That’s my church from birth. The most beautiful in Milwaukee. St. Anthony’s on the corner of 9th and Mitchell on Milwaukee’s near south side.
I was an alter boy there, a lector, and I continue to usher every Sunday as I have since 1970.
Let’s be honest. This gem of a place of worship is located right smack in the middle of a neighborhood that’s not very nice.
Winter seems to have arrived early this year meaning our church will become a magnet for, sad but true, folks who are not Sunday regulars and have that obvious look. Could I be more diplomatic?
Stationed in the year of the church, ushers need to calmly, respectfully intercept these individuals. Church doors are open to all. However, they cannot beg. They can’t hit people up for money.
Some then simply leave. Other say they won’t bother people, but then hang around and do pester parishioners.
Bravo for our pastor last Sunday who told those gathered in the pews not to give money to anyone inside or outside the church who begged, no matter the sob story. Instead, the good priest suggested they consider donations to organizations that work specifically to help these afflicted individuals.
His advice was reminiscent of the city of Milwaukee’s “Keep the Change” initiative. Signs popped up advising not to give money to panhandlers. The program encouraged donations to nonprofits that serve the homeless and other people in need.
“When you Keep the Change, you can help that person make a real change in his or her life,” according to the Milwaukee Common Council’s council’s website.
Milwaukee Alderman Terry Witkowski, who sponsored the initiative, encouraged residents to donate to charity instead of giving the money to a panhandler.
“Seventy percent of panhandlers are not homeless, according to the Milwaukee Police Department and the District Attorney’s Office,” Witkowski said.
Witkowski also noted there is no guarantee how panhandlers would spend the money. “Your money isn’t going where you think,” he said.
The initiative’s website recommended making contributions to 18 organizations that provide food, shelter or other services to people in need.
So our pastor’s words were spot on and good to hear.