I think there are a variety of identities we all assume in our personal lives. Some of my identities include being a son, brother, cousin, and nephew. This past August I became a member of the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry (FVM), alongside my fellow community members David, Deaynna and Liam. One of the highlights of my time in FVM to date is that we as a community participated in a Christmas adopt-a-family program, which helps bring presents to kids in need. This was a huge project for us and it involved matching families in need who applied to the program with some of the generous donors who wanted to get involved with this program. These donors bought gifts for the kids and either delivered the gifts to the family or brought them to us, for us to give to the family. Other donors sent us money to purchase gifts and we then shopped for and delivered gifts to the families. Delivering the gifts to the families was a wonderful experience. The families were very grateful and the kids were absolutely precious. There are many moments from our interactions with families that I’ll never forget. An example of a memorable moment occurred when a toddler asked us who we were when we came to drop off gifts and we told him we were Santa’s elves, which I guess was another identity we took on for the time being. Thinking about the families we met through the adopt-a-family program made me reflect on how lucky I am to be a member of a loving, supportive family. I never really thought about this until recently but I’m so thankful to all my family members and all they do for me. Of course I get frustrated with my family occasionally but all things considered, I love being a son, brother, cousin and nephew for my family. Outside of my biological family, I am fortunate to be part of the Saint Francis Inn family, the Franciscan run soup kitchen where my fellow community members and I minister. A beloved guest of the Inn once told me that we are family to her. I was honored and flattered by this. From my understanding, this also isn’t the first time the Inn has been family for someone! Although it’s sad to say, some people don’t have many blood relatives or have fallen out of touch with their family. However, they know they can always come to the Inn and find love and acceptance here, which is what the Inn strives to bring to people, besides a hot meal.
Although I’m very grateful to be part of the Inn, ministering at the Inn was very difficult for me at first. When I first arrived in the Kensington area of Philadelphia, where the Inn is located, my sense of belonging was basically nonexistent. Once my community members and I all arrived, we had to quarantine with each other for two weeks before we could minister to others at the Inn. After we finished quarantine and started ministering at the Inn, we joined a team of friars, nuns and laypeople who all already knew each other, many for years. My fellow community members and I were by far the youngest members of the team (sorry guys) and I wondered and worried about how and even if we would fit into the workplace dynamic in our new work environment. It can be difficult and particularly nerve wracking to acclimate oneself to a new team. On the other hand, it can also be difficult to accept new team members after all the rest of the members have had ample time to work alongside each other and build up team chemistry. It felt awkward interacting with my new co-ministers initially and I didn’t immediately feel like I belonged here. I didn’t know what to say to my team members, what their interests were or frankly even how to start a conversation with them. My sense of belonging was challenged at this point in time. However, I eventually began to love these people, after ministering alongside them for almost six months now. Serving with them has helped me get to know them and develop bonds with them. Now, I feel comfortable enough in the workplace that I can easily laugh and share silly jokes with them without thinking twice about it. This type of lightheartedness that I have been able to share with my co-ministers has strengthened my sense of belonging at the Inn. I went from a kid who felt misplaced in a new city, and questioned what he was doing at times, to a fully accepted team member. Initially, it was challenging to acclimate myself to a new workplace where I didn’t know if I felt like I belonged. However now since I have gotten past the awkward initial phase, I have found love and acceptance at the Inn (this probably isn’t the first time someone has said that), and feel like I truly belong in the Inn crowd.
Trevor Carney, FVM Philadelphia 2020-2021