every passerby, with a sign saying “free coffee” and a large urn with some cups aside it, and two tables with two chairs on each table.

I just wonder if I could get anyone to stop, and then just to talk.


I remember going to a very large mall in Lisbon, Portugal, a few years back – there was an RC church right there in the middle of things, not a former shoe store, but a purpose-built church. I don’t remember now if it was a parish or just chapel, but I thought the idea was great.

Bill Dilworth


As I read the story, I had goose bumps, the good kind. This is exactly what the church should be doing, going where the people are. If people don’t come to our buildings, then go where the people are and minister. How hard is this for church people to understand? Blessings, Franciscan friars in Cincinnati.

June Butler

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