MIAMI -- Father Fernando Negro, who was elected provincial superior of the Piarist Fathers' newly formed province of the United States and Puerto Rico, said one of the main tasks ahead for the religious order is re-evangelizing families.
"Today one of the greatest problems in certain parts of the world is the lack of religious and priestly vocations," the priest said. "My conviction is that the main task ahead of us is the re-evangelization of families so that parents may educate their children based on Christian values."
Father Negro made the comments in a statement released after the merger of the order's U.S. province and the New York-Puerto Rico vice province was completed earlier this summer.
The process of reorganization was begun five years ago, according to an announcement about the merger being finalized. Restructuring, it said, was key to revitalizing the order's work in the mainland U.S. and Puerto Rico.
Over the course of five years, members held joint assemblies in Florida and Puerto Rico to discuss concern about the merger, work on a joint mission statement, and set goals and objectives for the new province -- all with the support of Father Pedro Aguado, superior general. He attended the assemblies.
The Piarist Fathers also are known by their Spanish name, Padres Escolapios. The formal name of the order is the Poor Clerics Regular of the Mother of God of the Pious Schools.
The priests in the newly merged province serve English-speaking and Spanish-speaking communities in six U.S. cities and two Puerto Rican cities.
Father Negro, a priest for 30 years, was elected provincial at the first chapter meeting of the merged province. Born in Spain, he is the seventh of 10 children. He and two of his brothers are Piarists. His brother Father Jesus Negro has been a missionary for almost 30 years and currently ministers in India. His other priest-brother, Father Javier Negro, is serving his third consecutive term as the order's provincial of Aragon, Spain.
Until his election, Father Fernando Negro had been ministering in the Piarists' parish and school in New York's upper Harlem area since 2008. Before that he spent three and a half years as a missionary in Bangalore, India. He also was master of novices in Spain, served in Cameroon for almost 16 years after spending a year in Brooklyn, N.Y. Before that he ministered in Spain for six years.
"If I make an analysis of my vocational history," he said, "I cannot avoid coming to my family roots where I find the example and the voice of my parents who gave us the solid conviction that he/she who has God at the center in nothing is wanting.
"Together with this essential message I also grasped from them that the Gospel is a fire that urges us to share with others the gifts we constantly receive from him," he said.
The order operates Annunciation Parish and School and a seminary in New York; a residence at The Catholic University of America, Washington; Devon Preparatory School, Devon, Pa.; Piarist School, Martin, Ky.; Cardinal Gibbons High School, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Southeast Pastoral Institute and a seminary for the postulant and pre-novitiate years, Miami; Santisimo Salvador Church and Colegio Calasanz School, San Juan; Colegio Ponceno School, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish and School, and a seminary for students in their pre-novitiate and "juniorate" year.
Worldwide there are more than 1,400 Piarists serving in 32 countries. Since the founding of the order by St. Joseph Calasanz in Spain in the early 1600s, the order has been dedicated to educating poor children and youths to teach them "to be skillful Christian citizens."