Hi my name is Ricky Ferrer. I arrived in Philly both excited and anxious because of the unknown that is before me. St. Francis Inn was founded by three Franciscan brothers who came to Philly, the city of Brotherly Love, to see the need for ministry in the area and how they can respond with God’s love.
Arriving in the streets of Kensington back in August was almost a shocker to me. Yes, I have seen what drugs can do, what mental illness can do to a person, what homelessness, hunger, loneliness, and being forgotten looks like. But I have never felt it until I walked the streets of Kensington and saw the faces of our brothers and sisters who are forgotten, abandoned, and simply being passed by and judged for the situation they are in.
I have seen and dealt with many of these situations that I have mentioned when I lived and worked in San Jose. After work, I would drive 15 minutes to go home and I was somewhat disconnected from the ministry.
Here, in Philadelphia, I wake up and see people outside our doorsteps sleeping. I have a small room on the second floor on the street side of the house, a blanket, a pillow, a fan, a shared bathroom that I can access when I want and when I need. But as I go out for the day to go to morning prayer and Mass, God has constantly reminded me to be grateful, as I see our brothers and sisters soaking wet, huddled with a simple box and or a blanket and trying to get a snooze while worrying about their items if they get stolen, or if someone will stab them, or randomly shoots at them with a bb-gun.
Reflecting on their plight makes me sick to my stomach thinking about how many things I have accumulated throughout the years – how many jackets I have in my closet, how many times I simply did not say thank you for the simple gifts that I received and blessings that were entrusted on me.
One of my joys is to cook for my family and friends. Not as a professional cook, but just someone who enjoys bringing people together and speaking the same language at the dinner table – FOOD. At the table, the guests are able to enjoy a simple meal and connect with each other.
One day, I was assigned to be the Maître d’. The Maître d’ ensures that all guests are seated and served, answers any questions, and addresses potential problems that might arise. As I was standing and looking around I witnessed a great image of LOVE. Due to covid when we place the food on the table and they decide to do a vegetarian meal we cannot take back the served food. So what the guests do is they offer it to the other person at their table or the next table. Same thing with desserts, or bottled water or simply when they go to the back for their give away – they take what is being given away and they give it to the next person in line. Those who have none are giving what little they might have.
As simple as food they speak the same language in the dining hall. Some are people who outside of the four walls of the Inn are enemies, but when they step inside the gate there is peace. Similar to when Francis visited the Sultan. They may not have been best of friends or have converted the other, but they were two children of God – simply being.
Seeing such gestures and moments makes my heart just want to burst into praise unto God. For even now – He still continues to send His son through the power of the Holy Spirit and work through the hearts of His people, it gives me joy. As complicated or as simple food can be, with all of its ingredients – when put together just enough of each – it transforms into something wonderful!
Though it was bittersweet leaving what was familiar to me and my comfort zone in San Jose, saying yes to God is never easy and it comes with sacrifice. LOVE is sacrifice, but what comes with it is abundant love, joy, and peace. I left my family, friends, and co-ministers but God has gifted me with a new addition to family, friends, and co-ministers. God gave me an opportunity to grow both mentally and spiritually in this new ministry outside of my comfort zone. God equipped me even before I knew I would be here at this moment of time. Everything that I have done and learned was a preparation for a ministry. Though this is just one step and one of the stops on this journey – it has been filled with Love, Joy, Peace, Hope, Sadness, and Heartbreaks/aches, and God has always been in those moments with me. Sharing the cross with him. Breaking bread and word with people whom He also has called to this vineyard – Brothers, Ordained, and Lay Ministers.
It amazes me how transformative Love is. A quote that I love from St. Maximilian Kolbe, “Love Alone Creates,” I am trying to live my life through the Love of Christ in the footsteps of Brother Francis and echoing it out into the world and especially to this small patch of the vineyard that God has called me to be in. I pray that this gives you a glimpse of LOVE lived in service and what we the FVM, the Friars, and other Lay Ministers have been called to do. May Christ teach you what is yours.
Happy New Year!
Ricky Ferrer, Philadelphia FVM ’21-’22