Friars of the South Bronx

Friars of the South Bronx

Young men come from around the world to an unfamiliar indigent neighborhood to selflessly provide a homeless shelter, youth center, food and comfort.

Nourishment, spiritual and material, is something that the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal have been dispensing since 1987 when a group of friars started the religious community in the South Bronx to serve neighborhoods with a variety of problems. They give up material possessions and devote their lives to prayer and charity.

In this New York Times video report, we see how the friars live and work — and why they’ve made their commitment. The order has grown steadily, attracting men from across the country willing to give up material possessions and devote their lives to prayer and charity. The order now has 120 friars and 14 friaries worldwide.

The friars, who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, spend four to five hours a day praying and most of the rest of their time trying to help the poor. They depend almost entirely on donations to support themselves and their charities, which include a homeless shelter, a youth center and food handouts.

Every week the friars visit the homes of people who have asked for help with food. Beyond distributing the food, their purpose is to establish a relationship and to offer friendship and counsel.

“Early on, definitely it was the decision to live a life of chastity, not to get married, is the big hurdle to making a decision to enter this life,” one Father says. “As time goes on there’s still a natural struggle that goes on with that, but also in some ways the vow of obedience becomes more difficult. You try to surrender your plans, your time, where you are going to live.”

“This is a radical investment in the afterlife,” he adds.

Length: 5:36

Video & Story: Mathew R. Warren
Photography: Christian Hansen