CAMDEN, N.J. — On the feast of St. Francis, the friar community of St. Anthony of Padua Parish recognized Susan Piliro for her Franciscan spirit and her ministry to those in need.
Karl Koenig, OFM, who celebrated his 50th anniversary of profession this year, presented the HNP Francis Medal to Piliro, director of Francis House, the AIDS ministry site in Camden that closed this summer after 19 years of service. Hugh Macsherry, OFM, said in his homily on Oct. 4 that “Sue’s ministry offered fraternal companionship to others in the same spirit in which St. Francis lived and ministered, a companionship that everyone deserves from our creation.” Sue’s family and members of the Francis House community attended the Mass and presentation.
Piliro, a Secular Franciscan, is “especially worthy of the honor” of receiving the medal, said Hugh, pastor of St. Anthony Parish. Nearly 20 years ago, she and fellow OFS members decided to reach out to the lepers of their time, those infected or affected by HIV/AIDs. Francis House began as “a ministry of presence in the basement of St. Anthony of Padua Church and eventually became a full-time personal ministry for Sue, who continued at Francis House until its recent closing.”
“With a truly Franciscan charism,” Piliro reached out to people “where they were, not turning away anyone,” said Hugh. “Much of her time was dedicated to sharing people’s stories around a meal. At the same time, she coordinated health seminars and social support networks, and would advocate for her people’s housing or health care.”
Piliro’s personal experience inspired her commitment. Her brother died of AIDS. Coming from a family touched by the virus, she reached out to those who were also affected by it.
Francis House closed in July after 19 years of service to the community. This summer, a member of the Province’s Franciscan Volunteer Ministry described the impact that “seeing Sue’s ministry for all it was” had on him.
The Holy Name Province Francis Medal was established in 1998 by then-Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM. Recipients are people who have displayed an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the ideals and values of St. Francis.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Camden AIDS Ministry, a Longtime Sanctuary for Many, is Closing” — June 15, 2015, Philadelphia Inquirer
- “Friars Celebrate Silver Anniversary of Franciscan Volunteer Ministry” – Aug. 8, 2014, HNP Today
- “Nuns on the Bus Visit Camden’s Student Leaders” – June 5, 2013, HNP Today