Everyday a member of the Saint Francis community goes out to various stores to pick-up donations of bread, cakes, etc. I was fortunate to go out on pick-ups today with Father Michael Duffy, OFM, the director of Saint Francis Inn. Father Michael is a native of Ashland, NH and a graduate of Saint John's Prep in Danvers, MA and Boston College. It was such a great opportunity to ask him questions, chat him up, and to get to know him better. I already knew that he was the homilist at the funeral of Father Mychal Judge, OFM, the friar who perished in the World Trade Center attacks (he was the first official casualty of that day) but I didn't know how or why he was chosen. It took me a while to bring it up because I wasn't sure if it was an emotional thing for him. But I finally did and loved the story.
Father Mychal's funeral was the first one after 9/11 and was attended by President and Mrs. Clinton, and celebrated by Cardinal Edward Egan (the former archbishop of New York). There were 3,000 people in attendance and TV's were set up outside the church for those who could not get a seat. The Mass was broadcasted around the world on CNN. Franciscans have a custom where they leave behind a set of "instructions" for their funeral - their choice of celebrant, the homilist, the music, etc. Father Mychal had instructed that Father Michael Duffy say the homily (much to his surprise when his provincial called him on September 12). He tried to back out saying someone of more importance should say the homily but the provincial insisted, "But he wanted you to say it." Father Michael said he got letters and notes from people all over the world after that, including one from a woman in India who said he moved her to tears. He calls if one of the two great moments when the Holy Spirit was at work (the other was when he decided to apply for the Franciscans). You can read the homily here.
Later over a quick lunch at a WaWa in New Jersey (on our way to our final pick-up) Father Michael and I were chatting about Manchester and I mentioned our new bishop, Bishop Libasci. He said, "Oh yeah, he was the altar boy at Father Bill's first Mass." Father Bill DeBiase, OFM is a friar here at Saint Francis Inn and was ordained a priest in 1965 in Queens (Bishop Libasci would have been 14!). How cool is that?
I came across this article on one of the full-time volunteers here, Karen Pushaw. It tells the story of how she left a lucrative law career and way of life to devote her self to Saint Francis Inn, pretty powerful. You can read there article here.
There are so many other stories to share but we're about to jump on the subway and head into town. More to come...