150 Years of Conventual Presence in Syracuse, NY, USA

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On Sunday, October 15, 2009, in Assumption Church, Syracuse, NY, friars, parishioners and friends gathered to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the first permanent community of Conventual Franciscans in North America.

The Bishop of Syracuse, Robert Cunningham, was the principal celebrant of the Eucharist. Fr. Justin Biase, Minister Province of the Immaculate Conception Province gave the homily. The festivities included the celebration of the Eucharist as well as a whole weekend of dinners and social activities.

The first friars left Germany in 1852 to minister in Texas. They remained in Texas, Philadelphia and Louisville for a short period of time before establishing a permanent presence in Syracuse in 1959 – then part of the Diocese of Albany, NY.

The Friary in Syracuse became the ‘Motherhouse’ of the Conventual Franciscans in the United States, serving as the seat of the Order’s administration and government. Until 1934, it was also the location of the Novitiate.

The long presence of the friars in Syracuse enabled the Order to develop its Conventual presence in North America and to provide many notable friars who contributed to the welfare of the worldwide Conventual Fraternity. The initial ministry to the immigrant German Catholic Community enabled them to receive both the spiritual and academic foundation they needed in making the transition from their native land to a new and unfamiliar environment.

The celebration first looked back in thanksgiving to God for all that had been accomplished by a group of friars who did their best to build up the Church by fidelity to the Gospel and our Way of Life. It celebrated the expansion of the Order into 5 Provinces in North America as well as mission foundations throughout the world. It also looked forward with hope as the Order seeks to translate that clarity of Mission, Fraternity and Service of the early friars into new ways that can continue to enable the friars to touch God’s people with the witness of Franciscan life and the vibrancy of the Gospel message.

Friar Justin Biase