NEW YORK — A man who for more than three decades has provided his talents to improve the buildings of St. Francis Friends of the Poor, the residences for financially and mentally challenged New Yorkers, has been recognized with the HNP Francis Medal. The three friars who founded the ministry — John Felice, OFM, John McVean, OFM, and Thomas Walters, OFM — presented the medal to Robert Ascione on Feb. 22.
Ascione has been the architect of record for St. Francis Friends of the Poor, the organization that built and runs the residences and sometimes “the hotels,” for 34 years, said John Felice.
“He oversaw the designs of Residence II and Residence III and worked tirelessly for the past four and a half years getting the installation of our new elevator at Residence III,” John added. “He has been a regular help with navigating the complex regulations of the NYC Building Department.
“Unlike most architects who charge for a percentage of the job, he only charged us by the hour as needed,” John added. “He has been a real friend to John, Tom and me, and we felt he deserved the Francis Medal for all his years of generosity and kindness.”
The friars presented the medal to Ascione during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the elevator at Residence III. Also present was Stephen Mimnaugh, OFM, director of service and advocacy for St. Francis of Assisi Parish on West 31st Street and a member of the SFFP board, and the contractors and elevator installation staff.
“Bob, who runs his own company, was deeply touched when he found out that the real reason for the ribbon cutting was awarding him the medal,” said John. “We had the ribbon cutting at 11 a.m. because Holt, the construction company for the project, was giving the tenants a free Chinese lunch that day for their great patience and support while the elevator was being built. Holt said they wished every project was as cooperative as ours.”
“When I gave Bob the medal, I told him he helped create a home for some very special people,” said John Felice. “There are 255 men and women who live in the three residences.”
The non-profit organization St. Francis Friends of the Poor oversees three residences that provide a “humane and dignified home for street people, the mentally disabled and dependent people who have suffered years of personal and institutional neglect,” according to the SFFP website.
The first St. Francis Residence was opened in 1980. It was the first of its kind to offer a comprehensive solution to the problem of homelessness — permanent housing with supportive services. All three residences, which are on Manhattan’s west side, provide lodging as well as meals.
“Every tenant lives in his or her own room, sharing a bathroom down the hall with four others. The rooms are, like everything else in the residences, bright and clean. The wood furniture is basic and sturdy and does not look institutional,” according to the SFFP website.
The Holy Name Province Francis Medal was established in 1998 by John Felice when he was provincial minister. Recipients are people who display an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the ideals and values of St. Francis. Over the past few months, the medal has been presented to parishioners of St. Camillus Parish in Silver Spring, Md., as well as to an employee of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston and the director of Francis House in Camden, N.J.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.
- “Graffiti Artist Paints Mural on NYC’s St. Francis Residence” — Sept. 17, 2015, HNP Today
- “John Felice Celebrates 50 Years as a Friar” — Feb. 27, 2013, HNP Today
- “John McVean Celebrates 50 Years as a Friar” — Feb. 29, 2012, HNP Today