News & Commentary

Newly Unified ‘Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe’ is Established in Atlanta, GA  

(Kansas City, MO) At the heart of the Franciscans’ 800-year history is the urgent and profound call St. Francis of Assisi heard Christ speak to him from the crucifix inside the St. Damiano Church. “Repair my house, which is falling completely to ruin.” These words became a commission he later discerned as “build up the lives of God’s people.” Fast forward to the 21st century, Franciscan Friars of the Order of Friars Minor in the U.S. have discerned that same divine request in the context of modern society and doing something familiar, yet radical to continue their mission – they have unified.

Approximately 700 men from six United States provinces came together in a unified Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe in mid-October, during their synodal Chapter of Unity in Kansas City, MO. The gathering gave birth to a coast-to-coast singular province, headquartered in Atlanta, GA., and has paved a future rooted in renewing Franciscan life, spirituality, and fraternity by living the Gospel through service to the poor and those in the margins.

This unification has come 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. 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.

Pilgrimage to new Province

The challenges of living and spreading the Gospel are as difficult today as they were in the past for the Order of Friars Minor, known in their humility as the “lesser brothers” and for their simplicity in the brown robes they wear. A sense of contemporary expression for Franciscan life, tradition and charism was the catalyst that drove the historic decision toward a vibrant future, in which to live their vocation more fully and educate new friars more effectively and competently in a unified province. 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, missions, universities and high schools located across the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

“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 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.”

As one province, friars can renew Franciscan life in America and shape their fraternity’s future within the context of the worldwide Order of Friars Minor by:

  • Developing contemplative-fraternities-in-mission that are capable of sharing the Gospel in American society.
  • Allowing for new initiatives that invite friars to shape something fresh and inspiring, whereby they might bring to everyone they meet the peace and the good of the Lord, as well as the certain hope of a better world.
  • Creating opportunities for all friars to continue to grow more authentically in their vocation.
  • Eliminating redundancies and pulling resources in ways that more effectively support the friars and their life as missionary disciples.

New Provincial Administration

The minister general of the Order of Friars Minor, Massimo Fusarelli, OFM, formally established the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe in mid-October in the witness of Franciscan friars from 26 states, the District of Columbia, and 16 countries. Friar Massimo installed the province’s first minister provincial, vicar provincial, and seven councilors. The Provincial Administration who has been appointed and will be presented at Chapter is composed of: Br Lawrence Hayes, OFM, Provincial Minister; Br. Mark Soehner, OFM, Vicar Provincial; as well as a Provincial Secretary who will be identified shortly after Chapter. The following have been appointed to the office of Provincial Definitors, also known as Provincial Council: Br. John Eaton, OFM; Br. Erick Lopez, OFM; Br. Roger Lopez, OFM; Br. Samuel Nasada, OFM; Br. Rommel Perez Flores, OFM; Br. José Rodriguez, OFM; and Br. Edward Tlucek, OFM. They will serve a 3-year term.

“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, Provincial Minister. “There’s a wonderful opportunity for us to renew our lives as Franciscans and do that together as a provincial brotherhood.”

About the Franciscan Friars/Order of Friars Minor

The Franciscan friars of the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a coast-to-coast Catholic brotherhood devoted to living the Gospel in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi. They serve the poor, the forgotten and the marginalized alongside people of goodwill located across the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Jamaica.

Founded in October 2023, the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe was formed from friars coming together from six legacy provinces, which are part of the long history of the Order of Friars Minor in the United States: Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Holy Name, Our Lady of Guadalupe, Sacred Heart, St. Barbara and St. John the Baptist. Combining their gifts has allowed them to renew their Franciscan witness to American society and begin an exciting new chapter of their history in the United States. They go forth under the guidance of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness, whose compassion and advocacy for the oppressed and suffering calls them to live in solidarity with the marginalized.

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By Kerting Baldwin, Ed.D., APR