St. Francis Chapel in Colonie is slated to close by June 30 due to a shortage of friars. (Mike Matvey photo)
St. Francis Chapel in Colonie is slated to close by June 30 due to a shortage of friars. (Mike Matvey photo)

A chapel that offered Catholics a spiritual break from the frenzy and chaos of a shopping center will be closing after 50 years. 

St. Francis Chapel, which is located at the Wolf Road Shoppers Park in Colonie and run by the Franciscan Friars of the Holy Name Province, will permanently close by June 30. The Franciscans said in a statement that the declining friar population was to blame. 

The chapel, a staple for five decades, opened at Northway Mall in Colonie in 1970 and moved to its current location in 1998. Along with the announcement of the closing of the chapel, the friars will withdraw this summer from eight Fraternities-in-Mission in which they serve across the East Coast.

"Closing St. Francis Chapel, and our withdrawal from the other eight Fraternities-in-Mission, inevitably will bring disappointment and sadness – which are natural emotions because of the long association with the Franciscan friars at these sites. The decision to close the mall ministry was not taken lightly,” said Father Kevin Mullen, OFM, provincial minister of the Holy Name Province.

“and, in fact, was very difficult and painful – as with the other Fraternities-in-Mission where we have announced our departure. But despite our long history and rich tradition at the chapel, the reality of our declining numbers – and the challenges and strain it places on our ability to fulfill our fraternal mission – made this a pragmatic and necessary decision.”

There were 708 friars in the province in 1986, but that number dropped to 443 in 2001 and now stands at just under 300. Since August of 2018, just three friars professed their solemn vows. Despite the news, the Diocese of Albany stands ready to fill the spiritual void, pointing out that Christ our Light parish in Loudonville is in close proximity to the chapel.

“We are so grateful to the Franciscan Friars for their many years of ministry at St. Francis Chapel on Wolf Road. Although we are sorry to see the Wolf Road ministry end, we are happy to receive the people who regularly worship there into our local parishes,” said Mary DeTurris Poust, diocesan director of communications. “We will be looking at ways to expand the availability of the sacraments in our neighboring parishes in order to fill any void this closure might create. Christ Our Light parish in Loudonville is less than two miles from St. Francis Chapel and would provide a welcome home to those who will be looking for a new place to attend Mass or go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

“We are especially grateful that the Franciscan Friars will continue their ministry at Siena College and look forward to the ongoing presence of the Friars in our Diocese for many years to come.”

Coming soon: A historical look at the chapel and how local parishes might expand services to meet the needs of those who relied on the chapel.