Last Tuesday I had the chance to work at one of our more unique ministries: the bakery. On the Rise Bakery opened in 2009 as an extension of the R.O.P.E. program - sponsored by the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit. The program provides a place for men, coming out of prison, to deal with issues of substance abuse, anger management, and the life skills to succeed in the world.
I first learned about the R.O.P.E. program when I was a candidate visiting Detroit. I found it inspiring to see these men being spiritually fed by the Capuchins and our commitment to the poor. What started as a side-project in one of the soup kitchens has now become a business enterprise that provides employment for these ex-felons who, because of the job market, might never get the work experience to succeed after prison.
Remembering the inspiration I felt by this program, I was eager to participate in the day-to-day operations of the bakery. The bakery runs 6 days a week - a large part of their business comes from special orders and sales at various parishes in the Detroit area. Because of the demand, the bakery runs 3 shifts...giving the men experience of a 40 hour work week. Initially I thought the work would be simple. I was obviously wrong!
My first task Tuesday morning was unloading a pallet of 50 lb. bags of flour, sugar, and other various supplies. While the lifting was hard work, Ed (the head baker and graduate of the R.O.P.E. program) reminded me that he usually unloads the pallet by himself.
The day was filled with hard work and it wasn't always cool (especially with the big oven). However Ed let us know that our presence helped him get more done. He took the time to share part of his journey and his experience of being in the R.O.P.E. program.
"There are no words that can completely say how much the Capuchins mean to me," he told us. "You are all angels to me."
Spending time at the bakery Tuesday reminded me that there are powerful experiences that remind me of my vocation. As I continue to discern and be formed as a friar, it's important for me to reconnect with those experiences...thereby continuously renewing my desire to be a Capuchin. And that something as simple as baking bread is a reminder of how we can encounter God and feed the spirit of others.