An ancient order maintains a ministry in the river valley
By TOM KANE
SULLIVAN COUNTY Father William Scully, who is pastor at Catholic churches in Narrowsburg and Lake Huntington, isnt your every day kind of priest. First of all, hes a Franciscan, a member of the Order of Friars Minor (O.F.M.), a religious order in the Roman Catholic Church that goes back to the 13th century, founded by Saint Francis of Assisi.
Second, he spent most of his career teaching Asian studies and international law.
Third, he served as a senior associate at the Washington, DC Heritage Foundation and later as a consultant to the U.S. government as an expert in Asian studies and national security, working for the U.S. Senate.
All during this time, he was a priest and, at times, had to wear secular garb, this with the blessing of the leaders of his community.
This career, rare though it may be, is not totally unusual. Many members of religious communities who become experts in a particular field, especially a technical field like Father Scully, have been asked to serve their country or the public in unusual capacities. I finally requested that my community leaders take me out of Washington and allow me to be a pastor in any church, Scully said. I grew tired of all the pressures and superficial values of Washington.
All this points to the non-conventional nature of religious communities like the Franciscans, who will be celebrating their 800th anniversary in 2009. (In 1962, the community had over 1,000 members. Now the membership stands at 430.)
The friars are not entirely unfamiliar to us who live in the Upper Delaware River Corridor, because this group of brown-clad priests have been managing five Roman Catholic parishes in Sullivan County since 1862. The parishes are Holy Cross Church in Callicoon, St. Francis Xavier Church in Narrowsburg, Our Lady of the Lake in Lake Huntington, St. Marys Church in Obernberg and St. Anthony of Padua Church in Yulan, and formerly St.Georges Church in Jeffersonville. The community did not start these parishes, but was asked by Archbishop Corrigan of the Archdiocese of New York to take over their managements
Interestingly, the large monastery-like building overlooking the hamlet of Callicoon was once the minor seminary of the order until it was sold to the federal government, which uses it to house the local branch of the Delaware Valley Job Corps. Serving an area from New England to Florida, Holy Name Province (HNP) is one of seven geographic areas, or provinces, in the United States where the order operates. The province is the largest in the worldwide Franciscan Order.
A DVD called Holy Name Province: Love at Work is available the provinces website ( hnp.org ) for a visual description of the provinces six ministries. They are parishes serving 31 churches in 10 states, higher education in the management of St. Bonaventure University and Siena College, urban ministry, preaching at retreat centers, direct service to the poor and foreign missions in Africa and Asia.
Our new DVD clearly shows how the provincial community provides friars with the spiritual and fraternal support to live fully the calling of St. Francis of Assisi to be the heralds of the gospel in the midst of society, said Rev. John OConnor, OFM, Provincial Minister.