The Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal received a welcome and blessing from the archdiocese at a Mass in St. Patrick’s Church in Newburgh on Oct. 13.
Five friars took residence over Columbus Day weekend at St. Mary of the Assumption Friary, which formerly served as the rectory of St. Mary’s parish in Newburgh.
“Our plan is to live here, to pray here, to live our community and religious life and to listen to what the Holy Spirit guides us to do—and to listen to the people and be attentive to their needs,” said Father Giuseppe Maria Siniscalchi, C.F.R., who will serve as local servant, or superior, in Newburgh.
“After a while of living here, praying and being attentive, we’ll let the Holy Spirit guide us to what he wants us to do to build up the Kingdom of God on earth, spread the love of Jesus and the mercy of the Father.”
The Franciscan Friars of the Renewal accepted the invitation of Cardinal Dolan to come to Newburgh and first announced they would open a friary in Newburgh in May 2015. They’ll serve the needs of the poor and immigrants of Newburgh and the upper counties of the archdiocese.
“We’re originally from New York and have seen all the good work they’ve done there,” said Jessica Freyne, who now lives in Hazleton, Pa., and returned for the welcome Mass.
“We’re excited to see them come to Newburgh,” she said. “They bring everyone together. They reach out and bring Jesus to people who may otherwise not experience him and the beauty of our Church and the sacraments.
“Every area you see them in, after a few years, like the South Bronx, you can see the whole community change for the better.”
Auxiliary Bishop Dominick Lagonegro was the principal celebrant of the Mass, and Auxiliary Bishop Peter Byrne was among the concelebrants. The two bishops are the episcopal vicars of the upper counties of the archdiocese.
Father Daniel M. O’Hara, dean of Orange County, delivered the official welcome to the friars at the start of the Mass. “God sends his strength to us by way of disciples, and as we look at our community, God is sending to Newburgh and our surrounding areas his disciples,” he said.
Father John Paul Ouellette, C.F.R., the community servant of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, noted the archdiocese’s Making All Things New pastoral planning initiative during his homily. The friars had a home at Most Holy Trinity Church in Yonkers, which was closing and being merged with St. John the Baptist. When Cardinal Dolan asked the friars to consider opening a friary in Newburgh, they had to close St. Felix Friary in Yonkers, a home for 20 years to the Renewal Friars.
“It is hard to let go of something to begin some new,” Father Ouellette said. “Life is a pilgrimage to our Father’s house, and if we get stuck with details, with sentimentality or stuck with where we’re at, life becomes difficult and we forget that it is good. Our Father has good things for us, and blessings for us, even in the midst of trials.
“We come to Newburgh to pray and to listen to what the Father is doing here already. Bishop Dominick, Bishop Peter and my fellow priests, we’re here to assist the good work that is already being done here. We’ve come to assist you and to listen to what’s already happened, to cooperate and see what we can do together.”
Auxiliary Bishop Lagonegro told the congregation toward the end of Mass that the arrival of the friars in Newburgh fulfilled a dream. “I know the tremendous work the CFRs have done with the poor, with the Hispanics. I always had the dream that some day they might come to Newburgh,” the bishop said.
Father Siniscalchi reached out to the people of Newburgh and the upper counties of the archdiocese.
“We like to ask the people to pray for us so that we really may be attentive and listen to the spirit,” he said. “We would like to claim Newburgh and the upper counties for the love of Jesus Christ. We want many people to come to know the truth of his mercy as well as his redemption. Many people will be able to encounter the life-changing power of the Holy Spirit and really know the tender love of the Father.
“That’s what we want to do, but we know it’s not our power. It’s His power, and we need the prayers and assistance of the people in the area.”