Pentecost Letter from Capuchin Provincial, Fr. Charles Polifka to the Parishionersw of St. Joseph Parish in Hays, KS

May 27, 2012


Dear brothers and sisters of St. Joseph’s Parish in Hays, May the Lord give you peace! Please do not think that I am “rubbing it in” by once more telling you that the Capuchins will be leaving St. Joseph’s Parish. You have heard it so many times now. Allow me to write to you as a brother who has a unique perspective on this decision which affects us Capuchins as well as all of you. Capuchins and St. Joseph’s Parishioners are family. We will continue to be family. In every family there is a time for leaving the house and moving into new places. Kids leave home to go out and accomplish new things. They are still part of the family, but there comes a time to move on with life. When we came to Ellis County and to St. Joseph’s Parish, the early friars left parishes in Germany and came here to “do new things.” Now, in 2012 and after 134 years of doing that new thing, the time has come for us to do other new things. Nevertheless, the spirit of St. Francis, and of Father Alfred and Father Paulinus, of Fr. Tom Haywood and Fr. Owen, of Father Fidelis and Father Leander, and of all of us, will never die. Nor will the spirit of so many lay people and religious – especially Sisters of St. Agnes – in the parish ever die in the Capuchin Province of Mid-America. We are family and we will continue to be family. We will continue to be rooted in Ellis County, especially in the rural parishes and in our “motherhouse” in Victoria. We will continue to walk with you. But in order for us to move into our future and respond creatively to the immigrant and social and re-evangelization needs of the Catholic Church in the 21st Century and beyond, and in order for us to continue to have new life, we must humbly leave behind what can be done by others. We must focus on the needs of the Church in other areas. That is our responsibility as Capuchin Franciscans to the whole Church. Every parish is ultimately the responsibility of the Diocese and its bishop. Some parishes, like St. Joseph’s, are entrusted to a religious community. It is the bishop, however, who approves all assignments and who is the “chief pastor” of any parish. We Capuchins believe now, just as we believed in the case of Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in 1968, that it is time for the Diocese to assume full care of the parish. It was at that time, in 1968, that we were able to begin ministry to Hispanic immigrants and the socially poor in Denver. We are now opening ourselves in 2012 to not only those kinds of immigrant ministries, but to other re-evangelization ministries. Need I remind you of the numbers of Catholics who have left the Church and need this re-evangelization. I will not deny that this decision is a difficult one. So many of us Capuchins have our roots in Hays. I personally was baptized, received my First Communion, was confirmed and ordained, and was mentored as a priest (by Fr. Tom Haywood) in St. Joseph’s Parish. “Time,” however, “like an ever rolling stream, soon bears us all away.” (From, “O God, Our Help In Ages Past.) I am asking Bishop Weisenburger to appoint Father Earl Befort as the “temporary” pastor during the months after July to shepherd the parish through this transition period until the diocese can make appointments to staff the parish. You have a great and capable parish staff. Father Barnabas will be there, too, to make sure that the sacraments are celebrated. Friars from Victoria will be available to help on occasions. The transition may take quite a number of months, but while we are in no hurry, the transition will definitely be completed by July 1, 2013. Let me clarify, too, that we will not be leaving the rural ministries in Ellis County. We want to continue our ministries to the elderly in nursing homes and to the young at Thomas More Prep-Marian, too. We remain rooted in Ellis County. We remain part of the family. You are our family, too. My prayer is that we will continue to support one another as we move ahead. May God bless all the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Parish for your wonderful support of the friars through these 134 years. And may God bless the life and ministry of the Capuchins as we move into our own future. Sincerely in St. Francis and St. Clare and Jesus Christ, Fr. Charles Polifka, OFM Cap. Fr. Charles Polifka, O.F.M.Cap. Provincial Minister Capuchin Province of Mid-America May 27, 2012