Popular Franciscan fund raising event outgrows location
by luke eggleston
sun staff writer
The Conventual Franciscans and their counterparts in the Sisters of St. Francis can be found throughout Syracuse, whether it is at the Franciscan Place in Carousel Center, which offers a refuge from the busy mall, or at the Alibrandi Center near Syracuse University, where students are given a chance to celebrate their faith.
“All those places were staffed by Franciscans and had a little bit of a ‘Franciscan twist,’” said Sister Dolores “Dolly” Bush, OSF.
Each of the Franciscans’ ministries are under the umbrella of the Franciscan Collaborative Ministries. But the Franciscans is most strongly associated with Syracuse’s north side.
Once considered one of the more desirable locales in the Salt City, the north side has fallen on hard times in recent years. Bishop James Moynihan asked the Franciscans to change the area’s downward trajectory.
The Franciscans have invested heavily in programs on the north side such as their medical clinic, their legal clinic and various activities throughout the year, including the Festival of Many Nations. Recently, Franciscan Collaborative Ministries set up a credit union for north siders.
One of the first programs the Franciscans brought to the north side was their weekly coffee house on Tuesdays at 9 a.m.
“This was the first ministry that we started within the Franciscan Northside Ministries. I just opened the doors and put a sign out and said who ever comes in comes in,” Sister Dolly said.
At first, the coffee house drew just a few people, but it has become a bustling destination for people in the neighborhood. Those who come are offered coffee, donuts and a chance to socialize with one another.
“People from all walks of life come,” Sister Dolly said.
North sider Lenny Smith, for example, uses the occasion to display his model cars and Sister Dolly recalled that visitors from Australia once passed through the coffee house.
Like all of the Franciscans ministries, the coffee house is an attempt to infuse the spirit of the order’s founder into the north side’s culture.
“I think it’s just a sense of respect. Central to St. Francis was that we’re all creatures of God and he saw that in a very relational mindset. There’s a big focus on the relationship,” Sister Dolly explained.
The coffee house is just one of the programs financed by the Franciscans’ annual Sweet Sensations event, which is the Franciscans’ primary fund raiser.
Sweet Sensations offers them an opportunity to not only generate funds for their various ministries, but also offers a chance to celebrate their various successes on the north side.
This year’s Sweet Sensations will be held Saturday, Oct. 25, starting at 6:30 p.m. After a social hour, attendees may venture across the hall to listen to the night’s entertainment.
The Sweet Sensations event draws its inspiration from St. Francis, but it also looks to expand the services the Franciscans can provide for north siders.
Last year, Sweet Sensations raised $15,000 for Fransican Northside Ministries. The event was so successful that, this year, the Francsicans decided they needed to move it from the traditional location in the auditorium at Saint Clare Gardens to the St. Anthony Motherhouse campus at 1024 Court St., Syracuse.
“We had between 205 and 250 people so it was pretty packed in,” Sister Dolly said.
As always, the event will feature coffees, pastries, sweets, fruit, cheese and baguette bread – all donated by local merchants.
The entertainment this year will be provided by area big band act the Jazz Cats, who will perform in the auditorium across the hall from the gymnasium.
The Jazz Cats will provide music drawing from a variety of genres, according to Sister Dolly.
“It’s a little bit of everything; they’re really pretty versatile,” she said.
The band has been together for less than a year, but each member is a seasoned performer.
“They gave us a CD and they’re really very good. It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Sister Dolly said.
Initially, the sisters had hoped to keep the event in the gymnasium, but the Jazz Cats recommended the auditorium because of its superior acoustics. Regardless, Sister Dolly sees the need to move as evidence of the event’s increasing popularity.
“It’s terrific. You go to some fund raisers and you kind of yawn through the whole thing. But this is really fun,” Sister Dolly said.