On November 23, the Capuchins celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Catholic Center, a very unique ministry within a modern day shopping mall! Staffed by several Capuchins, including Director Fr. James Moster, O.F.M.Cap., and an army of volunteers, the friars bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the contemporary market place. But how did all of this begin?
St. Francis of Assisi did not wait for the people to come to him. Filled with a spirit of missionary zeal, Francis and his brothers went into towns and villages, preaching the Gospel on bustling street corners, marketplaces, and in the everyday gathering spaces of 13th century Italy.
In that same spirit, the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Conrad felt called to follow the example of their founder and bring the Gospel to the modern marketplace. So, in the Spring of 2001, the Capuchins approached Bishop Richard Hanifen, then Bishop of Colorado Springs, with the desire to start a new type of ministry. The discussion resulted in the idea of a Catholic chapel in a shopping mall. On November 23, 2001, the concept became a reality and the Catholic Center at the Citadel Mall opened its doors to the public.
The friars working at the center quickly became known as the “Mall Monks.” From 10 a.m to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, these “Mall Monks” hear confessions, offer spiritual direction and celebrate the Mass twice a day. According to an article in The National Catholic Register
(6/23/03), during one six-month period, the center served over 22,400 people and the friars heard more than 2,200 confessions. These numbers increase dramatically during Advent and Lent.
One of two confessionals at the Catholic Center with St. Leopold Mandic looking on.
With the increasing popularity of the Catholic Center, came the need for additional space. The original center featured a receptionist, two small rooms that served as confessionals and a chapel that could seat 15 people. The center was eventually moved to a larger location, between Burlington Coat Factory and Dillards, allowing for an increased seating capacity of 65.
Former director, Fr. Gene Emrisek, O.F.M.Cap., commented on the popularity of the center, stating, “The diocese is strapped for priests. People come because they know that a priest is always going to be there. We have a good number of people who haven't been to confession for some length of time... who have been away for as long as 25 or 30 years.”
While the center offers services directed towards Catholics, it is open to everyone, including people who want to learn more about the Catholic faith, those interested in a vocation or simply people looking for a quiet place to meditate.
As with any non-profit ministry, the Catholic Center relies on the generosity of benefactors to cover its operating expenses. The center receives partial funding from the Knights of Columbus, the Diocese of Colorado Springs, donations and fund-raisin appeals, and the Capuchin Province of St. Conrad. Additional funding is always needed to ensure the center's continued operation. Those who would like to volunteer or provide financial support can do so by contacting the center at 719.573.7364. You can also donate to this ministry directly through the website by clicking on the following link: http://capuchins.org/mall-ministry-fund