Voicing their support for the revitalization of Franciscan life in the United States, Holy Name Province and five other provinces of the Order of Friars Minor voted on May 30 to form one new province. The new province will comprise the almost 1,000 Catholic Franciscan friars belonging to the existing provinces – both brothers and priests – and will be headquartered in a yet-to-be-determined location.
“The other provincial ministers and I are delighted with the outcome of the vote,” said Fr. David Gaa, OFM, provincial minister of St. Barbara Province. “This is an important step in the process of revitalizing Franciscan life in the United States.”
The Franciscan friars of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Province (based in Franklin, Wis.), Holy Name Province (headquartered on 31st Street in New York City), Our Lady of Guadalupe Province (Albuquerque, N.M.), Sacred Heart Province (St. Louis), St. Barbara Province (Oakland, Calif.), and St. John the Baptist Province (Cincinnati) have been in dialogue about unifying their communities since 2012.
“The new entity will better serve the friars’ fraternal life and mission in the United States by making adjustments to the current administrative structure,” said Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, the provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.
Like many other religious communities throughout the United States, the Franciscans are facing a reduction in membership. During the 1960s and 1970s, the number of Friars Minor in the United States peaked at 3,252, but today the total is fewer than 1,000 friars.
Talks on possible U.S. restructuring began in 2012, reflecting a worldwide trend among religious communities. Friars in countries such as Canada and Germany have already voted to form a single province.
The reconfiguration will not happen immediately. The next step in the process is to obtain approval to unify from General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, and his Definitorium. Should he decide that such a reconfiguration would be helpful to Franciscan life and ministry, he will appoint a delegate to visit the six U.S. provinces. If his delegate’s report is favorable, it is expected that the process of reconfiguration will move forward.
Meanwhile, the process is continuing as issues of canon and civil law are resolved. Franciscan leaders expect that the new province will be officially formed in late 2022 or early 2023.
For more information about the Revitalization and Restructuring Process, read the frequently asked questions on USFranciscans.org.
- “Friars to Gather May 29 for Extraordinary Chapter” – May 15, 2018, HNP Today
- “Formation Intersession Becomes Interprovincial” – Jan. 13, 2017, HNP Today
- “U.S. Franciscans Look to Future Renewal with Hope” – Aug. 30, 2017, HNP Today