Grace-filled experiences and religious items attract visitors
By Tom Maguire | Associate editor
At Destiny USA, markings on the floor tell where to stand for a photo of the carousel; where to walk to get a workout. The Franciscans tell where to stop in for a shot at salvation.
Not quite a church bell, a little gong rings when the faithful visit The Franciscan Place on the Commons Level, between the Burlington and DSW stores.
On Oct. 11, the shop, a non-profit ministry of the Franciscan Friars, started its 20th year with endorsements from visitors including Phil Kocher, of Liverpool.
“It’s small,” he said. “It’s close to my home. I go to church in Liverpool. This is convenient — I walk here. And either before my walk or after my walk I stop in the chapel, and I too am getting old. I too am losing loved ones. And it’s a quick place for me to stop in and pray for my loved ones, my relatives and friends and neighbors.
Kocher got married in Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church, which sponsors The Franciscan Place, and he has a lot of friends who are Catholic priests.
“I’m just thrilled to stop in here,” he said. “It’s quiet and it’s peaceful, and I can sit down and relax and say a few prayers and I can think a little bit. I think it’s wonderful they’ve been here 20 years. We need them and they need us.”
Likewise, the store’s director, Father Nader N. Ata, OFM Conv., asks that visitors “pray for us as we continue to pray for you.”
“First and foremost,” he said, “we offer a peaceful and quiet chapel where we have humble and compassionate confessors to hear confessions every day. And we also have inspiring preaching of the Word of God through Mass, and as well we offer religious goods in the store, from rosaries to Bibles to books to crosses to jewelry and medals, and our staff and volunteers … offer a nonjudgmental ear for people who come to the store.”
Since Oct. 1 this year, the store has offered later hours for those who work nine to five.
Father Nader said all sales and donations “help to make the prayerful ministry in the chapel possible.”
The sales of Fat Friar Cookies, with a ropelike slash of white frosting over the brown coating, benefit Assumption Church’s Food Pantry and Soup Kitchen. Browsers can also consider Linzer Cookies (handmade shortbread filled with jam); stunning foot-high statutes; Comfort Angel Pins (“May an angel be always by your side”); Healing Saints holy cards with medal; An Angel for Everyone Pocket Tokens; and titles such as The Franciscan Journal (“with quotes from St. Francis, St. Clare, and the early followers of St. Francis”) and The Paraclete Spiritual Journal.
Chris and Mary-Carole Kam, of Manlius, bought prayer cards for Mary-Carole’s aunt, a North Carolina nursing-home resident whose favorite is St. Anthony. “I want to give her something to uplift her spiritually,” Mary-Carole said, “give her hope.”
Chris said they visit the shop “to find items either for celebrations, or to try to uplift or inspire somebody who needs spiritual uplifting. And it’s a convenient place because it’s at the mall. That’s the key right there.” When the kids started driving, Mary-Carole stopped in and picked up St. Christopher medals for the car.
Father Martin Cline, a priest in the Diocese of Ogdensburg, was visiting the mall to pick up a new suit in another store, so he stopped by the Franciscans. He likes to “walk through to see what kind of new treasures they have, and certain days if I’m a little freer than today I stop and say a few prayers and just kind of relax.”
He figures that The Franciscan Place made it to 19 years because “there’s a need for someplace away from things, a place that’s quiet, a place that’s not the chaos and craziness of every other day. So I think their longevity is definitely because people need it.”
Bill and Pat Jaquin, of Syracuse, have been loyal visitors since The Franciscan Place opened in 1999.
“We can come in when we’re shopping or when we’re riding by, and it’s nice,” Bill said.
Praying comes before shopping, Pat said: “I pray for so many people that are in need of prayers — people that have cancer and so many people like that. And I say the rosary.”
“It’s amazing the way God works through the people that come through the store,” Father Nader said. “Not only do we bring God to them, but they bring God to us, and I think that’s very powerful.” He cited “many grace-filled experiences in the confessional — hearing people feel comfortable enough to share with God what’s most vulnerable in their heart is a great gift.”
Another blessing of the past year in the shop, he said, has been interacting with the previous director, Rosemary Costa, OFS, the faithful and dedicated staff, and the other friars: Father Adam Keltos and Father Robert Amrhein.
“We’re here to provide for your needs,” Father Nader said, “so if there’s anything that we can do, feel free to stop by.”
The Franciscan Place at Destiny USA
Catholic Gift Shop hours
Monday-Friday: noon-8 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
Open Sunday (from Dec. 2-23, 2018):
Monday-Friday: 12:15 p.m.
Wednesday: 7:15 p.m.
Monday: 2-4 and 7:15-8 p.m.
Tuesday: 2-4 and 7:15-8 p.m.
Wednesday: 2-4 p.m.
Thursday: 2-4 and 7:15-8 p.m.
Friday: 2-4 and 7:15-8 p.m.
Saturday: 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Wednesday: Following 12:15 p.m. Mass
Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament
Friday: 1-4 p.m.
Store located at Destiny USA between the Burlington and DSW stores on the Commons Level.