Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter at Saint Francis Inn was definitely a new experience for me but also for the Team. With 483 guests in attendance at the meal on Sunday, everyone was surprised by the number, everyone was scrambling to put meals together, and everyone was rejoicing in the resurrection! I was on deliveries during the meal but each time I returned to the Inn the yard seemed more crowded and as we let the last guests in to eat at 1:20 (twenty minutes after the gate closed), I was able to enjoy the busy-ness of the meal and really make the connection between the Easter season and the work I am doing.
During the Easter Vigil homily, Fr. Pat (an import from Camden) shed new light on the resurrection of Jesus and how it is THE source of our hope. We have hope in our daily lives because Jesus wasn't in the tomb that Sunday morning two thousand years ago. As I thought more about this, I realized how intrinsic hope is in all humans and I firmly believe that our guests still possess hope. I find hope reflected in their unending determination to continue to live by simply seeking food and nourishment. My thought is that if their hope was lost they would not continue to do activities that would keep them alive. And honestly, I believe that each smile, each hug, each tear even, is a sign of hope, a sign that they still find joy or even that they're being affected by their surroundings and know that it's not the only thing out there.
This new twist on Easter has really enabled me to translate that hope to others, to see the light at the end of their darkness, and to continue to hope myself that things will get better and that hopefully one day Saint Francis Inn will no longer need to be open.
In other news, things have been really busy around here. Since Easter, we've had a lot going on between community activities and visitors! My aunt and uncle from Massachusetts came down Thursday night to work at the Inn! The same night they arrived, the Team went on retreat! We've been working like dogs around here but it's been really fun! After the meal on Friday my aunt, uncle and I went downtown to do some touristy things like the Liberty Bell, City Hall, LOVE Park and just to see the area. It was a great afternoon out! We returned and had Chinese food and played games with my housemates!
Saturday was great! I coordinated the meal with 337 guests and no problems! I think the guests know when the Team is gone and therefore behave for us. My wonderful aunt and uncle took Emily and I out for dinner, ice cream, and a movie (21, highly recommended)! And today I had the day off so we went downtown again to do some shopping and some more historical site-seeing! We came back and rested for awhile then went for cheesesteaks and water ice, two Philadelphia classics! It's been so incredible having them here to share in my life and ministry like few others have, it'll be really sad to see them go!
In other exciting news, Fred and Flo (the retired couple) returned to us for a couple weeks while their house in Prince Edward Island thaws out from the vicious winter the northeast experienced!!! It's been so great having them back!!!
Okay, I think that should be all for now. I hope everything is going well for you all! God bless!

Friday, March 21, 2008

Some pictures...

I said I'd post some pictures a long time ago and never did it so here are some from the wedding and a couple to give you an idea of the beauty that was at the Flower Show!

The Bridal Party!!!

Me, my brother and my cousin, Kim!

At the ceremony!

This is INSIDE at the Flower Show!!!

I remind you, INSIDE!!!


Much like my experience with Advent and the Christmas season, Lent has taken on a lot more meaning for me. Actually participating in mass (planning, etc) and in such an intimate setting really doesn't permit one to escape into their own world during the celebrations.
Previously, Lent has meant a time of sacrifice and suffering. It does parallel Jesus' walk to Calvary, which was not full of fun and good times, but the reasoning for His walk to Calvary is far more than just to suffer on the cross. The more I think about Lent and how God created Jesus as the human person, the more I realize the all-encompassing power and love of God. And for the first time, this Lent I saw that God reaches out to us, wants us to love Him, and to at least try to understand His love for us, and so by sacrificing His only Son so that we may know His love, I can't help but be overwhelmed and feel unworthy. Okay, I know this was not His intent, but it's just one of those things that, thankfully, I'll never be able to fully grasp.
So, do I think I could've prayed more, fasted more, given more? Absolutely. But the way I see this Lent was for me to be made aware of the true meaning of Lent, not just my previously naive perception of this incredibly beautiful and powerful season. The revelations I had during this Lent will allow me to better understand and live out future Lenten seasons but also to incorporate this humility and grace in my daily life, an effort to live my life more intentionally and graciously than I previously have.
It has been really good to finally get into the swing of things back at the Inn since our retreat! It's really hard to venture back into "reality" after having such a peaceful break but I think we were all ready to jump back in! I was at the thrift store on Monday with very few issues, well, none, actually. I had physical therapy Tuesday morning and then again Thursday morning. During my Thursday appointment between Kim (my physical therapist) and I, we decided that my knee has gotten way better! I don't know that this means running is anywhere in my future, but I'm really excited that it doesn't hurt to walk down the stairs anymore! Next week will be my last week of PT and then I'll go back to the doctor for a check-up.
The meals have been going fairly smoothly recently, except for a couple isolated incidents of crazy men, one of which was threatening Karen, the other that urinated on a door of the Inn and was claiming that he wasn't given juice when he was holding 2 empty juice boxes in his hands. But really, it's those people and events that make each meal a bit more exciting and cause us to take a step back and laugh.
And one final thing before I sign off for today, my mom sent me a link to a website It is a resource of all the local farms in your area. It has a Community Share Program where you pay a share each week and you get fresh, local-grown fruits, vegetables, meats, eggs, dairy, etc. Not only do you get fresh food handed to you, but you are also supporting the local farmers in your area!!! My community is working out a way to get involved and the local one in Philadelphia actually donates all their extra produce to Saint Francis Inn! It's very exciting, I suggest that you at least take a look!
Happy Easter to you and your families! May the death and resurrection of Jesus be a reminder to you of God's incredible love for all of us! God bless!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Back in the saddle again

