Roderic Petrie, OFM and Emmet Murphy, OFM arrived in Philadelphia on September 23, 1977 to begin a new foundation for Holy Name Province. They came to Philadelphia to start a ministry with the poor. They did not have any specific details on how to do that when they first arrived. The Brothers of the Good Shepherd offered them hospitality. This religious community was involved in staffing St. John’s Hospice, a shelter and soup kitchen in Center City Philadelphia. The two friars lived for one year with the Brothers of the Good Shepherd and worked full time at St. John’s Hospice on Race Street. This was their introduction to the homeless population in Philadelphia.
The Early Years
During this time they also tried to learn what they could do as a Franciscan community. They had to figure out how they could bring a Franciscan presence to the poor. One of the decisions they made was to live and start a new ministry in a poor neighborhood. The friars purposely chose the Kensington neighborhood to live and serve the poor and homeless population.
In the 1970s Kensington had undergone many changes. For years Kensington was an older industrial neighborhood with many manufacturing jobs. The neighborhood was the industrial heart of Philadelphia. Also, for many years, Kensington Avenue was the place that many people in the city came to shop.
By the 1970s, however, the factories closed and the stores moved to the suburbs and liquor stores and bars took their place. This was a neighborhood that was changing economically. There was also a shift in location of the homeless population from Center City to the Kensington neighborhood. Many of the homeless came into the neighborhood and stayed in the empty factory buildings. The friars felt that this was the section of the city they needed to establish a ministry with the poor.
In June of 1978, they moved into the neighborhood by taking up residence at 157 W. Susquehanna Ave and Anthony Struzynski, OFM joined the community at this time. This was the first house the friars lived in before moving to the second floor of the Inn in the fall of 1979. In the spring of 1979, Sister Mary Lawrence Scanlan, OSF who is a Franciscan Sister of Allegany was the first women to join the community. She met the friars at St. John’s Hospice and wanted to be a part of this new Franciscan ministry. She lived with the Sisters of Notre Dame at St. Peter’s Church on Girard Ave and worked with the friars.
The vision that the friars had when they started was for the community to live an intentional lifestyle with an emphasis on prayer, poverty and witness. It was a desire to experience the Franciscan vocation of poverty and brotherhood with the poor. The vision for the ministry was to respond to the current needs of the poor. The plan was to establish a drop-in center, a dining room for the poor, a thrift shop, and a shelter in the Kensington neighborhood.
Chronology of the Start of Ministries
|1978||St. Clare’s Thimble, a thrift shop, opens at 112 E. Girard Ave.|
|1979||St. Benedict’s, a thrift shop for furniture and drop-in center, opens at 437 W. Girard Ave. St. Francis Inn opens at 2441 Kensington Ave. on December 16th. The Guest House shelter opens at 2532 Kensington Ave. This closes after about one year.|
|1980||St. Clare’s Thimble moves to 2858 Kensington Ave.|
|1981||St. Clare’s Thimble also becomes a women’s shelter.|
|1982||St. Joseph House, men’s shelter, opens at 2436 Front Street.|
|1988||St. Clare’s Thimble closed as a thrift shop, but remains a shelter.|
|1989||St. Clare’s shelter changes to a women’s day center.|
|1990||The Women’s Center changes its name to Thea Bowman Women’s Center.|
|1998||Shelter closes because of construction of a new school.|
|2000||The new kitchen and chapel is dedicated.|
|2006||Saint Francis Urban Center opens.|
|2015||The All Saints building is purchased to consolidate the Inn’s various ministries closer to the Inn. The Thea Bowman Women’s Center relocates to the second floor of the All Saints building. In September, St. Benedict the Black Thrift Store is relocated to 2439 Kensington Ave. and is renamed Marie’s Closet.|