Fr. Capistran Petrie moved to Buffalo, NY where he served as pastor of St. Patrick’s Church, and later served as the Commissary Provincial of the Commissariat of St. John Capistran, headquartered in Roebling, NJ. Fr. Lucian Gallagher, former Commissary Provincial of the Third Order Franciscans, was named guardian and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Friary and Church during the Provincial Chapter of 1943. Immediately he formulated a program for the celebration of the centenary of the church which would be observed in 1944.
Plans for the installation of a new main altar, new terrazzo floors, and a new confessional chapel were realized. The loft building adjoining the friary to the east, which was purchased in 1937, and partially converted to rooms for friars, was further renovated under Fr. Lucian’s direction. The parlor facilities were enlarged to include the ground floor of the former loft building, a new lobby was constructed at the entrance of the friary, a priests’ chapel and confessional were built, and the friary buildings were renovated as well.
During the month of October, 1944, St. Francis of Assisi celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding with a solemnity and color rarely seen in any American church. Fr. Lucian planned and executed a series of Masses which brought some of the most notable preachers in America to the little church on 31st Street.
In preparation for the Feast of St. Francis and the centenary, a solemn novena was conducted from September 26 to October 4. The centennial celebrations proper took place from October 4 to 8. On each evening of the novena, a distinguished guest preacher delivered the sermon. Fr. James M. Gillis, C.S.P., editor of The Catholic World, was the speaker on the opening day of the novena. His topic was “The Age of Saint Francis of Assisi.”
On September 27, Fr. Apollinaris Baumgartner, O.F.M., Cap., pastor of neighboring St. John the Baptist Church, spoke on the theme, “Everybody’s Saint Francis.” The next day, Fr. Albert H. Dolan, O.Carm., founder and director of the League of the Little Flower, and writer of several books on St. Therese, preached on the subject, “St. Francis, Lover of Nature and the God of Nature.” Fr. Cosmas Shaughnessy, C.P., Director of laymen’s retreats at the Passionist Monastery in Jamaica, NY, delivered a sermon on “St. Francis’ Love for the Crucified” on September 29. “ The Love of St. Francis for the Poor and Suffering” was the subject of a talk on September 30 by Fr. Edward M. Betowski, professor of homiletics at St. Joseph Seminary in Yonkers, NY.
The sermons continued with “The Three Orders of St. Francis” by Msgr. James H. Griffiths, and “St. Francis, a Reformer of Society,” by Dom Gregory Borgstedt, O.S.B. from Portsmouth, RI. At the Solemn Transitus on October 3, Msgr. Joseph F. Flannelly, administrator of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, preached on “The Death of St. Francis.” Fr. George Rudrof, O.M.C., of Seaside Park, NJ, preached the concluding novena sermon on “The Franciscan Message to the World.”