Beginning July 1, 2023, the Franciscan Order will hand over pastoral care for St. Michaels Parish to the Diocese of Gallup.
The administrative change is being undertaken due to diminishing vocations and the limited availability of current Franciscan priests and friars, according to Fr. Greg Friedman, OFM, Secretary of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province.
“Such is the life of the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe (OLGP), which continued the missionary work begun by the friars in 1898,” he wrote in a letter announcing the change in ministry. “Out of some 40+ friars, only a third are available for full-time, active ministry. Many of these are fulfilling important assignments elsewhere in the Southwest.”
The decision to withdraw from St. Michaels was not undertaken lightly. A nationwide restructuring of the order necessitated the change to friars’ assignments.
“The existing OLGP will become part of a new province, spanning the U.S., and incorporating communities in Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica,” explained Fr. Friedman. “New priorities, and the complex process of merging six Franciscan families into one, have led OLGP to make difficult decisions to prepare for the merger. In the past few years, it already has turned over care of a number of parishes in the Southwest to the local Church – as missionaries must do.”
This merger does not require the complete withdrawal of the order from the Diocese of Gallup, however. Franciscan priests and friars will continue to serve at other parishes in the Diocese of Gallup: in Fort Defiance, AZ, Chinle, AZ, Ganado, AZ, and Tohatchi, NM.
In a letter read to parishioners at St. Michaels, Bishop Wall expressed his thanks for the historical efforts of the Franciscans, whose history is so closely intertwined with that of the Diocese.
“The people of our Diocese, the parishioners in St. Michaels, and I are eternally grateful for the historical and continuing efforts of the Franciscans who have served and continue to serve in the Diocese of Gallup, as they live out the Gospel message to bring people to an encounter with the living Christ.”
Fr. Friedman and the rest of the Province emphasized the great and permanent impact made on the Order by the Indigenous people they have served.
“The nearly 135 years of friendship and service between the Diné and the Franciscans has created a bond that has helped shaped the larger identity of the friars in the United States,” Fr. Friedman said, referring to the traditional title the Navajo give themselves, meaning “the people”.
“We have learned and grown from what the Navajo people have taught us. As the scope of our service changes, the friendship we share will not. Every living friar who has spent time among the Diné carries them in his heart. That gift remains a lasting – and living – legacy among us.”
Note: There will be a listening session held On January 31, 2023 at 5:00 pm at St. Michaels Parish. Parishioners and community members may voice any questions, comments or concerns they may have about the pastoral transfer of St. Michaels to diocesan priests. Fr. Peter Short, Vicar General for the Diocese, and Fr. PJ Pabatao, OFM, will be present to hear and answer questions.st-michaels-bishops-letter