© Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Southwest Franciscan Missions Development Office 2016
In his latest book, The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, John Allen categorized his work as “descriptive,” rather than “prescriptive.” What follows here is my attempt as a trained friar historian to begin to systematically describe the events of the early history of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, not to judge them. Judging these events will require more perspective, from a greater distance in time, than we have now. Our Lady of Guadalupe Province of the Order of Friars Minor formally came into existence during a celebration of evening prayer in St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico on the third of January, 1985. But the founding of the Province would never have happened without a number of prior events: 1) the coming of friars from Cincinnati to the Southwest in 1898; 2) the growth and expansion of the friars’ ministries in Arizona and New Mexico between 1898 and the 1950s; 3) changes within the whole Church in the 1960s and 1970s which encouraged subsidiarity (local decision-making) and a growing realization of the value of diverse local cultures; 4) the emergence of Franciscan leaders such as John Vaughn, John Altman and Jeremy Harrington with the vision and the will to bring these elements together to form a new province, and 5) the dramatic events surrounding the death of Reynaldo Rivera in 1982. Each of those events in some way led to the formation of Guadalupe Province and deserves further examination, but at the moment, we will continue on with the history of the province since its founding. Undeniably, the biggest single fact in the history of the province since its founding has been the reduction of the number of friars within it. Once the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe was born in 1985, a number of factors contributed to the decline in the number of friars from one hundred in 1985 to sixty in 2010, even as the friars struggled through the years to maintain the ministries which the friars who formed the Province conducted at the time they formally ceased to be members of St. John the Baptist Province. On one hand, the numbers of all Roman Catholic vowed religious and clergy in the United States had begun to fall by 1970 and pretty much continued to do so for the next forty years. Significantly, the number of young people from the United States seeking to explore a religious vocation fell faster than the overall number of religious. While on the other hand, historical forces between 1946 and 1963 had combined for “bumper crops” of vocations, resulting in a high number of friars being enthusiastically present for the founding of the Province, but making the decline in vocations of the 1980s and 1990s all the more perplexing. Meanwhile, the numbers of Roman Catholics in the United States and the need for ministry continued to increase throughout this period, creating a sense of “loosing ground” on the part of the friars. They sensed that they would never keep up, no matter how hard they worked as they grew older and watched each other leave or die. These events deserve our serious reflection, not for futile finger-pointing, but for the future good which can come from understanding these past events more clearly.

Toward a History of Our Lady of Guadalupe

Southwest Franciscan Missions Development Office Province of our Lady of Guadalupe
During the first twenty-five years of the life of the province, even though much was repeatedly said of the call for significant changes in the lives and ministries of the friars in the Southwest, for any number of reasons, the friars did not make a great number of deliberately chosen changes in their lives or ministries. Perhaps the greatest brake on purposeful change came from the lack of a critical mass of friars at the right age to push for experimentation both in Franciscan life and ministry. The vast majority of friars continued to do the same things after the foundation of the new province which they had done before. At the time of the founding of the province, two factors were repeatedly named as the reasons things were bound to change. The first was vocations. It was said that whatever vocations now came to the friars, they would be “local” and with the arrival of friars native to the Southwest, the province itself would take root. The second factor was financial, that as the friars could no longer depend upon support for the missions coming from Cincinnati, they would have to live lives more dependent upon God and more in keeping with the limited economic resources of the people of the Southwest. Unfortunately, very few local vocations ever came, but lots of money did come, not from Cincinnati, but from Wall Street. As strange as it may seem to Franciscans, understanding the history of the province will require an examination of how the financial concerns and the accumulation of money has played a role in its Franciscan life. Between 1985 and 2010, twenty-seven different friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province have served their brothers as members of the definitorium, provincials or vicar provincials. They also served as teachers of young friars, caretakers of older friars and administrators of the goods entrusted to the friars, and ministering in parishes and missions, often doing several of these things at the same time. Almost two hundred different men were at one time or another part of the province, some very briefly. Amazingly more than forty friars have been part of the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province for the entire time of its twenty-five-year existence.  All in all, the friars did an amazing amount of work. But no matter the amount of work that they did, historical forces appeared to condemn them to decline in numbers and to fear for the future of the Franciscan adventure in the Southwest. Yet, the friars were first and foremost men of faith in God. They believed that the ministry which they did was God’s work and they continued to do it to the best of their ability. Their perseverance and faithfulness to their call in the light of the trying conditions of the first twenty-five years of their provincial history remain an inspiration for the future.
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© Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Southwest Franciscan Missions Development Office 2016

