Capuchin Franciscan friars to leave two parishes in Charlotte
CHARLOTTE — The Capuchin Franciscans are soon leaving two of the three parishes they staff in the Diocese of Charlotte – St. Thomas Aquinas and Our Lady of Consolation – because of a growing shortage of friars in the region.
The friars who will be leaving are Father Remo DiSalvatore, pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas Church (pictured above during a healing service at the church in 2011), Father Martin Schratz, pastor of Our Lady of Consolation Church, and Brother Douglas Soik, pastoral associate at Our Lady of Consolation.
The Capuchin Franciscans will continue to staff Immaculate Conception Church in Hendersonville. Three friars are assigned there now.
The friars in Charlotte and Hendersonville are part of the Capuchin Franciscan order's Province of the Sacred Stigmata of St. Francis, founded in 1913 and based in Union City, N.J. While the order has 12,000 friars worldwide, the 41 friars in the province (which runs from Florida to New York) staff seven parishes besides serving at a hospital, two retreat centers, and an urban ministry for the poor.
New vocations have not kept pace with the aging friars and the growing needs of these ministries, so the province is being restructured, said Father DiSalvatore, who sits on the provincial council.
The changes were announced to parishioners at Mass in both Charlotte parishes on March 25.
"It is impossible for us to continue as a province without making drastic changes," Father DiSalvatore wrote in the parish bulletin this week, acknowledging that the changes will be hard.
He continued, "However, as friars, we see God's hand at work, even when things are difficult. Yes, these changes will call for sacrifice on the part of the friars. Yes, there will be sadness as we leave the people we love in the parishes. However, we strongly believe that God will renew and strengthen us as friars as we make these changes. God is calling us to go back to the basics of our Capuchin life...fraternity, prayer and simplicity. The true treasure of the Capuchin charism, what the Capuchins have to offer to the Church, is Evangelical Brotherhood, living the Gospel as brothers. These changes, as difficult as they are, will enable us to be more authentic in our lives as Capuchins. In the long run, this is what is best for the Church, and for us."
No precise date has been formalized regarding the change in pastors at both parishes, although changes usually do occur sometime in July, when priest assignments are announced by Bishop Peter Jugis.
"The Diocese of Charlotte will provide good priests to come in and build upon the wonderful work that all the previous priests and parishioners have done over the years," Father DiSalvatore noted in his message to parishioners.
"It has truly been an honor and a privilege for the Capuchin friars to serve the good people of St. Thomas Aquinas. During these next three months, let us all work together to prepare the parish for the upcoming transition. It is never easy to leave a parish, not for the friars, not for the parishioners. However, we must continue to trust in God's will and pray for guidance and peace, knowing that '...all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.' (Rm 8:28)"
In his bulletin announcement this week, Father Schratz said the past 13 years of the friars' ministry at Our Lady of Consolation have been "wonderful."
"I must add that whomever Bishop Jugis assigns here will find it a ministry with many blessings," he wrote.
To learn more about the Capuchin Franciscans and to support their work, visit http://www.capuchinfriars.org.
— Patricia L. Guilfoyle, editor