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Province Announces New Ministry, Fraternity in Georgia

St. Peter Claver Church in Macon, Ga. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Kenna)

St. Peter Claver Church in Macon, Ga. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Kenna)

NEW YORK — The Province is launching a communal, ministerial presence in the fourth largest city in Georgia. In September, the friars will assume the administration of St. Peter Claver Parish in Macon, returning to the Diocese of Savannah where they served for close to 50 years.

In addition to administering the parish and working at its affiliated elementary school, the friars will be involved with Mount de Sales Academy, a college preparatory school founded by the Sisters of Mercy, and Daybreak ministries, a program for the homeless. An announcement of the change was made to parishioners during the weekend of Aug. 8. Information about the Franciscans has also been posted on the diocese’s website.

The Province is taking on the Macon ministries after having been approached by the Bishop of Savannah early this year. “Nothing could make me happier than to welcome the Franciscan friars back to our diocese,” said Bishop Gregory Hartmayer in a letter.

The Province is excited about beginning a Franciscan presence in Macon, said Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM. “We are looking forward to collaborating with and serving the people there.”

Three friars will be stationed at the new site. William McIntyre, OFM, currently at Immaculate Conception Parish in Durham, N.C., will serve as pastor, Frank Critch, OFM, of Sacred Heart Parish, Tampa, Fla., will work at Mount de Sales Academy and assist at the parish, and Paul Santoro, OFM, who most recently taught at Santa Fe Catholic High School in Lakeland, Fla., will serve at Daybreak. They will begin their assignments by mid-September.

The Province has a long history in Georgia. Friars from Holy Name Province served the Diocese of Savannah in parishes and through mission churches in southwestern Georgia from 1942 until the early 1990s. They were present in towns including Albany, Americus, Ashburn, Bainbridge, Blakely, Cordele, Fort Benning, Moultrie, Thomasville and Tifton. In addition, the friars have served at the Georgia Institute of Technology and other campus ministries. Since the late 1950s, Holy Name Province friars have served at the University of Georgia’s Catholic Center in Athens.

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St. Peter Claver Parish’s elementary school, founded in 1903 by St. Katherine Drexel and her sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. (Photo courtesy of Daniel Kenna)

Responding to Priorities
“The new fraternity and ministry ‘combo’ in Macon responds in a timely fashion to the priorities of the Province and of the Order,” said Provincial Vicar Lawrence Hayes, OFM. “General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, has asked Holy Name Province to increase its presence in the South. Significantly, in response to the discussion of new ministries at the spring regional gatherings, the friars of HNP voted overwhelmingly in favor of the Province providing a new opportunity in the South for the friars to live and minister.”

Larry continued, “Macon offers the possibility of establishing an urban, mixed-ministry fraternal community among the poor. The first priority of the new friar team will be to meet together to draft a Fraternal Life Plan for their common life. All three friars are quite intentional about establishing a healthy, active, supportive friar life together as their first and primary witness to Franciscan life in the neighborhood where they will dwell. The work available to us in Macon allows both lay and ordained brothers to utilize their talents.”

“I have had the privilege to minister in the South and multicultural parishes, and I am looking forward to working at St Peter Claver because it is a diverse parish with a strong legacy in Macon,” said William,  who this summer commemorated his 25th anniversary as a friar. “I had the pleasure to be on the Franciscan committee visiting Macon, at the invitation of Bishop Hartmayer, to see options for Franciscan ministries there. I was very excited by the vibrant ministries at St Peter Claver Parish and School, De Sales Academy and Daybreak.”

Paul said he is pleased with the new possibilities that are being presented with the Franciscan ministries in Macon.

“I will be involved in a new ministry, working with the homeless,” he said. “Many years ago, I had the opportunity to intern for a summer at St. Francis House in Boston. Since then, I’ve had the desire to become more involved in this important outreach. As a certified drug and alcohol counselor, I may be able to work with those struggling with addiction so that they may improve their lives and hopefully find suitable employment and housing.”

He continued, “I have spent many years of ministry working with the poor as an educator and counselor in cities such as Paterson, N.J., Boston, and the Bronx, N.Y.  Like these cities, Macon affords the Province and me the opportunity to live our mission of working with the poor, the marginalized and disadvantaged. We are embarking on a truly Franciscan mission, a mission very similar to the Daughters of Charity, who are well established there. We will complement each other’s work in many ways.”

From left to right: Frank Critch, William McIntyre and Paul Santoro.

From left to right: Frank Critch, William McIntyre and Paul Santoro

A Sign of Possibilities
The possibility of establishing a Franciscan ministry in Macon was investigated through an open and highly collaborative process. Daniel Kenna, OFM, of the HNP Fraternal Life in Mission Directorate, gave the friars a detailed profile of the Macon site and its ministries. The Hispanic Ministry Committee and an ad-hoc Southern-advisory committee both evaluated the site, and both were impressed with Macon and approved further consideration. The FLM Directorate also endorsed this possibility. The Provincial Council voted in favor, and a webinar was conducted to allow interested friars to air their questions, comments and concerns.

The final — and decisive — element was the willingness of several friars to offer themselves for a new assignment in Macon, said Larry.

“As we move to Macon, we accompany the migration of many Catholics to the South. More importantly, the experience of discerning together a new ministry possibility in Macon has served as a clear indication of our life and vitality as a Province,” he said. “This new ministry is a bright sign that we are not in a ‘survival mode.’ We have not settled for just ‘shrinking.’ Rather, we are still open to a future that holds new possibilities for us and for the people of God whom we serve. We are still friars on the road, on the move, as itinerant fraternities in mission.”

The new ministry in Macon “will give us the opportunity to develop and live our Franciscan charism in a whole new light,” according to Frank. “This experience will be exciting as we live within a community needing witness as we live the Gospel. It won’t come without its bumps, but we have the support of the brothers within the Province. We also have the guidance of the many who began ministries in new places, the friars who blazed trails in the past and those who will continue to do so in the future.

“I feel blessed to have this opportunity to give back to the province that has given so much to me and had enough faith to take a risk with me,” he added. “This province is my home, this province is my family and this province has my heart. How could I not respond to the call to risk and believe in the future of this Order as we go forward as Pope Francis has stated, being ‘A church that is poor for the poor.’

“While I am sad to leave my current parish, Immaculate Conception in Durham, I am excited to come to Macon with brother friars and accompany and labor in the vineyard with so many new friends,” said William.

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

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