Monday, September 19, 2011


Br. Martin Joseph Fragala, CFC was a founding member of the Volunteer Community and a full-time volunteer at Cafe Reconcile, on O. C. Haley Boulevard in New Orleans,  from 2007 until his untimely death in 2010.  The work of Cafe Reconcile appealed to him immediately, enabling him to pursue two passions: educating at-risk young people and preparing good food!  A scholarship fund in his name continues our link with this mission that is an example of Edmund Rice's charism at work in our time.

The mission of Cafe Reconcile is stated on their website:  "We are a community of concerned people committed to addressing the system of generational poverty, violence and neglect in the New Orleans area. Our innovative life skills and job training program assists young people (ages 16–22) from severely at-risk communities who desire to make a positive change in their lives. Reconcile’s students arrive facing a vast array of challenges, from extreme poverty and high school attrition to homelessness, violence, and participation in the juvenile justice system. Nonetheless, these young people possess a deep desire to break the cycle and become productive, contributing members of society. "

Br. Joe with Catherine Drennan, a volunteer during 2009-2010.  They are at Cafe Reconcile.
 Joe loved the students and kept a small notebook with the names of each student who signed on for the now 9 week course which educates the students in applying for jobs, working the kitchen and working the floor as wait staff.  He arrived early in the morning for breakfast and prayers, worked along side students and staff rolling tableware in paper napkins, circulating among the lunch patrons selling the dessert special of the day, and listening to staff and students and the stories of their life journeys.   As someone said:  "For some students, he was the only adult who ever listened to them and cared for them and asked nothing in return."

Shortly after celebrating his Golden Jubilee with a vow renewal and reception at Cafe Reconcile,  Br. Joe traveled north to visit family and friends in Schenectady, New York.  He died suddenly in early July 2010, an enormous loss to this community and the mission at Reconcile.  A scholarship fund was begun in his name, and recently Br. Charles Avendano represented the community at the graduation for 18 graduates.  The two scholarship recipients, Cuvanna Smith and Jasmine Cheneau, received checks for  $250 to pursue further educational opportunities.

Br. Joe on the left, a guest and Br. Charles on the right in the dining room at 4219 Constance.
 You can access Cafe Reconcile's website by typing in "Cafe Reconcile, New Orleans" on Google or whatever you use.  If you go to the cafe , Br. Joe's picture is on the wall there, as well as a pottery plaque presented to him by the Jesuit Province in recognition of his devotion to New Orleans and the mission of Cafe Reconcile.

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