Since I haven't written since last week (such a long time!), I guess I have much to catch up on!
Karen took Maureen and I to the Flower Show in Philadelphia Thursday night. Now before you say anything, let me say that I didn't think it was going to be my cup of tea either but it was absolutely beautiful! Dinner with the Michaelson's was wonderful! We went out to a restaurant by Villanova and had a delicious dinner! Saturday was a busy day because we worked the meal then I had to get some last minute things for the Steward's Ball we went to Saturday night... mainly a dress. One of our volunteers, Jim, worked for a union and they host a ball every year to celebrate their work and achievements and every year Jim invites the FVMs! We had so much fun and were able to dance and eat delicious food! (there was a chocolate fountain involved!)
Sunday we worked the meal and left right after to head north for retreat! It was such an amazing week of relaxation and ...sleep. The beauty of Mount Irenaeus (the retreat house) is that it's just so far from civilization that the only thing that seemed to bother us were the millions of ladybugs that plagued the house... although they weren't too harmful. We had a couple of speakers on Catholic Social Teaching as well as simplicity and were able to just spend the rest of the time as we chose. Mostly we all chose sleep... which was much-needed by all of us! We spent lots of time with Fr. Michael as well which is just recipe for a good time! The girls and I think that he's finally comfortable with us and so all the way up and all the way back we were all singing and dancing in the car, so much fun!
So now I'm back in Philadelphia. I was on pickups today with some students from Eastern Illinois State College so I still haven't really gotten the chance to "be back to work" but was definitely grateful for the ease at which I've been able to re-acclimate to the hustle-and-bustle. While I don't feel entirely ready to embark again on another 4 months of ministry, I'm excited to be back and am happy to be back with my Philadelphia family!
I hope and pray that all is going well with you! Have a great weekend and Happy Palm Sunday! (okay, maybe happy isn't the right word, but celebrate!)

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Home sweet home...

As I told you, I went home last weekend to visit my mom and dad as well as to catch up with college friends! I landed in Manchester at 4:45pm, ate a quick dinner at home, then went to the Spring Break Alternative mass at Saint Anselm College... Little did I know that so many of my friends from college were going to be at the mass! As I looked around the lower church, I saw familiar faces and it felt like the old days! It's so hard to believe that a year ago I was sitting in those pews, anxious for my own trip to... Philly!!! It's kind of funny how life turns out, isn't it?
When I think back to almost two years ago when I was awaiting the verdict of if and where I was going to be leading Spring Break Alternative for my final year at Saint A's. The fateful night when I went into the office and was told that I was going to Philadelphia, I must admit I was a bit disappointed. I was hoping to head to Honduras or South Dakota, after all, I'd already been to Philly on an Urban Immersion (a weekend service trip) and was hoping for a completely different experience. As the year progressed, I got more and more excited about going to Philadelphia all the while wishing deep down that I was going to Central America. When I got into the van to head down here last year, I finally became excited. As my week progressed, I fell in love with the work I was doing here. I talked to the Franciscan Volunteer Ministry program director and she gave me an application and strongly encouraged me to apply.
The more I thought about it while I was here and after I got home, the more I saw myself spending a year in Philadelphia. One of the funny things about SBA is that after we return from a trip, most everyone wants to return to their site so I made a valiant attempt to give myself some time removed from the site to better make a decision regarding the next year in my life. But as time passed, I wanted nothing more than to return. I felt as if God was calling me to serve in Philadelphia, or at the very least, with Franciscan Volunteer Ministry!
You might be asking why I am talking about this now, almost 7 months after I began my year in Philly. When I was at home, surrounded by the insanity of SBA at Saint A's, I couldn't help but feel so grateful for the program and for all it has done for me. Had I not come to Philadelphia last year for Spring Break Alternative, I'm not entirely sure that I'd be where I am today and that is so hard for me to imagine.
I often question God and His path for me; I wonder why I'm doing what I am or why things don't always work out exactly how I wanted them to, but reflecting on the past year, my faith in God has increased and it challenges me to trust Him more and surrender to His will more. It's not easy by any means, but it's a work in progress.
My time at home was wonderful!!! I got to spend a lot of time with my family and some time with friends, which is exactly what I wanted! Although I didn't want to leave home, I was rested enough to return to the grind back here in Philly, at least until we go on retreat on Sunday! This week we said goodbye to Karen and Mike, a couple from New Zealand that arrived in the States around the same time we did to work with us for 6 months. It was so sad to see them go, but we all recognize how much of a blessing they were to us. Tonight my dad is taking the three of us out for dinner, and Friday night, the Michaelsons will be treating us to dinner!!! We have a very busy and exciting week ahead of us, but we're keeping our eyes on Sunday afternoon!
I pray that you all have faith in God's journey for you and that you are able to trust that He will lead you where you need to go. God bless!