Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
In this file photo from February 2009, Father Gregory Hartmayer, OFM Conv., is attending a vespers service at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit, Conyers, with other men and women religious serving in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, as they honor and recognize those in consecrated life. At the time, Father Hartmayer was the pastor of St. Philip Benizi Church, Jonesboro.


The ministry of a Franciscan friar

By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published May 14, 2020

ATLANTA—“God is always at work to orient the person toward the discovery of a higher dimension of living—of a more useful self-giving and service to our brothers and sisters.”

Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., shared that quote with the Atlanta Catholic community the day he was appointed as the seventh shepherd of the archdiocese. 

The quote is from Father Peter Bovati, SJ, retreat director for Pope Francis’ spiritual exercises and meditation during the Lenten season. 

That quote had resonance for what is going to be expected as the archbishop of Atlanta, said Archbishop Hartmayer, “particularly as a Franciscan, who has a different formation and different understanding sometimes of what it means to serve.”

Franciscans are motivated by the Gospels as a way of following Christ in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, said Father Frank Critch, a Franciscan of the Holy Name Province and director of the Catholic Center at the University of Georgia in Athens. 

“We respond to the needs of Christ who is incarnated and present in people and situations,” he said.

Founded in the 13th century, Franciscans consist of many communities inspired by the life and ministry of St. Francis. Whether ordained clergy or laity, Franciscans profess to live their lives in prayer and service inspired by the saint who founded the order more than 800 years ago.

“Francis met people where they were, and as friars we approach our ministry in the same vein,” said Father Critch. “We are encouraged to listen more deeply and reflect on the presence of Christ in everyone and everywhere.”

The Franciscan ministry in the Archdiocese of Atlanta started in September 1957, when Father Corman Kelly, OFM, began serving as chaplain for the University of Georgia. Franciscans continue to serve the university but will be leaving in July.

Franciscans minister at two parishes in the Atlanta Archdiocese—St. Philip Benizi Church in Jonesboro and Holy Cross Church in Atlanta. Holy Trinity Church, Peachtree City, hosts a Franciscan priest-in-residence who serves in a counseling ministry in the archdiocese.

Archbishop Gregory Hartmayer, back left, poses with three other men who entered seminary at the same time as he did. Photo Courtesy of Archbishop Hartmayer

Georgia is home to eight Secular Franciscan fraternities, which consist of laymen and women who “look to Jesus Christ through our Seraphic Father, Francis, to help us live as Secular Franciscans by prayerful and active Gospel living,” as explained on their website.

Archbishop Hartmayer is one of 25 Conventual Franciscan Friars serving as bishops worldwide and one of three serving in the United States.

Franciscans can live out their vocation in a variety of ways, said Father Critch. This includes ministry as pastors, chaplains, social workers, professors, teachers, spiritual directors and activists for the poor, vulnerable and the environment.

“When people see friars, I believe they see hope,” said Father Critch. “This is not just the domain of Franciscans, but all of us called to live the way of the Gospel.”

The Conventual Franciscan Friars at St. Philip Benizi parish were excited to welcome Archbishop Hartmayer back to the archdiocese.

Father John A. Koziol, pastor of St. Philip Benizi, has known the new archbishop for many years and worked with him at the Jonesboro parish. He says Archbishop Hartmayer will bring a Franciscan spirituality to his new role.

“He’s very comfortable being a friar,” said Father Koziol. “He shares the Franciscan spirit wherever he goes.”

A care for priests comes from the fraternity of the Franciscan order, Father Koziol explains. He has a real love for priests and desires to have a fraternal relationship with them and be available to them, he said. 

Father Vincent Gluc has known Archbishop Hartmayer for more than 50 years. They are both from the Buffalo, New York area, and began Franciscan life together in Maryland. They share the same priesthood ordination anniversary and worked together at the Jonesboro church for five years.

He says the new archbishop is not focused on power, but service to God and his church.

 “I know that Bishop Hartmayer brings the spirit of Pope Francis and Francis of Assisi in seeking to rebuild and renew God’s church in our time.”