Five Franciscan Friars join new Columbus friary

Originally Appeared in : 9818-8/30/18

“Wow! Ok, we’re here to help!” Father Robert Schlageter cheerfully exclaims, taken aback by the line of more than 40 people waiting for confession on a Saturday afternoon at St. Anne Church in Columbus. The line has been moving slowly for 45 minutes when Father Schlageter walks by the open door of the chapel. With the help of one of the penitents, a few chairs are moved to a secluded part of the chapel and one line becomes two.


Father Schlageter, the newly assigned pastor of St. Anne, is one of five Franciscan friars from Our Lady of the Angels Province who will serve as parish priests in Columbus over the next several years. All five live in community at St. Anne Rectory now renamed Franciscan Martyrs Friary. The five friars aren’t the first Franciscans in the Diocese of Savannah. Bishop Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., himself is a member of the same Franciscan community. When asked if any of the five brothers knew the bishop before they came to Georgia, the response was the “Bishop has been part of our community for a long time and is still very connected. We enjoy his company very much.”


Enjoying the company of others is a chief component of common life.


“We’re family. We live together, eat meals together, even celebrate morning Mass together,” Father Mark David Skura said. Parish priesthood is a natural extension of that brotherhood according to Father Schlageter who sees St. Anne as his new family. “When your family has a need, it’s not on some kind of schedule. You look, you see what’s going on and you do the best you can to answer the needs of your family. That’s what we’re here to do.”


Seeing St. Anne in need of more opportunities for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, two priests will now hear confessions at the nearly 3,000 member parish on Saturdays and additional slots have been added during the week.


Adding more frequent confessions is one of the many ways the five friars are already imitating the compassion and love of their founder. While St. Francis never walked the streets of Columbus, Georgia, Father Robert says the mission of every Franciscan friar is to “follow in the footsteps of St. Francis”. The saint’s famous greeting was always “Peace and all good things” or in words that every parishioner wants to hear, “We’re here to help.”

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