Citing a dwindling number men in the order, the Franciscan friars will depart from Ascenscion Parish in Southeast Portland after almost a century of service.
Parishioners are saddened and the current pastor, Father Ben Innes, was surprised and wishes the Oakland, Calif.-based leaders of his order had decided to stay at the church on the eastern flanks of Mount Tabor.
“The friars have been here for 99 years,” says Father Innes, an Oregon native. “We have had to give up parishes because of manpower but there is also not a great desire among the men to come from California to the great Northwest.”
After hearing about the decision, Father Innes requested a sabbatical and was granted it.
The Archdiocese of Portland will assign a parish priest who will assume office July 1. The Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia and the Secular Franciscans will remain at Ascension.
"As with many religious communities in the United States, our number of friars has drastically decreased and we have been unable to provide personnel for the sacramental needs of all our parishes," said a letter to parishioners from Father John Hardin, head of the Franciscans Province of St. Barbara.
The friars left St. Clare Parish in Southwest Portland in 1991 and St. Anthony in Tigard in 1996. In 1999, the province gave up 10 other parishes in the west.
"We realized that we were still being stretched and needed to look at even more reductions," Father Hardin wrote, noting that the number of friars has dropped from 250 to 180 in the past 15 years and that half the remaining friars are 70 and older.
A council of friars made the decision after several rounds of prayer and discussion. Father Martin Ibarra will work with Father Innes on the transition.
Father Hardin says the parishioners have showed they are "imbued with the spirit of Francis" and demonstrate it by serving the poor and working for peace and justice.
The Franciscans of the Santa Barbara Province will remain at St. John the Baptist Parish in Milwaukie and at the Francis Center, a Southeast 82nd Avenue outreach to low-income Portlanders.
The Franciscans closed their Portland house of formation last year after 60 years of training future friars in Oregon. The order's postulancy house has moved to historic Mission Santa Barbara in California. The friars explained that move by saying most of their ministry is now concentrated in California and the Southwest.
Talks are underway among Franciscans in the U.S. regarding the consolidation of 10 provinces.
Posted: Sunday, April 13, 2014
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As a member of St. Clare parish and as a long-time acquaintance with many of the Franciscan Friars and also as an historian, I am saddened by this news.