History of the CFRs in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe
Origin of the CFRs
The Community of Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFRs) is a new religious community that was founded in 1987 out of the Bronx, New York. The community is composed of men who have a desire to live the Rule of St. Francis of Assisi in the Capuchin Franciscan tradition. The friars serve the material and spiritual needs of the very poor and work for the reform and renewal of the Church through the evangelical preaching of personal reform. The CFRs characterize themselves as Catholic, Franciscan, Capuchin, contemplative, active, apostolic, fraternal, pro-life, and witnesses to the Gospel. They are deeply committed to the New Evangelization as envisioned by our beloved Pope John Paul the Great.
Our Early Work in New Mexico
The history of the CFRs in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe began in the 1990s when friars started traveling to New Mexico to conduct youth retreats in preparation for the new millennium. These retreats, which focused on the Eucharist and Reconciliation, united hundreds of young people in Gallup, Roswell, Taos, Los Lunas, and Albuquerque. Unsuspectingly, the youth retreats also drew the friars into their own encounter with the beauty and rich Catholic history of New Mexico.
In 2001, Fr. Robert Stanion, one of the eight founding CFRs, learned that he needed to be in a drier climate to improve his health. Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan invited Fr. Robert to Albuquerque that summer so that he could help out in some of the local parishes while attending to his health needs.
New Mexico proved to be a fitting and healthy environment for Fr. Robert. After returning to New York at the end of the summer, he soon realized that he needed to return to New Mexico’s dry climate to maintain his health. Once Fr. Robert received permission from the CFRs, Archbishop Sheehan gave him a special assignment to assist with sacramental ministry at San Jose Parish in Albuquerque and to provide support to its pastor at the time, Fr. Dennis Garcia.
Once his health stabilized, Fr. Robert began praying about the possibility that the Lord might be calling the community to open a friary within the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. The other friars in the community were attracted to the idea of establishing a friary in the archdiocese; however, the young community had to wait for friars to finish their formation period and seminary training before a new friary could be officially founded.
In the meantime, Fr. Dennis Garcia asked Fr. Robert and some friars and sisters from New York to develop a summer youth retreat program of Scriptural catechesis, skits, music, art, and recreation. Since the summer of 2002, Friars and Sisters of the Renewal have traveled from New York to New Mexico to offer these programs, which have proven to be a very blessed experience for the hundreds of participating youth, their families, and the friars.
In March 2003, a second CFR, Fr. Terry Messer, joined Fr. Robert in Albuquerque and remained there for the next two and a half years. The priests realized that, due to limited space at San Jose Church, additional housing would be needed before they could receive more friars and expand their community. A new residence was recommended, and in November 2004, the friars moved to the grounds of St. Francis Xavier Church into some old buildings, which they placed under the patronage of San Juan Diego. Sr. Bernice Garcia, OP, Parish Life Coordinator of the priest-less parish, welcomed the help of the CFRs. Frs. Robert and Terry quickly made a lasting impression on the people of the South Valley by preaching, evangelizing, and caring for the poor.
Building Our Life in New Mexico
Although the CFRs were not yet ready to formally establish a friary in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, the friars’ lives and work continued developing in their new setting. Due to a growing need for further help in the community, Fr. Conrad Osterhout arrived in August 2006 with two student friars, Br. Daniel Williamson and Br. Bonaventure Rummell. The following year, Br. Simon Dankoski and Br. Gerard Kanapes replaced the students.
The friars opened a soup kitchen in November 2007, which they named after the Capuchin friar, Father Solanus Casey. That same month, the friars also began making regular visits to the prisoners incarcerated in the Bernalillo County jail.
In the spring of 2008, the friars were granted approval to officially establish a new friary. Upon receiving this permission, the CFR community servant (superior) in New York, Fr. Bernard Murphy, proposed that the friars investigate the cost of renovating the buildings in which they lived in addition to building a new soup kitchen to care for the needs of the homeless poor. Fr. Leo Fisher and Br. Philip Allen were also sent that spring to assist in founding the new friary. Their arrival brought the total number of friars in Albuquerque at the time to six.
Building Our Friary and Soup Kitchen
The friars soon determined that it was not financially feasible to renovate the old buildings located on the grounds of St. Francis Xavier Church, whose old structure was ravaged by previous fire damage, asbestos, and black mold. The friars contacted BroCon Corporation co-owner Daniel Osborn, who offered to demolish the old buildings at cost.
The friars sought out possible homes to rent for the duration of the construction project. As Providence extended itself once again, the Trujeque family of Albuquerque offered the friars free use of a property to inhabit temporarily. The friars moved to a home at 3840 Coors Blvd SW in the fall of 2008. Further moral, prayerful, and financial support for the new San Juan Diego Friary and the new Fr. Solanus Casey Soup Kitchen came from Fr. Dennis Garcia and Fr. Rick Zerwas of the Santa Fe Archdiocese, Sr. Bernice Garcia of St. Francis Xavier, a generous lay group called the Friends of the Friars, and many other generous benefactors and friends.
In early 2009, the friars learned that it was not possible to build on the South Broadway property as originally planned. Over the next year (2009-2010), they searched for and finally acquired a building at 404 San Mateo Blvd. NE. Throughout 2010, the friars worked on renovating the former office building into a friary.
The friary blessing and move-in date took place in October 2011, and the soup kitchen was renamed and reopened in August 2012. The friars' current community servant, Fr. Mariusz Koch, flew to Albuquerque from New York in order to bless and attend the opening of Fray Antonio's Kitchen.
Expanding Our Work
The CFR constitutions state that the friars will be involved with evangelization and hands-on work with the poor. Support for the friary in New Mexico springs from benefactors who appreciate this work and the friars’ Franciscan model of living. Spiritual talks, retreats, parish masses, pro-life advocacy, street evangelization, confessions, hospitality, and serving the homeless and poor are all elements of the CFR way of life.
Fr. Robert Stanion, CFR
On March 23, 2009, Fr. Robert, one of our founders and beloved friend and brother in Christ, was called home by God. We love and miss him, but we rejoice in knowing that we will one day see him again in the presence of our Lord. Until that day, we will continue to rely on him for his prayerful intercession on behalf of our community, our work, and those whom we strive to serve.
Father Robert, pray for us!
Fr. Robert Memorial Slideshow