The Franciscan Province of St. Barbara, headquartered in Oakland, Calif., have elected Rev. David Gaa, OFM, provincial minister of some 165 Franciscan friars in the western United States. As provincial minister of the Province of St. Barbara, Gaa will oversee all the friars and ministries under the auspices of the province.
Gathered this week at historic Old Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, the Franciscan friars choose a new provincial minister every six to nine years.
Rev. David Gaa currently serves as executive director of Old Mission San Luis Rey and pastor of San Luis Rey Parish, a Roman Catholic faith community of roughly 5,000 families. Gaa has been director of the old mission for five years and pastor of the parish for three.
A native of Florida, Fr. David graduated from college with a degree in economics and finance. He moved to California as an adult, where he worked in the corporate world. Fr. David converted to Catholicism at the age of 24, and entered the Franciscan friars 10 years later. He made solemn (lifelong) as a friar in 1998 and was ordained a Catholic priest later that same year in Tucson, Ariz.
After ordination, Fr. David served first as parochial vicar (associate pastor) and then as pastor at Mission San Xavier del Bac, a historic church on a district of the Tohono O’odham Native American Reservation. During his six years as pastor at Mission San Xavier del Bac, Fr. David raised funds for a major restoration of the historic site as well as construction of a school to serve Native American children.
Immediately prior to coming to Old Mission San Luis Rey, Fr. David spent seven years in Kazakhstan, located in central Asia, establishing the presence of the Franciscan Order and initiating dialogue with the local Muslim and Orthodox populations. He also ministered to the resident Roman Catholics, engaged in social service work in a local clinic, and helped build the local Catholic church.
“I think this is an exciting time to be a friar,” Fr. David said upon his election as provincial minister. “Yes, we face a lot of challenges, but there’s a real grace in our life and our ministry. And I’m very grateful for all those who collaborate with us.”
The Franciscan friars of the Province of St. Barbara are members of the Order of Friars Minor, a Roman Catholic religious community founded by St. Francis of Assisi in 1209. The province covers the western United States and serves in areas of parish ministry, outreach to the poor, retreat work, hospital and prison chaplaincy, education, social advocacy, and foreign and Native American missions.