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The Breadline

Father Mychal's
Last Homily

The Mychal We Knew



Feeding the Hungry Since 1929

Reprinted with permission of the Holy Name Province.


Ever since the Great Depression, the friars of St. Francis of Assisi Church have been feeding people on the Breadline.  As a matter of fact they have not missed a morning since!


“I would like you to know how grateful I feel for having been able to know and associate with you and the other friars in even the smallest way.  Looking over the past year, I have cause to give special thanks to the church for having discovered the Breadline at a time in my life when I really needed it.”                                               -A Breadline Graduate


They say that history repeats itself … We have seen that harsh reality, decade upon decade, as poor men and women stand in the bitter cold or the teeming rain for a sandwich, a cup of coffee and the promise that for one more day they won’t go hungry.


It was called Black Tuesday, Oct. 29, 1929, the day the stock market crashed and the Great Depression began to spread like a dark shadow across both the affluent and the poor alike.  More people were hungry, more people were homeless, and more people were hopeless about their own futures and the future of our country.


One man was not - Franciscan Brother Gabriel Mehler knew that if people were going to weather the difficult times ahead, they would need to lean on each other.  So he founded the St. Francis Breadline to help those who could not help themselves.  During the Depression’s darkest days, the Breadline served more than four thousand men and women every morning.


The Breadline started out as an emergency charity program, a way to keep people from starving, a way to give people something to hang onto during a time when so many were losing heart.  It soon become apparent, however, that even without a Great Depression there were thousands of hungry men and women longing for a sign that someone cared.


Times have changed since those early days of the Breadline, but even in the best of times people lose jobs, children get sick, homes burn down.  It doesn’t matter why people come to us.  It doesn’t matter who they are, where they live, or what they do after they get their meals and move on.  What matters is that for one brief moment every day someone reminds them that they have worth, that they are loved.


That’s the same message that St. Francis of Assisi preached when he founded our order in 1226.  He taught others to love those who are neglected, to feed those who are hungry and to care for those who have fallen through the cracks of society.  We witness the power of that message each morning as we head out onto the sidewalk at 7 a.m. to feed the hungry men and women of New York City.


More than 300 people line up for a simple sandwich and a cup of coffee, and in only about 30 minutes both the food and the throngs of hungry people are gone.  We don’t know where they spend their days or where they sleep at night.  We do know that they will be back the next day, the next week and maybe even the next month.  We will be there too – because of people like you.


Just as when Brother Gabriel first started the Breadline, we count on the generosity of friends to support our work.  History has shown that when we ask our brothers and sisters in Christ to help those in need, they answer us with a resounding, “Yes!”


Your donations to Mychal’s Message directly benefit the Breadline guests, as well as other organizations with the same philosophy.


For more information on how to support the Breadline of St. Francis of Assisi Church in NYC, click here.  


A timeline …


1929 – Franciscan Brother Gabriel Mehler established the St. Francis Breadline to aid New York City’s hungry and homeless during the Great Depression.


1933 – The Breadline marked its third year, serving 1,000 people each day.


1940 – Brother Gabriel, “the Angel of the Breadline” died.  He served more than two million people and left behind a legacy that continued into the next century.


1950 – The Breadline continued to subsist under the care and faithful watch of Pastor Terence McNally, OFM.


1964 – Fr. Finian Kerwin, OFM became pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church and continued Brother Gabriel Mehler’s dream of feeding the hungry.


1979 – Now in its 50th year, the Breadline cost $4,000 per month to maintain.  All funds were provided by generous contributors who heard about the good work or attended services at St. Francis of Assisi Church.


1989 – For more than 20 years, Brother Albert Aldrich, OFM had been overseeing the Breadline.  His dedication and compassion to the poor made him an esteemed figure at St. Francis on W. 31st Street.  He greeted hundreds of men and women with a cup of coffee, a sandwich and kind words.  Seeing the growing number of people on the daily Breadline and the lack of resources to support this ministry to the poor, he always found ways to raise funds by using the media, appeals and the Breadline memorial cards.


1996 – A blizzard pounded New York, leaving the hungry and homeless more vulnerable than ever.  For the first time in its long history, the Breadline ran out of food because delivery trucks couldn’t get through.  The friars handed out $2 to every person in line.


2001 – The Breadline feeds an average of 100,000 people each year.  To date, millions of people have received food, clothes and financial assistance.


To learn more about the Breadline, go here.


Read an article about the Breadline here.





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