On June 11 – two days before the feast of St. Anthony of Padua –  San Francisco’s St. Anthony Foundation shocked San Francisco Catholics with the announcement that they will be marching in the city’s 2013 gay pride  parade. The announcement reads: “Walk with St. Anthony’s in the SF Pride Parade! On Sunday, June 30th, St. Anthony Foundation will be marching for the first time in our history in the San Francisco Pride Parade. We’re looking forward to celebrating the theme of ‘Embrace, Encourage, Empower!’ The parade starts at Market & Beale and ends at Market & 8th Street in downtown San Francisco.”

The St. Anthony Foundation, originally known as St. Anthony’s Dining Room, was founded in San Francisco in 1950 by Father Alfred Boeddeker, OFM, pastor of St. Boniface’s Church. Its purpose was to serve free meals to the poor “in an ordinary restaurant-like setting.” St. Boniface is located at 133 Golden Gate Avenue, in the city’s Tenderloin district. The current St. Anthony Foundation is immediately adjacent to the church, at 150 Golden Gate Avenue.

Although originally Catholic, the foundation is no longer institutionally connected to the archdiocese of San Francisco.  It has, however, received many donations from faithful Catholic organizations and individuals. Parishes have taken up special collections to help St. Anthony’s. To this day many obituaries in the Bay Area include a request that “donations be made to St. Anthony’s Dining Room.” It has been a regular stop by archdiocesan students earning service hours. Approximately half of the dining room’s 9,000 annual volunteers have been Bay Area high school students, many of whom are from Catholic schools.

There is still a significant Franciscan presence on St. Anthony’s board of directors: five of the 17 board members are Franciscans: Father Garrett Galvan, OFM; Brother Jeff McNab, OFM; Brother James Swan, OFM; Brother Robert Valentine, OFM; and Sister  Sheral Marshall, OSF. The board’s chairwoman, Suzanne B. Swift, is a former vice-president of Catholic Charities of San Francisco.

According to her biographical listing on the St. Anthony’s Board page, Sister Marshal serves on the advisory board for Catholic San Francisco through the archdiocesan Office of Public Policy. In their May 28 issue Catholic San Francisco, the newspaper of the archdiocese of San Francisco, published a column by Sulpician Father Gerald Coleman which celebrated the decision of basketball player Jason Collins to “come out” about his homosexuality. The column was republished in the June 12 issue of CalCatholic.