Fr. Frank Mann of the Brooklyn Diocese has an unusual ministry: he seeks to serve the artists community in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick. Over the years he has been instrumental in guiding young women experiencing troubled pregnancies who were considering abortion to give birth to their babies.
How did it all start?
Fr. Mann, who dabbles in art, had a studio in the same building as other artists in the neighborhood. One day, while sitting at his laptop in a coffee shop he overheard 2 women talking: one of them was saying that her boyfriend was trying to force her to have an abortion. Fr. Mann then introduced himself and counseled the young woman not to have the abortion. Word spread that Father offered a listening ear and he was able to intervene in over 30 similar situations over the course of the past 5 years.
Many of the artists were from out of the City but migrated to the street art and gallery atmosphere in Bushwick. Some were addicted to drugs and needed addiction counseling. The COVID-19 pandemic made life harder as many artists lost their day jobs or gallery spaces and moved back home, many back to the Midwest.
Several times Fr. Mann was called to talk to would-be suicides and was able to talk them out of it. Once a young woman was sitting on a rooftop ledge: she wanted Father to sit on the ledge with her but he said, ‘No way,’ since he is afraid of heights. Instead he said, “Give me your hand,’ and was able to bring her to safety.
From a young age, Fr. Mann has cared about animals and is now an ardent animal welfare advocate. He tries to stir the flame of caring and compassion in whatever way he can. Even though most of the artists and their friends are not overtly religious they do have a sense of the sacred and have compassion for other people and for animals.
Fr. Mann is also a big fan of Albert Schweitzer, the physician, philosopher and humanitarian who spent his life healing the sick in Africa. Schweitzer, who believed that a society crumbles when it loses a respect for life, has been a big influence in his life.
One of Fr. Mann’s current projects is a children’s book he’s written called, ‘The Wounded Butterfly,’ which is about a boy who befriends a caterpillar that inevitably turns into a butterfly. It speaks of a wonder at the beauty of all creation and seeks to engender a sense of the sacredness of life among its young readers. He hopes to find a publisher soon.
For more about Fr. Mann and his ministry see the article: “Priest Has Ministry to Street Artists Who are Transforming Neighborhood,” by Ed Wilkinson, February 27, 2017, Catholic News Service.