Franciscan Friars to leave Saint Anthony, Camden

Franciscan Friars to leave Saint Anthony, Camden

In a letter addressed to the parishioners of Saint Anthony of Padua Parish, Camden, Father Kevin Mullen, OFM, Provincial of the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province, announces the decision of the order to withdraw from the parish.

Dear Parishioners of Saint Anthony of Padua Parish,

The earliest followers of Jesus referred to themselves as those who “belonged to the Way” (Acts 9:2). There is in this ancient description of the Christian community a sense of movement, of pilgrimage, of never sitting still or remaining fixed in one location. To be a follower of Jesus is to be “on the road,” “on the way toward” the fullness of life that God intends for each of us and for creation.

Sometimes this movement is spiritual-that which we call “conversion.” At other times this movement is geographical. We witness this second form of movement in a very moving passage in the Gospel of Luke. The crowds go searching for Jesus and, when at last they find him, they try to prevent him from leaving their village. Despite their pleas and urgings, Jesus does not grant their request. Instead, always focused on his mission, Jesus responds, ”To the other towns also I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God, because for this purpose I have been sent” (Lk 4:42-43).

It is with great sadness that, echoing the words of Jesus, I write to you today to announce that the Franciscans must be “on our way” from Saint Anthony of Padua in Camden, N.J. After thirty-two years in Cramer Hill, we are no longer able to continue serving the community of Saint Anthony’s. Because we have shared so much history and life with you over the years-beginning with Father Thaddeus, Father Aubrey and Father John and continuing right up to the present moment with Father Hugh, Brother Karl and Father Ron — our departure will be a difficult moment for all of us.

So, why must we leave you? First of all, please know that this is not due to any failing or shortcoming on your part. Nor on the part of the Diocese of Camden. Rather, when all is said and done, the motive for our departure comes down to two decisive factors having to do with the Franciscans: our declining numbers and fidelity to our Franciscan charism.

In 1985 when we arrived in Camden, we had 708 friars actively working in ministry in our province. In 2001, we were down to 443 friars in active ministry. Today in 2017, we are around 280. Very simply stated, we no longer have sufficient friars to staff all the ministries where we have served in the past.

Second, our Franciscan charism calls us to live and minister as brothers in community. Our fraternal life together is a central priority for us-it is the core component of who we are and profess to be: lesser brothers. With our diminished numbers, it is impossible for us to maintain all of our ministerial commitments with fraternities composed of several friars living in community. It is for these reasons, and with deep regret, that we have made the difficult decision to withdraw this summer from Saint Anthony of Padua Parish.

I have spoken with Bishop Sullivan about our decision to withdraw from Saint Anthony’s and he has assured me that he will provide for the continued pastoral care of the faithful of Saint Anthony’s. I am very grateful to Bishop Sullivan and his predecessors for their goodness to us during the years of our service in this Diocese. I am also grateful to Father Hugh, Br. Karl and Father Ron for their dedicated service to the parish in the last few years. I am thankful, too, for the many other friars and for the Franciscan Sisters of Syracuse who served you over the past thirty-two years.

Most of all, I am very appreciative of all the support and collaboration that you, the parishioners of Saint Anthony Parish, have extended to us. On behalf of all the friars of our province, thank you for your goodness and understanding and faith. May the Church in Camden continue to grow and bear witness to the Risen Lord who is the center and foundation of our life and who calls us each day to be “on the Way” toward the fullness of God’s kingdom.

Sincerely,

(Rev.) Kevin J. Mullen, O.F.M.

Provincial Minister

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