Franciscan Friars offer Christmas cheer at Northgate Mall

COLERAIN, OH (FOX19) - You expect the malls to be crowded during the holiday season, but it's who you will find in one Tri-State mall that might surprise you.

Nothing is sold at one particular store at the Northgate Mall, but Franciscan Friars are offering shoppers coffee, cookies, and even some Christmas cheer.

"Being a Christian, it makes me feel good when I see them and it's uplifting," Tina Cook.

"We're not of the Catholic faith but we think what they're doing here is just awesome," Michael Hale.

As shoppers browse for any last second gift ideas, Father Mark Soehner and his fellow Franciscan Friars are offering words of encouragement.

"They're able to take a break, sometimes folks are ready to talk about some deeper issues," Father Mark Soehner.

But why the mall?

"We want it to be out in the marketplace. A lot of people get afraid of church actually and so we thought we'd meet people where they live and typically that's the mall at Christmas time," Father Mark Soehner.

While there are some who aren't a fan of this practice, one shopper believes it's everyone's right to have an opinion.

"I have no problem with it but I know everybody in the world has an opinion so what one person might think is great, you're going to have somebody else say that's a bad idea," Michael Dreyling.

"I really think it helps us to really focus in on the season. It's a great way for them to sort of welcome and it's a nice way to relax when it's all the hustle and bustle of Christmas we really get to think about the true meaning of Christmas," Tina Cook.

It was proposed as somewhat of an experiment, but for many shoppers this turned out to be a big hit. Especially when the holidays can bring so much stress.

"There's a lot of people that need help like this and if they can touch one person's life and change one person's life and make a difference in that person, it's well worth them being here," Michael Hale.

This is the first year the friars are spreading the holiday spirit at this location, and the mall management graciously offered the storefront rental free of charge.

The mall ministry was open from Black Friday until Christmas Eve. Organizers say it was a big success and they'll look into doing it again in the future.

Copyright 2013 WXIX. All rights reserved.