Franciscans Announce Departure from 9 Ministry Sites on the East Coast of the U.S.
NEW YORK — Jan. 3, 2020 — The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province (HNP) are withdrawing from nine Fraternities-in-Mission in the northeast and southeast regions of the United States. Ministerial responsibilities and administrative operations of each of the nine ministry sites will be turned over to their respective dioceses this summer. For most of these sites, among them parishes and a mall ministry, it ends decades of Franciscan presence and pastoral service by the friars.
The announcement of the departure from these Fraternities-in-Mission, which represent nearly one-third of the ministerial sites served by Province friars, was the culmination of a more than two-year collegial process that HNP called “Fraternal Ecology” – an initiative that engaged the participation of virtually all friars, as well as local dioceses and lay partners, in evaluating the future sustainability of the Province’s 30 Fraternities-in-Mission, among them parishes, elementary schools, colleges, urban ministry centers, soup kitchens, and other pastoral and social justice ministries.
HNP’s Administration cited the challenges of a declining friar population, whose insufficient numbers make it difficult for the Province to staff all of the Fraternities-in-Mission it has served in the past. The diminished friar numbers, coupled with the current number of Fraternities-in-Mission, also make it impossible to maintain a core component of the Franciscan Order – friars living and ministering together in fraternal community.
In 1985, just 35 years ago, HNP had 708 friars, a number that dropped to 443 in 2001, and currently stands at a little less than 300. While there are a number of men in the initial formation process, just three friars have professed their solemn vows since August 2018.
The ministries from which HNP will withdraw this summer include:
- St. Francis Chapel – Colonie, New York (a mall ministry that is closing)
- St. Mary of the Angels Parish – Anderson, South Carolina
- Catholic Center at the University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia
- St. Anthony of Padua Parish – Greenville, South Carolina
- Parish of the Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great – New York City
- St. Joseph-St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish – Orlando, Florida
- St. Francis of Assisi Parish – Raleigh, North Carolina
- St. Paul and St. Joseph Parishes – Wilmington, Delaware
- Assumption of Our Blessed Lady Parish – Wood-Ridge, New Jersey
“This was a deliberate, measured and comprehensive process that consisted of dozens of meetings and site visits, and dialogue with all interested parties, which generated studies and reports that ultimately helped guide the Provincial Council’s final decisions on the Fraternities-in-Mission where friars would remain, and those where they would be withdrawn,” explained Fr. Kevin Mullen, OFM, provincial minister of the New York City-based Holy Name Province, the largest Order of Friars Minor community in the U.S. whose members model their life after the Roman Catholic saint, St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Order 800 years ago.
“It was collaborative and transparent discernment marked by frank discussion and honest assessment and evaluation by our friars and lay partners in ministry, as well as the dioceses where our Fraternities-in-Mission are located. The council made its final decisions after careful thought and prayerful reflection,” Fr. Mullen said.
“Our departure from these ministries inevitably will bring disappointment and sadness – which are natural emotions because of their longtime association with the Franciscans. The decision to withdraw from these faith communities was not taken lightly,” continued Fr. Mullen, “and, in fact, was very difficult and painful. But despite our long history and rich tradition – our friars have been present from three decades to nearly a century at most of these ministry sites – the reality of our declining numbers, and the challenges and strain it places on our ability to fulfill our fraternal charism, made each of these decisions pragmatic and necessary.”
The provincial minister added, “We have been spread too thin for quite some time. The ‘Fraternal Ecology’ process has allowed us to reset and right-size our ministerial commitments. Since our fraternal life is central to our vocation – living in community and serving together as brothers – this will help our friars more effectively serve the people in our ministry environments and Fraternities-in-Mission, as well as the Church.”
Fr. Mullen said the Province was grateful to the “good and faith-filled communities for the support, collaboration, generosity and warm embrace” extended to friars during their service. “We are confident that we are leaving these ministries stronger and more robust than when we arrived,” said Fr. Mullen, who noted that the transition to the local dioceses later this year would be seamless.
The Province has friars in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and other locations in the U.S., as well as missions in South America and Asia.
About Holy Name Province
Holy Name Province is the largest of seven entities in the United States belonging to the Order of Friars Minor. The Order, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, commemorated its 800th anniversary in 2009. Today, St. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, remains one of the most widely known saints, revered for his affection for nature and care for creation.
Interview and photo requests should be directed to Jocelyn Thomas, HNP director of communications, at 646-473-0265 ext. 321 or firstname.lastname@example.org.