EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Kevin Daly, OFM, delivered a message to the parishioners of St. Joseph Church on Sunday: The Franciscan friars of Holy Name Province would no longer be able to staff the parish.
The pastor announced the news on March 20 by reading a letter from Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, and Provincial Vicar Dominic Monti, OFM, that said, “This indeed is a painful decision for us to make, as East Rutherford holds a special place in the memories of many friars. But it is dictated by the harsh fact of numbers — our Province is diminishing and aging. When we were ordained in the early 1970s, there were almost 1,000 friars in our Province; we now have only 350 men, 120 of whom are over 75. Our personnel resources are becoming more strained each year.”
The withdrawal will be effective July 1, when the Province turns over operation of St. Joseph Parish to the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J.
John met last week with St. Joseph’s parish council to inform the members of the change. He told them 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 where we set our priorities for the next three years.” This sentement was also expressed to in the letter read to the congretation by Kevin.
“It is impossible for the Province to maintain the ministerial commitments it once did,” wrote John and Dominic. “Just 30 years ago, we staffed some 15 parishes in Bergen and Passaic counties. Since then, we have been forced to withdraw from 11 of them. This has been a heart-wrenching process for all of us.”
The letter continues: “We have spoken with Archbishop John Myers about our decision. While disappointed, he understood our situation and has promised to work with us to assure a smooth transition to diocesan clergy.
“It has been our privilege to serve St. Joseph Parish for almost a century,” the leaders said. “Your parish was founded by the diocesan clergy in 1872; we Franciscans succeeded them in 1912 and have worked with you to build up a dynamic Christian-Catholic parish community of which you can be proud. All the friars who have been stationed here over the years have always spoken so well of the great people of East Rutherford. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of them for their faithful witness to the spirit of St. Francis and their dedicated service to your community, especially Fathers Kevin and Zachary (Elliot, OFM) these last years.”
The Provincial Administration plans to work with Kevin to arrange a farewell Mass at which the Franciscans can “fittingly celebrate their century of service to the people of East Rutherford,” John said.
John and Dominic ended the letter by saying, “May the Lord continue to bless the wonderful community of St. Joseph with His peace and good now and forever.”
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.