For interview and photo requests, contact Jocelyn Thomas, director of communications, at 646-473-0265 or JThomas@HNP.org.
NEW YORK — Jan. 3, 2020 — The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province will no longer be able to staff St. Francis Chapel, the mall ministry in Shoppers Park on Wolf Road in the suburban Albany, N.Y., town of Colonie. The Province has informed the Diocese of Albany that the mall ministry will be permanently closed by June 30, 2020, bringing an end to five decades of service by the friars at St. Francis Chapel.
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 numbers 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.
Today’s announcement also identified an additional eight Fraternity-in-Mission sites from which friars will withdraw this summer. St. Francis Chapel is the only ministry that is being closed. Ministerial responsibilities and administrative operations of the other eight will be turned over to their respective dioceses.
This is 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.
“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Council’s final decisions on the Fraternities-in-Mission where friars would remain, and those where they would be withdrawn,” explained Fr.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 and founder St. Francis of Assisi.
“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.
“Closing St. Francis Chapel, and our withdrawal from the other eight Fraternities-in-Mission, inevitably will bring disappointment and sadness – which are natural emotions because of the long association with the Franciscan friars at these sites. The decision to close the mall ministry was not taken lightly,” continued Fr. Mullen, “and, in fact, was very difficult and painful – as with the other Fraternities-in-Mission where we have announced our departure. But despite our long history and rich tradition at the chapel, the reality of our declining numbers – and the challenges and strain it places on our ability to fulfill our fraternal mission – made this a pragmatic and necessary decision.”
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 St. Francis Chapel community for the support, collaboration, generosity and warm embrace” extended to the teams of friars assigned there for a half century.
St. Francis Chapel, often described as a spiritual oasis, is nestled among retail outlets, restaurants and commercial businesses in the Shoppers Park strip mall in Colonie – where friars celebrate Mass, hear confessions, and provide spiritual counsel to shoppers, employees and area residents. Many of the chapel’s regular attendees have been inspired to serve in lay ministry positions – inspiration that has come from the beloved friars of the Order founded 800 years ago by St. Francis.
Besides announcing the closure of St. Francis Chapel, HNP announced the departure of its friars from the following Fraternities-in-Mission:
- 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
- Parish of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady – Wood-Ridge, New Jersey
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.
Information about Holy Name Province can be found on HNP.org. News about its friars and events can be found on the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province Facebook page.