Diocesan News

Franciscan U. Students Find a Home in B’klyn

Where Have All the Convents Gone?

This is the fifth in a series about how former convents are being used in Brooklyn and Queens.

Students and alumni from Franciscan University get together for a photo at the former Most Precious Blood Convent this summer before heading off to work later in the day. From left are: James Emmons, Tommy Lannen, Kenneth Cuomo and Diego Araujo. (Photo: Antonina Zielinska)

In a Gravesend building that a group of nuns once called home, young single men from out of town now freely roam – with the pastor’s blessing.

Father John Maduri, pastor of Most Precious Blood, invited young men from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, to live in the former convent building. Currently all these Franciscan-trained men are either helping out in Most Precious Blood or neighboring SS. Simon and Jude parish, where Father Maduri is the administrator.

Once of them, Diego Araujo, said he feels a strong sense of responsibility to live by the ideals of service and worship set forth by his predecessors at the convent.

A recent graduate of Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio, Auaujo will be staying at the former convent for two years while working for Most Precious Blood in faith formation and outreach. Then he hopes to marry his girlfriend who is studying medicine in Pittsburgh.

“I want to be the best version of myself for her,” he said.

For Araujo this means, in part, maturing in his relationship with God and His people.

Great Opportunity

He chose to move to Brooklyn after completing his studies in social work and theology because he wanted to help people. The opportunity presented itself through his college household: The Knights of the Holy Queen. His new job also affords him the chance to meet people of different cultures and to work with youth.

Father Maduri said he is grateful for the young men from Steubenville. The pastor has been taking his parishioners on trips to Franciscan University, which hosts renewal events, for seven years. He is also on friendly terms with professors and administration at the school.

The community kitchen.

The partnership at his parish though, came when the Knights of the Holy Queen approached him. The household wanted to offer its members an opportunity to serve people in New York City. Father Maduri had renovated the former convent into a parish center complete with individual bedrooms.

He ran the idea of inviting the students through his parish leadership team and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio. All were on board with the idea, and the first student came last year to stay for the summer in 2016.

Tommy Lannen, a senior theology student who lived at the convent this summer, said he loves sharing the Gospel with others and has been overjoyed to discover that the people he has worked with in Brooklyn are thirsty for God’s Word and grateful to the Lord. He is also thankful for having received positive feedback from parish retreats he led.

True Male Values

James Emmons, a fellow senior, said what he hopes he and his fellows can offer the parishes goes beyond practical assistance. He hopes that the group serves as an example of a genuine male community in service to God displaying true manly virtues.

The parish community has welcomed the young men warmly, Araujo said. They do so with words and food. The people are happy to see young people who take their Christian faith seriously and are all the more pleased when they see that the young men share their devotion to Our Lady.

However, the young men are by no means tied to staying at the parish. They are free to explore and enjoy the city. They like going to Coney Island or getting together for a drink. In fact, staying at the convent does not even require full-time service to the parish.

Knights of the Holy Queen are invited to stay at the parish if they have found employment in the city and would like to continue living in a communal setting with their brothers. Father Maduri will just ask a modest rent from them to help upkeep the building and some volunteer work for the parish.

“We have reached an era where its time for the lay people to stand up for the Church and act for the Church,” Araujo said. “I treat my youth as a gift. It is meant to be given back to the Church.”

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