As the father of three and the husband of a wonderful wife, I sometimes find it hard to leave home for trips such as the one to Philadelphia. But once I am here, I feel so much at home and so much at peace. The thing I love most about St. Francis Inn is the community. There are four groups of people who live and work here:
1. Seven Friars
2. Two religious sisters
3. Four laypeople
4. Four Franciscan Volunteers
The groups all live in separate row houses on East Hagert Street, right next to St. Francis Inn. Three friars came to Philadelphia in 1979 and began St. Francis Inn a year later. They came here to start a ministry but unsure what to do, they lived among the people of the neighborhood to see what they needed. They discovered that the people here did not need a church, they need the gospel lived among them. From here, St. Francis Inn was born. The director, New Hampshire native Fr. Michael Duffy, OFM, arrived 26 years ago and the most recent addition is Fr. Steven Patti, OFM. The sisters arrived over 20 years ago as did two of the laywomen, Barbara Salapek and Karen Pushaw. Both Barbara and Karen were volunteers and they decided to stay on as team members. In Karen's case, she left behind a prestigious job at a law firm and an amazing condo to live and work here among the poor. The other two laypeople are Judy Stachecki and Kevin Cilano. Kevin was a volunteer here like Karen and Barbara but decided to stay on as a team member last fall.
The Franciscan Volunteers are a group of post-college graduates who commit 1-2 years of living, praying, and working in community in a Franciscan ministry. There are three local volunteer communities here - Philadelphia, Wilmington, DE, and Camden, NJ. There are four young people who are working at St. Francis Inn this year. I must confess that I am envious of them, I really wish I did something like that when I graduated from college!
While Fr. Michael is the director and this is a ministry of the friars, there is no hierarchy here or pretense among the team and volunteers. One person serves as the coordinator each day and everyone defers to that person, no matter how junior they are. They each take turns with the responsibilities and they get two days off a week.
They have an amazing life and while they don't have much materially, they are the happiest and most amazing people I have ever encountered. This is faith.