"What you receive as a gift, give as a gift,"
Jay Verzosa, Director of Campus Ministry - October 5, 2016
Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM would often say "What you receive as a gift, give as a gift," and so it has been one of the great blessings of my career in campus ministry to bring students to Saint Francis Inn Ministries in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. I first encountered the Inn as a student myself, on my first service trip, and over the years I have learned that while there are many good places that feed the hungry and homeless, there is no place like Saint Francis Inn.
A soup kitchen, Saint Francis Inn has served a meal every single day since it first opened in December 1979. There isn't a single day in the year when they're closed. The Inn serves men and women, young and old, children, and families who struggle with poverty and homelessness, and these days, the Inn serves about 350 meals a day. In addition to the soup kitchen, there is Marie's Closet, a clothing distribution center; Thea Bowman's Women's Center, which provides a safe and secure space for women; and Saint Francis Urban Center, which offers social services, including housing services and case management, for families and individuals.
Saint Francis Inn, in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, is all about community, a value lived out in everything they do, including the staff structure. Rather than a hierarchy of directors and assistant directors, or a president and vice-presidents, there is just The Team, a collaboration of Franciscan priests and brothers, Franciscan sisters, and lay people who have committed themselves to living in community and serving their fellow human beings. Also in the mix is the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry—a volunteer program for young adults, most of whom are recent college graduates, who commit to a year of service and living in intentional community.
Those who come to eat at Saint Francis Inn are referred to as "guests" -- in the same way that you would welcome guests into your home, the Inn's staff and volunteers welcome guests to Saint Francis Inn. The Franciscan friars live across the street from the Inn, the Franciscan sisters live right around the corner, and the lay team members and Franciscan Volunteer Ministers (FVMs) live a few doors down. Also across the street from the Inn, and next door to the friary, is All Saints, named after all the volunteers who have served at the Inn from its beginnings. In addition to housing the Women's Center and Marie's Closet, All Saints also has housing for volunteers who serve at the Inn over several days, including Rosemont's own Alternative Fall Break team.