NEW YORK – Holy Name Province is withdrawing this year from nine Fraternities-in-Mission in states from the northeast to Florida. Administrative operations and ministerial responsibilities of the ministry sites are expected to be turned over to their respective dioceses this summer. For most – among them parishes and a mall ministry – the withdrawal ends decades of Franciscan presence and pastoral service by the friars.
The HNP Administration notified the friar community on Jan. 3, the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, about the decision to withdraw from nine Fraternities-in-Mission. It has also notified the bishops and diocesan offices, as well as parishioners and other laypeople affiliated with the ministry sites.
The announcement of the departure from these Fraternities-in-Mission, which represent nearly one-third of the ministerial sites served by HNP friars, was the culmination of a more than two-year collegial process that the Province called “Fraternal Ecology.” The initiative 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.
The ministries from which HNP will withdraw this year are:
- 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
- Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great Parish – 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
The Provincial Administration cited the challenges of a declining friar population, which makes it increasingly difficult to staff all of the Fraternities-in-Mission it has served in the past.
In 1985, just 35 years ago, HNP had 708 friars, a number that dropped to 443 in 2001. The Province now has fewer than 300 members – including three in the interprovincial novitiate program and 14 in the post-novitiate formation program. Two HNP friars professed their solemn vows last year.
The diminished friar membership, coupled with the Province’s current number of Fraternities-in-Mission, also make it increasingly difficult to maintain a core component of the Franciscan Order – friars living and ministering together in fraternal community.
“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 decisions on the Fraternities-in-Mission where friars would remain, and those where they would be withdrawn,” said Kevin Mullen, OFM, Provincial Minister.
“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,” added Kevin.
“Our departure from these ministries inevitably will bring disappointment and sadness – which are natural emotions because of longtime association with the Franciscans. The decision to withdraw from these faith communities was not taken lightly,” continued Kevin, Provincial since 2014. “In fact, it 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 – fewer Fraternities-in-Mission will help our friars serve the people of God more authentically as Franciscans.”
Kevin said the Province is 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 Kevin, who noted that the transition to the local dioceses later this year would be seamless.
- “Province Prepares for Structural Change” – Nov. 12, 2019, HNP Today
- “Rite of Investiture Takes Place at Interprovincial Novitiate in California” – Oct. 22, 2019, HNP Today
- “St. Paul community Marks Quarter Century of Franciscan Presence” – Dec. 9, 2015, HNP Today
- “New York City Parish Marks Franciscans’ Anniversary” – Nov. 24, 2015, HNP Today