by Friar Bob Roddy
260 friends of Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center gathered at the Wilds Golf Club in Prior Lake, Minnesota on May 5, 2016 for the 58th Franciscan International Award Dinner. The glorious Spring weather, coupled with the enthusiasm of our guests and the thought-provoking presentation on the work of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, made for a very memorable evening.
The 2016 recipient of the Franciscan International Award is Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative of St. Paul, Minnesota. Beacon Interfaith sponsors the Families Moving Forward Program for Scott and Carver counties and Franciscan Retreats and Spirituality Center, in partnership with the Church of St. Michael in Prior Lake, has participated in that program since its inception three years ago. Local congregations in Scott and Carver counties agree to house families who are in transition to permanent housing for evenings for one week at their congregation. During the day, members of the families go to the Day Center where some receive help looking for jobs and/or permanent housing, other family members may depart for their jobs while their children head off to school.
Founded in 1999 (originally as the Plymouth Church Neighborhood Foundation) Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative believes that high quality, affordable housing is the foundation for families and individuals to create the stability and security that all people seek. Beacon develops new housing, preserves existing housing and manages ongoing housing operations. Beacon has developed sixteen properties with four more in development. Beacon collaborates with 87 congregations to provide shelter, develop housing and advocate for public funding and policies to end homelessness.
Bro. Randy Kin, representing the Minister Provincial, Jim Kent, presented the Franciscan International Award at the banquet. Lee Blons, the Executive Director of Beacon Interfaith Housing Collaborative, gave a moving presentation about the work of Beacon in which she played a series of voice mails from women and men desperately looking for safe housing for themselves and their families. Lee asked those gathered the simple question, “How will we respond to these calls?” “Homelessness is no longer an urban issue,” Lee explained, “We are now finding that the number of homeless families in the suburbs exceeds those numbers in the city.”
This FIA Dinner coincided with the 50th Anniversary of the first overnight retreat in the Prior Lake location. On July 17, the Retreat Center will host a Homecoming Event, with an outdoor Mass, weather permitting, at 11:00 a.m., followed by a chicken dinner, activities for children and tours of the Retreat Center.