By Eli Pacheco

The peanut butter, jelly, and singalongs fly at St. Joseph’s Friary in Chicago every Tuesday night. 

Inside, you will find 11 friars-in-training, constructing sandwiches, talking, and singing together in a merry assembly line. The result: 100 peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches and 100 turkey-and-cheese sandwiches, ready for delivery at Above and Beyond Free Food Pantry.  

“We make 200 sandwiches, and they fly through them,” said Br. Phil McCarter, OFM, in his third year of post-novitiate formation. “We look forward to this delivery.” 

'How can we do more?’ 

Friars at St. Joe’s have been on sandwich duty for five years now, taking their lunchtime favorites to the nearby free grocery pantry. 

People turn to the friars for help with food and connections to resources in the city. The friars, in turn, try to do one better. 

“We ask, ‘How can we do more?’” said Br. Tyler Grudi, OFM, in his second year of post-novitiate formation. “Things like this come of discussions among the brothers, noticing the people in our area, and discerning what to do. Since this began, there have been new classes, and all have found this ministry to be fruitful.” 

Three men in their 20s and 30s smile as they make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches

The men of St. Joseph's Friary make 200 sandwiches every Tuesday night for their neighbors in Chicago. Here, Br. Jimmy Kernan, left, and Br. Daniel Cruz, right, make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. (Photo courtesy of Br. Joshua Richter)

Two young men smile as they make ham and cheese sandwiches

100 turkey-and-cheese sandwiches and 100 peanut butter sandwiches are delivered to Above and Beyond Free Food Pantry each week. Here, Br. Joshua Richter, left, and Br. Tyler Grudi, right, make turkey-and-cheese sandwiches. (Photo courtesy of Br. Joshua) 

It is fruitful – and in full blossom, in some cases. Br. Edgar Alberto, OFM, sought to bring a bit of beauty to this bagged lunch brigade. 

He worked out a deal with a local Trader Joe’s store to collect flowers that were beyond their sell-by date, but still beautiful. The friars distribute them to the people they help with food.  

“It instills dignity,” Br. Tyler said. “People need to be fed. Sometimes we forget they need other things, such as beauty. It is a reminder that they are appreciated.” 

It is Franciscans at their finest, finding ways to add a loving twist to a much-needed ministry. 

Whatever the need 

This young band of friars keeps busy. Some help at Kolby House Jail Ministry, which assists those who have recently been incarcerated with finding jobs and housing. Some offer English-language tutoring, a needed service with a growing number of migrants in Chicago. 

You can find friars sorting donations, heading coat drives – whatever the need. 

“The direct service was a draw for me and attracted me to the friars,” Br. Phil said. “Making sandwiches together is special. It is one thing to bond at dinner, and quite another when you are working together with service in mind.”