The Capuchin friars at the St. Anne-St. Augustin church in Manchester have announced they will be leaving the parish in mid-July.
The Rev. Sam Fuller says the parish has lost five pastors and associate pastors due to illness and other personal reasons since 2017. This staffing shortage is, in part, what drove their decision to leave.
St. Anne-St. Augustin is known for serving Manchester's refugee and immigrant populations, offering special services in Spanish, Vietnamese, Arabic, and Swahili, in addition to English.
This meant that when they made the announcement Sunday, they had to deliver the bad news five times, in each language.
Fuller says this was hard to do.
"For a lot of people, this is their home,” he says. “And so for them to hear this was very difficult. Very sad. There were plenty of tears. No question about it."
After the friars leave this summer, the church will be overseen by the Diocese of Manchester. Bishop Peter Libasci says he plans to continue offering multilingual services even after the friars are gone.
“What the Capuchins have done was set such a strong and good foundation and identity - just really made it an amazing multicultural parish,” he says. “So I promised them that we would continue to build on that.”
He says he’s already identified two Vietnamese seminarians and priests from Tanzania and Kenya, who are preparing to take over services later this year.
The friars who are still with the parish will not receive new assignments until May at the earliest.
Fuller says in the meantime, they’ll continue being active in the Manchester community.
“It’s not as if we are totally desolate, and sad, and abandoned,” he says. “There are great things happening here, and we just have to continue that and to continue building the community.”