St. Francis Inn Misconceptions

Rebecca Doel Around the Province

PHILADELPHIA — Despite 30 years of service to the community here, people still have misconceptions about St. Francis Inn — including who serves, who is served, and just what services are provided.

The April issue of The Pilgrim, the Inn’s newsletter, is dedicated to clearing up some of these common misconceptions, listed and described below.

St. Francis Inn primarily serves homeless, transient men. In fact, the majority of guests at the Inn are neighborhood senior citizens and families who have homes but cannot afford to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. According to The Pilgrim, numbers at the Inn reflect the time of the month; guests increase as time after payday passes and money gets tighter.

The Inn is run by friars. In 1979, Holy Name Province founded St. Francis Inn. Today, friars, Franciscan sisters and lay people run the Inn together as a team. The Pilgrim states, “Like in the model of the early Church, no one person is totally in charge but each is an integral part of the work and decision-making.” A volunteer might be meal coordinator one day and toilet cleaner the next. “All equal and equally important!”

Six Holy Name Province friars currently serve at the Inn. They are Michael Duffy, OFM, Fred Dilger, OFM, Xavier De La Huerta, OFM, William DeBiase, OFM, John Gill, OFM, and Patrick Sieber, OFM.

St. Francis Inn’s only ministry is to feed and clothe the needy. St. Francis Inn strives to nurture the physical as well as spiritual needs of those it serves, according to The Pilgrim. While it does feed and clothe the needy, its ministry does not end there. The Inn also provides one-on-one counseling and recovery programs. It emphasizes a ministry of presence — to guests and volunteers, who “learn the importance of the poor and the marginalized and their place in our faith as Christians.”

Since the ministry of the Inn goes beyond simply feeding guests, the dining room is not the only active place. At the office, guests can pick up mail delivered to the Inn — a service provided due to frequent address changes or fear of theft. They may also use the phone and send faxes with the assistance of a volunteer. While waiting in line in the Inn’s “yard,” guests and staff members visit with each other.

St. Francis Inn runs on government grants and church donations. The Inn relies on love to keep its doors open, according to The Pilgrim. “It is only through the grace of God and the generosity of our many donors and volunteers that we can accomplish this mission.” The Inn receives gifts of bread from area bakeries and stores and financial support from friends and patrons. These gifts allow the workers at the Inn to be able to serve their brothers and sisters in Christ, for which they are forever grateful.

Each month, The Pilgrim lists specific needs for donations at the Inn. This month, those needs are: coffee, sugar, 5-minute oatmeal, deodorant, travel-sized toothpaste, travel-sized shampoo, diapers (size 5 and 6), toilet paper, bathroom spray cleaner and prayers.

The Pilgrim is a monthly newsletter focusing on the work of four Philadelphia ministries: the Inn, Thea Bowman Women’s Center, St. Benedict’s Thrift Shop and St. Francis Urban Center.

St. Francis Inn, founded in 1979, depends on volunteers to function. As a way of saying thank you, the Inn is holding a volunteer appreciation day May 3. It will consist of liturgy at 3 p.m. in the chapel followed by a reception in the dining room.

—Rebecca Doel is coordinator of communications for Holy Name Province.