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Georgia Parish Welcomes Franciscans

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The ministry team in Macon: William McIntyre, Paul Santoro and Frank Critch. (Photo courtesy of Muriel Jackson)

MACON, Ga. — Three friars, who have been serving Macon — a city in what is known as Middle Georgia — for just several weeks, were welcomed with a parish gathering and a newspaper article describing their backgrounds and roles, as well as the history of the Franciscan Order.

“Long brown robes stir images of monks in monasteries, but Macon’s new Franciscan friars are anything but cloistered” is how The Telegraph introduced Frank Critch, OFM, William McIntyre, OFM, and Paul Santoro, OFM, to the community. The article reported on how the three have as immersed themselves into their ministry “from the moment they moved into the Pleasant Hill neighborhood” and showed photos of the friars participating in games and conversations with the community members at a picnic on Sept. 20.

“On the first day they arrived, you could find them jumping right in with our students, welcoming them, playing soccer on the playground during P.E. class, and sitting among the children having lunch in the classroom,” according to the principal of the parish school, Ann Hillig who was quoted in the newspaper story. “You can see how much they truly care about all the students and families.”

Nearly 400 parishioners of St. Peter Claver Church, described by The Telegraph as “nearly equal thirds African-American, Latino and white with a large Filipino community,” filled the Mother Katherine Drexel Center to welcome the friars at an event that William called “wonderful.”

“After a welcome by representatives of parish groups, all of us ate plenty of the delicious food brought by parishioners,” said William. “There were tables of mostly homemade items including southern dishes, Mexican food, salads, fruit and varied desserts. There was so much food that many were able to take plates home. After eating, children played outside.

“Several parishioners told the friars that they were so glad that we are here and that it has been a long time since so many parishioners gathered at one celebratory event,” he added.

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William speaks with parishioners at the parish’s welcome event for the friars. (Photo courtesy of Muriel Jackson)

“The hospitality shown us has been amazing,” said Frank. “They keep saying, ‘We have been waiting so long for you all to get here.’ It is wonderful as the ministry the three of us are involved in is so multi-dimensional, for the ministry is able to reach a large area of Macon and into various settings: economic, spiritual and social. There is so much potential here. We have only touched the surface yet. More challenges and more giftedness are to come. I feel very much at home here.”

The friars, who arrived in Georgia early in September, are serving the Macon community in several capacities. William is pastor of St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, Frank is the chaplain for Mount De Sales Academy and also assists Bill in the parish, and Paul works at the Daybreak homeless ministry of DePaul USA.

Though the friars may be new to Macon, they have served Georgia in the past, as The Telegraph pointed out, mentioning parishes in the Savannah Diocese that Holy Name Province has staffed, and also the friars known as the Georgia martyrs.

Photos of past parish events can be found on the St. Peter Claver Parish website.  Information about the parish can also be found on the St. Peter Claver Facebook page

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.

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