Community Ministry Connection: Capuchin Community Services

Each month the Human Concerns Committee will highlight the work of a community organization doing outstanding ministry in the city of Milwaukee. Our June 2021 partner is Capuchin Community Services! The Family of Four parishes have been in relationship for many years with both of the beloved Capuchin Community Services ministry locations: St. Ben’s Community Meal and the House of Peace. We are pleased to highlight this essential Milwaukee community of ministry this month.


“Inspired by the gospel of Jesus and the example of Francis of Assisi, the Capuchin friars of the Province of Saint Joseph, together with our partners in ministry, prayerfully build sister-brotherhood in the world.  We attend simply and directly to the spiritual and other basic human needs, especially those of the poor and disenfranchised, promoting justice for all.”



“The House of Peace Community Center opened its doors in the last week of February, 1968 in a storefront at 1835 West Walnut Street. It was an outreach ministry of St. Francis of Assisi parish at 4th and Brown Streets. At the time of its opening, the near north side was almost certainly the most unstable neighborhood in Milwaukee. Milwaukee had been racked the previous summer with civil disturbances which claimed the lives of a number of citizens and police officers and which resulted in looting of businesses and the destruction by fire of many properties. Racial tensions were high and animosities, distrust, and despair were common.

… Over [the next] 30 and the years hence, the mission of the House of Peace has evolved with the felt necessities of the times.

The core mission has been focused and stable: assisting those with basic subsistence needs. This mission is based on the gospel message of Matthew 25: 31…The House of Peace has always been a place where those who are blessed with more than they need have shared with those who have less than they need whether the need be food, clothing, emergency financial assistance, nursing assistance, a shoulder to cry on or a friend to lean on. The House of Peace has ever been a place of help.”

“The roots of St Ben’s Community Meal are found in the hearts of Michael and Nettie Cullen. In 1966, inspired by the philosophy of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker Movement, this Irish immigrant couple founded Casa Maria House, located about a mile from St Benedict the Moor Parish. Casa Maria’s purpose was to promote the practice of direct and personal sharing with the poor by receiving guests in their kitchen for a meal.

A growing number of men, women and children from the neighborhood joined them for this daily meal, and it rapidly outgrew their small space.  They were forced to seek larger quarters. In collaboration with Capuchin Alex Luzi and after much prayer and reflection, St. Ben’s Community Meal was moved to its current location on November 13, 1970.

From the beginning, there was a strong emphasis on the community aspect of the Meal. This was evidenced on two fronts. First, sponsor groups from a variety of faith communities, organizations and civic groups throughout the wider Milwaukee community committed to providing the Meal from Sunday through Friday evenings. Secondly, a sense of community and relationship was generated within the Meal Hall itself as sponsors, volunteers, guests, and staff came together to enjoy a nutritious meal in an environment of hospitality and safety.”

Now over forty-some years later, St Ben’s and its many supporters continue to host the Community Meal, with accommodations made to persevere during the pandemic. On-site meals has resumed on Wednesdays, and Ben’s will continue to prepare meals to support the nutrition needs of people in shelter and neighboring supported housing locations, via delivery.

In addition to the Community Meal, Saint Ben’s Open Door ministry operates a free laundromat, a shower program, barber shop (dependent on volunteer barbers), help with drug prescriptions, and access to resources via its social workers.


Education and Involvement

Please join us for a “Justice Orientation” and Mass to be held at the Capuchin Community Services site of St. Ben’s Community Meal. This experience will be facilitated by Brother Jerry Smith and will be held on Tuesday, June 22. To sign up and to receive more details, please email Laura Hancock at

Prayer Requests

  • We ask for prayers for emotional healing, and/or that we form ourselves to be emotional healers and helpers. Even as we honor the service and the suffering and challenges endured in hospitals and among care providers, first responders, and public health officials, we also turn to God for help bearing all the ways life has been impacted by the pandemic. It has impacted our guests, who are missing the gift of community that our sites provide. It has impacted our staff, many if not most of whom have experienced direct personal loss. We have lost staff members, too. So we ask the Family of Four parishes to pray with and for us for the strength to endure these emotional burdens.
  • We pray for continued support from our donors.
  • For wisdom and direction, that God will reveal to us new ways forward, and help us day by day to see what are the challenges, what are the needs, and how to make the best choices in a dramatically changing environment.
  • Prayers for the strength to think in new ways.
  • Praying for a continued desire among the community to end homelessness.
  • Pray for a continued and growing desire to end the mental health crisis in the community and in the nation.

To Support this Community Ministry Connection

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