Arizona Parish Marks 100th Anniversary, Other News from ESC

Maria Hayes Franciscan World


Fr. Gilbert Schneider, pastor of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament, speaks during the liturgy. (Photo courtesy of Glenn Humphrey)

The following is a monthly compilation of news from the website and Facebook page of the English-speaking Conference of the Order of Friars Minor, comprising provinces from Canada, England, Ireland, Lithuania, Malta and the United States.

FORT DEFIANCE, ARIZ. — For 100 years, the Franciscan friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province and the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament have served the Navajo people at Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish. On Thanksgiving Day, the community gathered to celebrate the parish’s 100th anniversary.

The December issue of Padres Trail, the newsletter of the province based in reports that “In a brief presentation, Fr. Gilbert Schneider, pastor, introduced those who had played an integral part in parish life, including friars and Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, who’ve been involved in ministry on the Navajo Reservation since St. Katharine Drexel ventured west and invited the Franciscans to staff the first mission in 1898.”

The friars began providing nonsectarian religion classes at Fort Defiance in 1902, where the first Mass was celebrated later that year, according to the newsletter. In 1910, Fr. Anselm Weber, OFM, organized the first Catholic catechism class, and classes continued to be offered throughout the next four years.

During that time, Fr. Egbert Fischer, OFM, was assigned to Fort Defiance. He petitioned Midwestern donors for funds to build a church and on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 25, 1915, the church was dedicated by Bishop Henry Granjon of Tuscon, Ariz. St. Dominic Savio Hall was built in 1965 and is used as a gymnasium and parish hall. Trailers and mobile homes were also added to the property over time.

Today, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament is known for its sports teams, its popular CYO dances, and for the forward thinking of its pastors and members. Padres Trail notes that “The changes brought by the Second Vatican Council encouraged men to step forward as permanent deacons and other lay ministers to fill key roles. Social justice and service ministries see parishioners visiting prisons, sewing quilts, and helping the poor. The parish has also undertaken environmental causes.”


Before the jubilee liturgy began last month, a multilingual blessing of the four directions took place in the church. Bishop James Wall of Gallup, Ariz., wore white vestments and a mitre decorated with native designs, while the concelebrants wore St. Kateri chasubles. Parts of the Mass were spoken in Diné, the Navajo language, and during the Prayer of the Faithful, the congregation offered petitions in English, Tagalog, Spanish and Navajo. Photos of the liturgy were taken by Glenn Humphrey, OFM, who is stationed in nearby St. Michaels, Ariz.

During a reception held the evening before the Mass, the parish community came together for a meal and celebration. Along the walls of St. Dominic Savio Hall, where the reception was held, were photos from throughout parish history. A commemorative book, created by provincial archivist Cathy Pierce and Sr. Mary Hottenroth, SBS, told the story of the parish, its development through the decades, and its faith community.

In other news from the English-speaking Conference, Franciscans Deliver, a ministry based at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City, was featured in an article in Catholic New York, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of New York. The article describes how the program supplements St. Francis Breadline, founded 85 years ago, by bringing groceries to people who are unable to leave their homes.

Other news from the English-speaking Conference includes:

  • Photos of the novices — including HNP’s Eufemio Dimas, Aaron Richardson and Angel Vázquez — who received their habits earlier this month
  • A reflection on the Year of Mercy written by Provincial Minister Fr. Jeffrey Scheeler, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province
  • An interview with Sr. Mary Melone, the first woman to serve as rector of the Antonianum in Rome

The English-speaking Conference’s Facebook page also included a link to the 2015 Christmas letter of the General Minister was well as information about the Friar app that was launched late last month.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.

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