Franciscans to Leave Upper West Side Parish

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The Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province are withdrawing from Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great parish on West 96th Street in Manhattan, where they have served since 1990. 

Ministerial responsibilities and administrative operations will be turned over to the Archdiocese of New York this summer at the culturally diverse parish.

The archdiocese will assign a new pastor to Holy Name of Jesus-St. Gregory the Great by July 1.

The province, announcing the change Jan. 6, cited the challenges of a declining friar population, which make it difficult to staff all of the missions it has served. The diminished numbers also make it impossible to maintain friars living and ministering together in fraternal community. 

In 1985, Holy Name Province had 708 friars, a number that dropped to 443 in 2001, and now stands at a little less than 300.

The announcement identified eight other mission sites from which friars will withdraw this summer. One of the sites, a mall ministry in upstate Colonie, will be permanently closed, while responsibilities and operations of the others will be turned over to their respective dioceses in several states.

It culminates a more than two-year collegial process that HNP called “Fraternal Ecology,” an initiative that engaged the participation of all friars, as well as local dioceses and lay partners, in evaluating the future sustainability of the province’s 30 missions, which include parishes, elementary schools, colleges, urban ministry centers, soup kitchens, and other pastoral and social justice ministries. 

“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guide the Provincial Council’s final decisions on (missions) where friars would remain, and those where they would be withdrawn,” explained Father Kevin Mullen, O.F.M., provincial minister of the Manhattan-based Holy Name Province, the largest Order of Friars Minor community in the United States.

“The council made its final decisions after careful thought and prayerful reflection,” Father Mullen said.

“Our departure from Holy Name-St. Gregory parish, as well as the other eight (missions), inevitably will bring disappointment and sadness, which are natural emotions because of the longtime association between the Franciscans and the community,” Father Mullen said. “The decision to withdraw from the parish was not taken lightly and, in fact, was very difficult and painful.” 

“Despite our long history and rich tradition since 1990 at Holy Name-St. Gregory parish, the reality of our declining numbers— and the challenges and strain it places on our ability to fulfill our fraternal mission made this a pragmatic and necessary decision.”

Father Mullen said the Province was grateful to the “good and faith-filled parishioners of Holy Name-St. Gregory parish for the support, collaboration, generosity and warm embrace” they have extended to the friars. 

“We are confident that we are leaving the parish stronger and more robust than when we first arrived,” said Father Mullen, who noted that he expected the transition to the archdiocese to be a seamless one.

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