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 (HNP) are withdrawing from a pair of South Carolina parishes, both in the Diocese of Charleston. Ministerial responsibilities and administrative operations of St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Anderson and St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Greenville will be turned over to the diocese this summer, ending 77 and 81 years, respectively, of pastoral service by the friars at these parishes.
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.
In addition to the parishes in Anderson and Greenville, today’s announcement identified seven other Fraternity-in- Mission sites from which friars will withdraw this summer. One of the sites, a mall ministry in upstate New York, will be permanently closed, while responsibilities and operations of the others 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Council’s final decisions on the Fraternities-in-Mission where friars would remain, and those where they would be withdrawn,” explained Fr.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, 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 the parishes of St. Mary of the Angels and St. Anthony of Padua, as well as the other seven Fraternities-in-Mission, inevitably will bring disappointment and sadness – which are natural emotions because of the more than three quarters of a century of association between the Franciscans and generations of families in the Anderson and Greenville communities. The decision to withdraw from these parishes 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 – since 1943 at St. Mary’s, and since 1939 at St. Anthony’s – the reality of our declining numbers, and the challenges and strain it places on our ability to fulfill our fraternal mission, made 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 parishioners of St. Mary’s and St. Anthony’s for the support, collaboration, generosity and warm embrace” extended to friars during their many decades of service. “We are confident that we are leaving the parishes stronger and more robust than when we first arrived,” said Fr. Mullen, who noted that the transition to the Diocese of Charleston later this year would be a seamless one.
Franciscan tradition and ideals are deeply rooted at St. Mary of the Angels, which was founded by HNP in 1943 primarily to minister to a small Black community of Catholics, with a rented house serving as the first church. To meet the needs of the growing congregation, the Franciscans built a church in 1951 with a $27,000 philanthropic gift from the mother of a friar. A parish center was later added in 1994 and a new church was constructed in 2008, as the parish has evolved into a multi-cultural community of more than 500 households. Over the years, the friars have established several social justice outreach initiatives, among them a traditional food pantry and a program called “clean start” – which provides laundering services, showers, clothing and basic hygiene supplies to 100 people weekly who live on the streets of Anderson.
Similarly, at St. Anthony of Padua, Franciscans laid down roots more than three quarters of a century ago when a church and friary were built in 1939, followed by the construction of a community center in 1949 and the purchase of an old farmhouse that served as the parish school in 1951. St. Anthony’s remains one of the oldest private schools in Greenville County. In 2013, a new state-of-the-art 26,000-square-foot, two-story school, which has an admissions waiting list, was built for the Pre-K through grade six student population. The other buildings that make up the St. Anthony campus have been either newly constructed or recently renovated to meet the needs of the parish community, which consists of 1,400 registered households.
Besides St. Mary of the Angels and St. Anthony of Padua, HNP announced the withdrawal of its friars from the following Fraternities-in-Mission:
- Francis Chapel – Colonie, New York (a mall ministry that is closing)
- Catholic Center at the University of Georgia – Athens, Georgia
- Parish of the Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great – New York City
- Joseph-St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish – Orlando, Florida
- Francis of Assisi Parish – Raleigh, North Carolina
- 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.