Earlier today I ran into four guys with beards and shaved heads wearing garments that look like sackcloth and are tied at the waist with rope. They are members of a Catholic religious order called Franciscans of Primitive Observance, and they live here in East Boston.
The group, which came to the neighborhood about a year ago, practices lots of prayer and works with the poor. One brother explained to me that they don't start programs themselves, but help out others. They also take the poverty pledge rather seriously, asking others for food and hitchhiking when they need to get somewhere.
Besides the apartment on Paris Street, there are other FPO communities in Lawrence, Vermont and Nicaragua. They are a small order that apparently began in New Bedford in 1995 and currently has just 16 members. They seem like friendly guys, so if you see them in the neighborhood you may want to greet them.