Fr. Bob Mize’s Saint Francis Boys’ Home initiative, focused mostly on giving a home, unconditional love, and respect to boys who had been in jail, drew national attention. In December 1947, Time magazine featured him on its “Religion” page, labeling his work a Christian experiment that had sometimes drawn the ire of Ellsworth residents who were not quite as convinced about the possible redemption of the boys.
Here are a few tidbits from the article:
“Kansans were digging down as usual to give Mize the money he needs for his St. Francis Boys’ Home. Said one bank vice president wonderingly: “This man is Christlike, all right, but he’s a genius at raising money.”
“The cornerstone of Bob Mize’s method is to give delinquents a chance to mingle with normal society. St. Francis boys go to regular public school, and are encouraged to date local girls on Friday or Saturday nights. At the beginning, Ellsworth’s citizenry was skeptical of such free-wheeling, and they had apparent cause. Father Bob’s first bad boys practically took the town apart. Since then, things have changed. Twenty-one boys have been ‘honorably discharged’ without a single backslider so far.”
Ellsworth folks weren’t apparently fully behind the project, even then. Time quoted an attorney who said, “I think he might better do a little whipping out there than waste time having the kids bending marrow bones, pesterin’ the Lord.”
Fr. Mize did not agree.
“If I had to give up the spiritual side of the Home, I’d just as soon give it all up.” He emphasized forgiveness rather than discipline, Time reported.
“‘In the act of forgiveness,’ says Father Bob, ‘we have the most effective instrument for transformation of character . . . if you forgive a boy, his knowledge that he has done wrong is deeper and his penance is more sincere. . . ‘”