Six provinces of Franciscan friars in the US have merged into one coast-to-coast province, taking the name Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Order of Friars Minor. The Atlanta-based province presently consists of about 700 priests and brothers.
Formation of the new province was accomplished at a general chapter, called the Synodal Chapter of Unity, held in Kansas City, Missouri.
The process of creating a new, coast-to-coast US province began several years ago, when friars from six US provinces committed to a “union” that would energize OFM Franciscan presence in the United States, allow their voice to have greater reach and impact, and enable them to carry out work more effectively and efficiently.
The name Our Lady of Guadalupe was chosen after broad consultation with the OFM membership. Our Lady under this title is patroness of the Americas and represents a commitment to justice while standing alongside the oppressed — both of which are values fundamental to the Order.
It was already the name of one of the six provinces, based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The world is hungry for St. Francis’ teachings
“This unification comes at a time when the world has a deep hunger for St. Francis’s values – his courage as a peacemaker, his compassion for all people and all of creation, and his concern for the poor and the marginalized – all expressions of his profound love for Jesus Christ,” the province said in a press release. “Franciscan friars have devoted their lives to carrying on this legacy through their service to others. Their synodal Chapter of Unity also happened at a time when Pope Francis has been leading the global Catholic Church in refreshing its identity and mission for this era.”
“This transformation also came with the need to be better stewards of their most important resource – the friars, who continue to serve the poor, the forgotten, and the marginalized alongside people of goodwill in ministries, parishes and missions located across the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Jamaica,” the province said.
“The great blessing to the friars themselves, to the Order, and to the Church in the United States in creating this new province at this moment is that the friars have – under the guidance of the Holy Spirit – taken charge of what is happening rather than simply drifting along,” said Br. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, Franciscan historian and storyteller. “They are reconsidering as brothers how to be better agents of renewal, evangelizers, and stewards of God’s generous gifts.”
The Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor, Brother Massimo Fusarelli, OFM, formally established the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe in mid-October in the presence of friars from 26 states, the District of Columbia, and 16 countries. Brother Massimo installed the province’s first Provincial Minister, Brother Lawrence Hayes, OFM; Provincial Vicar, and seven Provincial Councilors.
“What I would like people to know about us is for them to experience us as we are, as we attempt as best we can to embody the values that the Gospel, St. Francis, and St. Clare call us to do,” said Br. Hayes, the new Provincial Minister. “There’s a wonderful opportunity for us to renew our lives as Franciscans and do that together as a provincial brotherhood.”
The provincial headquarters is located in the Hapeville section of South Atlanta, just north of the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.