Franciscan Friars Withdraw from Diocese of Gaylord     

Gaylord, Michigan – Bishop Walter A. Hurley, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Gaylord, has announced that on September 17, 2021, the Franciscan friars will be withdrawing from the Diocese of Gaylord due to the diminishing number and aging of the friars in the Sacred Heart Province. This transition marks the end of many years of dedicated service, as the Franciscan friars have served in various ministries in the Diocese of Gaylord region since 1865.

Currently, the friars are overseeing the parish and National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods in Indian River, where they have been assigned since 1989. The withdrawal of the Franciscan friars from the Cross in the Woods, and the Diocese of Gaylord, will fittingly take place after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, observed on September 14, 2021. The new appointment of a pastor to oversee the parish and National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods will be forthcoming as the date of transition draws near.

Of this transition, Bishop Walter Hurley states,

“Bishop Raica and I were in close communication with the Provincial Minister of the Province of the Sacred Heart, Father Thomas Nairn, O.F.M, for more than a year regarding this possibility of withdrawal due to lack of personnel. On April 8, 2021, I received a letter from Father Nairn notifying me that, out of necessity, the friars will depart from the diocese this September. While I am saddened by their upcoming departure, I understand the difficult realities that their religious community, and many others, are facing as it relates to a shortage of personnel.

“As we approach this upcoming transition, I wish to express my profound gratitude to the friars who have served in our diocese for more than 150 years, and most recently at the National Shrine of the Cross in the Woods for these past three decades. Their efforts have been marked by humble devotion and joyful service, and have made a lasting impact on our Catholic communities in the diocese. I also extend my personal gratitude to Father Michael Haney, O.F.M., who has served as pastor of the Cross in the Woods in Indian River since 2011, and to Father Vernon Olmer, O.F.M., who has served as parochial vicar there since 2014. Their many years of dedicated service has been a blessing to the parish community and to the thousands of pilgrims who have journeyed to this beautiful shrine in our diocese.

“I remain thankful for the work of the Franciscan friars in our diocese and look forward to formally recognizing their steadfast service to our Catholic community. We will continue to pray for our Franciscan brothers during this time of transition, as well as for a renewed sense of calling to the vocation so their community can continue to flourish for years to come.”


# # #



The Diocese of Gaylord was established by His Holiness Pope St. Paul VI on July 20, 1971. The territory encompasses 11,171 square miles and includes the 21 most northern counties of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The region is home to nearly 50,000 Catholics, served by 75 parishes, 17 Catholic schools and many closely-related institutions. For more information, visit

Media Contact: Mrs. Mackenzie Ritchie, Director of Communications | | 989.705.3506