Meeting Christ in the marketplace

By | August 19, 2009

Well, how about in the mall as you go about that last minute back-to-school shopping.

That, anyway, is the intent of “The Catholic Center at the Citadel,” located in the Citadel Mall in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Since 2001, the Catholic Center, staffed by Capuchin priests, has provided daily Mass (the center is closed on Sundays), the sacrament of reconciliation, referrals to parishes and service organizations, spiritual guidance and a general ministry of presence to people going about their everyday lives. People can stop in anytime between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. They don’t even have to talk with anyone if they don’t want to – there’s a chapel, used for private meditation when Masses aren’t scheduled.

“Some people are hesitant to stop into an organized church, but the Catholic Center offers a ‘no strings attached’ approach,” Msgr. Robert Jaeger, vicar general of the Diocese of Colorado Springs, told Catholic News Service in a telephone interview.

“The Capuchins wanted to make contact with those who have fallen away from the church,” he added. “Visitors to the center are anonymous and can either stop in regularly or just once. People can say, ‘Well, I’ve finished my shopping. I think I’ll stop inside for a moment for myself.'”

Funded by the local diocese, the Capuchins, the Knights of Columbus and donations, the center has a prime location: between Burlington Coat Factory and Dillard’s department store. While primarily aimed at Catholics, it’s important to remember that the center is located in the evangelical center of Colorado Spring, home of the popular evangelical group “Focus on the Family.”

So the Catholic Center also provides a ministry of outreach, as well as information about the Catholic faith. Its Web site, www.catholicchapelmall.org, says the center “is open to everyone, whether you are a devout Catholic, or someone who would like to explore and learn more about the Catholic faith, vocation or religious order, or simply looking for a quiet place to meditate.”

In the eight years it’s been in operation, Msgr. Jaeger says, the center has averaged about 30 to 40 people attending daily Mass – offered at 12:10 p.m. and 6 p.m. And that doesn’t even begin to count the number who might just stop in on any given day.

The patron of the Capuchins, St. Francis, is popularly credited with saying, “Preach the Gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” The Catholic Center at the Citadel does just that – bringing Christ to the marketplace.

They are hardly alone in that venture; another group of Capuchin friars has been providing a ministry of presence in our own area for 75 years. Monte Alverno Retreat Center in Appleton is marking its diamond jubilee on Aug. 30 with an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. (See article on page 4.)

While not located at a mall, Monte Alverno offers the same quiet invitation of Jesus to people amidst the rush of our everyday lives: “Come away and rest a while.”

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