Province of St. Mary
John Frey and Gregory Haas
Upon their arrival in 1856, John Frey and Gregory Haas rode onto a hill called Mt. Calvary in central Wisconsin. It was the end of a perilous journey that began in Switzerland, including a forty-nine day sea voyage, an eight-day train trip from New York and a horseback ride from Milwaukee. When they finally arrived, all the rigors and uncertainties of pioneer life faced them. It took twenty-six years of determined building, and in 1882 they achieved their goal: becoming the first Capuchin province in America, the St. Joseph Province.
Following upon its founding in 1882, the Province of St. Joseph grew rapidly, experiencing a large increase in the number of its members and an ever-widening geographic presence across its vast territory reaching from the Midwest to the East Coast. In 1950, the Provincial Minister sent questionnaires to all friars in the province regarding the possibility of dividing the large geographic jurisdiction of St. Joseph Province. The great majority favored the division.
On February 2, 1952, this desire was accomplished and the Province of St. Joseph and the Province of St. Mary were established as separate jurisdictions.
While the Province of St. Joseph stretched from Detroit to Montana, the newly formed Province of St. Mary included New York and New England and the mission territories of the Mariana Islands and Ryukyu Islands. Friars were given the choice as to which Province they would belong and there was an almost even split between the two. Quickly each province grew to nearly the size of their original single province.
Capuchin Franciscan friars in North America are now organized into eight provinces and number about a thousand.