About

Toward a History of Our

Lady of Guadalupe

In his latest book, The Future Church: How Ten Trends Are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, John Allen categorized his work as “descriptive,” rather than “prescriptive.” What follows here is my attempt as a trained friar historian to begin to systematically describe the events of the early history of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province, not to judge them. Judging these events will require more perspective, from a greater distance in time, than we have now. Our Lady of Guadalupe Province of the Order of Friars Minor formally came into existence during a celebration of evening prayer in St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe, New Mexico on the third of January, 1985. But the founding of the Province would never have happened without a number of prior events: 1) the coming of friars from Cincinnati to the Southwest in 1898; 2) the growth and expansion of the friars’ ministries in Arizona and New Mexico between 1898 and the 1950s; 3) changes within the whole Church in the 1960s and 1970s which encouraged subsidiarity (local decision-making) and a growing realization of the value of diverse local cultures; 4) the emergence of Franciscan leaders such as John Vaughn, John Altman and Jeremy Harrington with the vision and the will to bring these elements together to form a new province, and 5) the dramatic events surrounding the death of Reynaldo Rivera in 1982. Each of those events in some way led to the formation of Guadalupe Province and deserves further examination, but at the moment, we will continue on with the history of the province since its founding. Undeniably, the biggest single fact in the history of the province since its founding has been the reduction of the number of friars within it. Once the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe was born in 1985, a number of factors contributed to the decline in the number of friars from one hundred in 1985 to sixty in 2010, even as the friars struggled through the years to maintain the ministries which the friars who formed the Province conducted at the time they formally ceased to be members of St. John the Baptist Province. On one hand, the numbers of all Roman Catholic vowed religious and clergy in the United States had begun to fall by 1970 and pretty much continued to do so for the next forty years. Significantly, the number of young people from the United States seeking to explore a religious vocation fell faster than the overall number of religious. While on the other hand, historical forces between 1946 and 1963 had combined for “bumper crops” of vocations, resulting in a high number of friars being enthusiastically present for the founding of the Province, but making the decline in vocations of the 1980s and 1990s all the more perplexing. Meanwhile, the numbers of Roman Catholics in the United States and the need for ministry continued to increase throughout this period, creating a sense of “loosing ground” on the part of the friars. They sensed that they would never keep up, no matter how hard they worked as they grew older and watched each other leave or die. These events deserve our serious reflection, not for futile finger-pointing, but for the future good which can come from understanding these past events more clearly. During the first twenty-five years of the life of the province, even though much was repeatedly said of the call for significant changes in the lives and ministries of the friars in the Southwest, for any number of reasons, the friars did not make a great number of deliberately chosen changes in their lives or ministries. Perhaps the greatest brake on purposeful change came from the lack of a critical mass of friars at the right age to push for experimentation both in Franciscan life and ministry. The vast majority of friars continued to do the same things after the foundation of the new province which they had done before. At the time of the founding of the province, two factors were repeatedly named as the reasons things were bound to change. The first was vocations. It was said that whatever vocations now came to the friars, they would be “local” and with the arrival of friars native to the Southwest, the province itself would take root. The second factor was financial, that as the friars could no longer depend upon support for the missions coming from Cincinnati, they would have to live lives more dependent upon God and more in keeping with the limited economic resources of the people of the Southwest. Unfortunately, very few local vocations ever came, but lots of money did come, not from Cincinnati, but from Wall Street. As strange as it may seem to Franciscans, understanding the history of the province will require an examination of how the financial concerns and the accumulation of money has played a role in its Franciscan life. Between 1985 and 2010, twenty-seven different friars of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province have served their brothers as members of the definitorium, provincials or vicar provincials. They also served as teachers of young friars, caretakers of older friars and administrators of the goods entrusted to the friars, and ministering in parishes and missions, often doing several of these things at the same time. Almost two hundred different men were at one time or another part of the province, some very briefly. Amazingly more than forty friars have been part of the Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province for the entire time of its twenty-five-year existence.  All in all, the friars did an amazing amount of work. But no matter the amount of work that they did, historical forces appeared to condemn them to decline in numbers and to fear for the future of the Franciscan adventure in the Southwest. Yet, the friars were first and foremost men of faith in God. They believed that the ministry which they did was God’s work and they continued to do it to the best of their ability. Their perseverance and faithfulness to their call in the light of the trying conditions of the first twenty-five years of their provincial history remain an inspiration for the future.
Southwest Franciscan Missions Development Office
Province of Our Lady of Guadalupe