There were many good reasons to commit to spending a year as an FVM at St. Francis Inn, including serving those in need, opportunities for spiritual and personal growth, and experiencing community life. And don’t get me wrong, I am deeply grateful for all of those things, but what has stood out to me as I reflected on the past half-year is just how many wonderful people I have met.
Following pandemic-induced isolation these past few years, I am acutely aware of how important it is for us to have meaningful friendships and relationships with others. The people around us enrich our lives immeasurably. They influence how we see the world, they bring color and excitement to our daily activities, they open us up to new ideas and possibilities, and in some cases, they can even become a part of ourselves.
This year I have been blessed to meet some truly wonderful people who have provided all of this and more!
Perhaps most notable are the relationships I have formed with my FVM community. I feel a deep bond with Kacey, Dan, and Ricky. While there are occasionally small disagreements to be sorted out, we are all committed to living together in peace and love and having a great time while doing it. And we do! But beyond the “superficial” elements of our shared commitment to community life, we also support and accompany each other in personal and deeply meaningful ways. I realized fairly early this year that I genuinely love them, not because of some feeling of obligation, but because of who they are and what they mean to me. I am also very proud of their accomplishments this year and am grateful that I get to be a part of their journeys here at the Inn. I’m also really grateful to have formed bonds with the Durham FVMs, Brooke and Marissa, and Brothers Brian and JP who are spending their post-novitiate year at St. Francis Inn alongside us.
Speaking of the Inn, there could be a novel, a documentary, and a TV series made about this place and that would still only scratch the surface of the rich tapestry of personalities that make St. Francis Inn what it is. Some of the team members here already live in FVM infamy, like a certain Michael Duffy. But he’s hardly alone. He and his comedic adversaries Sisters Mary and Leslie will fill heaven with raucous laughter, as long as creative insults and put-downs are fair game in God’s paradise. Brother Fred is a man of many gifts, not least of which is his ability to remind you, on those inevitable days when you feel gloomy, that life really is fabulous. As for Paul, not only is he a soulful homilist, he’s also an experienced and agile yogi and deeply down-to-earth dude. And I could go on and on.
I find the stories of some of the Inn’s lay staff particularly inspiring. Karen left her law career to devote herself to the Inn’s ministry, and has touched so many people through her gruff but ultimately very compassionate style of relating to others. “Boston Mike” is another person who left behind comfort and success in order to be fully available to help those in need. It never gets old when I ask him how he’s doing and he reliably responds, with total sincerity, “totally awesome.” Talk about a positive attitude! Kaitlin has incredible amounts of energy and enthusiasm, which she generously pours out to guests and volunteers rain or shine.
St. Francis Inn is blessed with many wonderful volunteers who either come and stay with us for several nights or live in Philly and help us on a weekly basis. It feels like every day there is a unique group of people working together to make the meal happen. It’s been fun getting to know some of our overnight and regular weekly volunteers and learning about their lives. There are so many interesting people from various walks of life who have come through to help out, including several former FVMs who always are especially engaging to connect with.
And of course, there are countless individuals who pass through our doors each day to relax and eat a meal. Getting glimpses into their lives and connecting with some of them is arguably the most important thing I’ve mentioned so far, and certainly, this opportunity was part of what drew me to the Inn. What I wasn’t necessarily expecting was that I’d also meet such a wonderful and fascinating group of people who make this ministry possible and that these people would quickly come to occupy such a special place in my heart.
Mikey, Philly FVM ’21-’22