Founder Of Holy Family Soup Kitchen Remembered

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Individuals line the hallway leading to the Holy Family soup kitchen on Grubb Street. The kitchen serves a hot lunch daily to hundreds of the city's poor or homeless.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU News)
Individuals line the hallway leading to the Holy Family soup kitchen on Grubb Street. The kitchen serves a hot lunch daily to hundreds of the city's poor or homeless.(Photo: Tom Borgerding/WOSU News)

A funeral mass is scheduled this morning for a 93 year old Catholic priest who spent his life serving Columbus’ poor. For decades, Father Francis Schweitzer welcomed the downtrodden and homeless who still come to to the Franklinton area soup kitchen he founded.

On any given week-day, hundreds of individuals come from a few blocks or a few miles away to the basement of Holy Family school on Grubb Street in Franklinton. Director, Sharon Wing, says because of Father Schweitzer the soup kitchen and pantry are a source of comfort for the poor, the hungry, the homeless. Father Schweitzer founded the kitchen more than a generation ago.

“He started this soup kitchen by just handing out sack lunches around the time of the Vietnam war,” says Wing. “And then he realized there were many hungry people.”

Now an average of 350 people daily come to the kitchen or pantry for a hot meal and possibly some emergency needs. Clothes, food, money, or rosaries.

“People still come to me to this day and say Father used to always give me one of those rosaries for my neck. So, we try to keep them here but we run out a lot,” says Wing.

Wing says there was one other item that is always in constant demand.

“Father always had socks somewhere. because people that live on the land and in the streets their feet are always wet and cold.”

As the last few individuals move forward to get a tray filled with steaming fried chicken, potatoes, and vegetables, volunteer Charles Hayes mops up some spilled water on the cafeteria floor. Hayes met Father Schweitzer about four or five years ago.

“I just remember him being a person with a smile and a welcome to everyone that he’s met, that’s come through the door here. He’s been so gracious and kind with helping people that are downtrodden or needing help in some way who are homeless or needing funds,” says Hayes

Sandra Glosser comes to the Holy Family soup kitchen everyday. She says until recently Father Schweitzer was a constant presence among the long rows of tables.

“He was a good character. I mean he was funny, he was very helpful. would do the best for you that he could,” says Glosser.

Among the volunteers who prepare and serve the hot lunch, perhaps no one knew Father Scweitzer better than Liz Siemer-Curtis. She says she’s known the priest for 40 years. Since her parents took her to church at Holy Family. She describes him as good, kind, and spunky.

“He kept Holy Family going. I don’t know if you knew that. They wanted to close the church and he said ‘no.’ When he was a youngster he kept it going,” says Siemer-Curtis.

Siemer-Curtis summed up the sentiments of many of the volunteers and the visitors to the soup kitchen. She says the priest lived a good life and his death is a great loss. The she recounted a story told separately by several others.

“He worked for the poor. And just let me tell you at mass the poor people would come into his mass and he would have money in his pocket,” says Siemer-Curtis. “And he would give them each a little bit of money. And they knew that they could come to him. And so, even at the end he was still looking out for them. The homeless would come to mass and sit in the back.”

And to this day, volunteer Charles Hayes says the atmosphere at the soup kitchen reflects the personality of it’s founder.

“This is the place where no one is turned away. It’s nothing but love here in this place and it’s all because of Father Schweitzer who started it all.”

Father Francis Schweitzer served as pastor of Holy Family for 24 years. His funeral is scheduled later this morning.

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