Province Announces Withdrawal from Harlem Parish

Jocelyn Thomas In the Headlines

NEW YORK — The Province announced to the community of All Saints Church last week that the friars will be withdrawing from the parish this summer. Pastor Steven Pavignano, OFM, will be transferred to another of the Province’s ministries.

A farewell Mass is being planned as a way in which the friars can fittingly celebrate their years of service to the Harlem community.

The parish was notified in two phases: on May 19, members of All Saints Parish Council met with Steven and Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, and on May 22, a letter from John and Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, was read to the parishioners at Sunday Mass.

Reasons for Withdrawal
The decision came after several months of “intense discussion by our Provincial Council, as we tried to meet the challenge of assigning friars to our various ministries following our recent Chapter, or assembly, where we set our priorities for the next three years,” according to the Administration’s letter. “This is indeed a painful decision for us to make.”

“The Province has had a connection with the people of Harlem since 1968, when Benedict Taylor, OFM, began ministering there with troubled youth, eventually founding the center now known as Create, Inc.,” John and Dominic wrote. Steven has been pastor of the parish, with fewer than 100 households, since 2008. Previously, Neil O’Connell, OFM, had served as All Saints’ administrator for six years.

Steven’s move is dictated by the demographics of the Province.

“Our Province is diminishing and aging,” John and Dominic wrote. “When we were ordained in the early 1970s, there were almost 1,000 friars in our Province.” Holy Name now has fewer than 350 members, 120 of whom are over age 75. “Unfortunately, it is impossible for us to maintain the ministerial commitments we once did,” they said.

Future Plans
The Archdiocese of New York is currently reviewing how best to minster effectively to the Catholics of Harlem, according to the Province’s announcement.

The withdrawal takes effect July 1, the same date the Franciscan withdrawal from St. Joseph’s Parish in East Rutherford, N.J., becomes official.

Two friars, in addition to Steven, live at All Saints Friary — Glenn Humphrey, OFM, and Francis Kim, OFM. They will move this summer to assignments now being determined by the Provincial Council.

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