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Treating Our Guests Like Family

You’re far more likely to find Brother David Crank, OFM, wearing his habit than a tuxedo, but his job as one of St. Francis Seraph Ministries’ Client Services Coordinators could call for the latter.

“I like to say I’m the maître d’ at our fine-dining establishment, the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Dining Room,” he says. “I’m the first one our guests meet when they enter for dinner. It’s a joy — an absolute joy — to be there in my habit welcoming our guests.”

Every afternoon, Brother David greets our dinner guests and checks them in. It’s a process that could feel automated or impersonal. But not at SFSM. Brother David makes eye contact with everyone and calls them by name. It’s those little touches that build trust and create real relationships. It’s what nourishes the soul in addition to feeding the body.

And that nourishment is a two-way street.

I cannot wait to open our doors and welcome in our guests home for dinner,” Brother David says. “I feel like a father who’s looking so forward to all of his children coming home.”

Brother David first felt the call to serve when he was a child. When his father died, young David was deeply moved by the care the funeral directors showed to him and his mother. Years later, having graduated from the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, David found himself working at an Irish Catholic funeral home and attending Mass almost every day. Raised a Presbyterian, David eventually entered the Church. After discerning his vocation, he joined the Cincinnati Franciscan community in 1985 at the age of 32.

While he was working at a parish in New Orleans, Brother David visited Cincinnati for a meeting and took a tour of the old SFSM soup kitchen. What he saw stirred his heart. He even told the director, “I think you’re really doing Francis’s work. I might like to have your job someday.”

Fast-forward to 2018, and Brother David began working at SFSM. Now 70, he feels like his life has come full circle from that tour decades earlier.

“I know who I am and where I come from and where I’m at. What a privilege,” he says. “We pray for the end of homelessness. We pray for the end of hunger. Christ speaks of that in His Word and asks His disciples to follow Him and be His hands and His feet, and that’s what I feel like I am. As long as there are hungry people and homeless people and people challenged, I’m happy I’m there to have that time with our guests. It makes my life meaningful.”

Brother David values every encounter he has with our guests, but one stands out in particular. After dinner one night, a gentleman walked over to say thank you — not just for the meal, but for the way he was treated.

“He said, ‘Sir, I’ve been homeless a long time,’” Brother David recalls. “I’m not welcomed at any business or any storefront on Vine Street from here to the river, because I guess I don’t look like their customers. But I receive a disability check every month. I have money when I go into a store, but I’m not welcome. Here, I needed no money to come in, and you have welcomed me as I am.’

“I was so deeply touched by that,” Brother David adds. “That was one of the most beautiful moments I’ve had. Just think — that could be your dad. It could be your brother. And in fact, he is our brother. We’re family.”