I arrived at Saint Francis Inn around 7:30am today. I caught a 5:30am flight today out of Boston and landed in Philadelphia at 6:40am. Mr. Sheehan '79 picked me up at the airport and we got back to the house just as the kids were waking up and getting ready for the day. The group of nine students (all seniors) and Mr. Sheehan and Mrs. Trachim arrived here on Sunday and have really come together as a group. They love this place and have jumped right into the rhythm of prayer, service, and community.
The day begins at Saint Francis Inn with Mass at 8:30am in a chapel above the inn. The inn, which previously was a bar in which the owner was murdered, is a tad gritty but the chapel is quite pretty and a real oasis of prayer. The community gathers each morning to be fed with the Bread of Life so they in turn can feed others. The community here is a group of Franciscan friars, nuns, and lay women. During the school year there are five or six post-college graduates who spend a year living, praying, and working with the community here at Saint Francis Inn (one of the new volunteers coming in this academic year is Hayden Mitchell '09!). The director of the inn is Father Michael Duffy, OFM, a native of Ashland, NH. Father Michael proudly pointed out at Mass this morning that Ashland is equidistant to Massachusetts, Vermont, and Maine.
Following Mass everyone gets to work. Some go to the Saint Benedict's Thrift Shop which the inn runs, some do prep work for the meal of the day, some pass out coffee and donuts, and others go on pick-up to get the food donations for the inn. There is only one meal a day - dinner is served Mondays-Thursdays and lunch is served Fridays-Sundays. On Tuesdays-Thursdays, coffee and donuts are passed out from 10am-11am in the courtyard. The kids rotate the jobs they do each day and are paired up with a team member. My job today was to help with dinner prep, package bread, etc. Dinner was served at 4:30pm-6:00pm and during the meal you also have different tasks - serving the food, dishing it out, doing dishes, bussing tables, etc. Tonight the inn served over 360 people and the time flew by. I was teamed up with Michael Toomey '14 dishing out the food. Following dinner and clean-up we all headed back to the chapel for evening prayer and then back to our houses for dinner.
Father Michael stopped by our house tonight to talk to the kids about some of the people here so they can understand that they are not all bums or layabouts but rather people who were given a tough hand in life. For example, he spoke of a girl named Nikki whose mother kicked her out of the house when she was 12. Nikki's mother had a boyfriend who hated Nikki and he made the mother choose one or the other. She choose the boyfriend and Nikki roamed the streets as a drug addict and a prostitute until she died of a drug overdose in her 20's. He also spoke of a man named Danny who stepped on a landmine in the Vietnam War and after spending two plus years in the hospital, he got addicted to the pain medication and became a drug addict. Father Michael said that very well could have been him if he got drafted and sent to Vietnam. You could have heard a pin drop when Father Michael was telling the stories, the kids got it.
Tomorrow we do it all over again.
Right now we are all gathered in the living room chatting away. My bed is the couch and since I have been up since 2:45am I am secretly hoping everyone is inspired to go to bed soon! More to come...