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Friars Gather in Puerto Rico for Franciscan History Meeting, Book Celebration

The board of the Academy of American Franciscan History

First row (l to r): General Minister Michael Perry, Archbishop Roberto Gonzalez, Jack Clark Robinson. Second row: Brian Belanger, Daniel Dwyer, John Puodziunas. Third row: Jeffrey Burns, Patrick McCloskey. (Photo courtesy of Alfonso Guzman)

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The old and the current came together this month when the board of the Academy of American Franciscan History gathered to celebrate the release of a book by an HNP friar about the history of the Franciscan presence in Puerto Rico.

“Memoria y Profecia: La Familia Franciscana en Puerto Rico,” by Alfonso Guzman, OFM, was recently published by the academy. “A special book presentation and celebration was held on Friday evening by the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe, or CEA,” said Daniel Dwyer, OFM, vice president of the AAFH board, who participated in the March 5 to 8 meeting. “It was attended by General Minister Fr. Michael Perry, OFM, as well as local historians and representatives of the Capuchins and Third Order Regulars.”

Alfonso currently serves in Puerto Rico as secretary to the archbishop of San Juan, Robert Gonzalez, OFM. “Memoria y Profecia” began as his thesis for a master’s degree in the history of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean from the Center for Advanced Studies on Puerto Rico and the Caribbean.

Memoria y Profecia: la Familia Franciscana en Puerto Rico“The book was published as a joint effort between the local Publicaciones Gaviota and the Academy of American Franciscan History,” said Alfonso, who has written numerous articles about history and genealogy. “This is my second book. My first one, ‘Bibliografía para el Estudio de la Iglesia Católica en Puerto Rico,’ (2000) is a bibliography aimed at students of Church history. My doctorate thesis will be next for publication.

“I am very grateful for the academy’s support and for the presence of the board of directors and the Minister General in the book presentation,” he added. “Since my book deals with the history of the Franciscan family — OFM, OFM Cap. and SFO — in Puerto Rico, I felt greatly pleased that representatives of those three orders were present. Needless to say, I was very humbled by Fr. Michael Perry’s unexpected presence and kind words of support.”

During the AAFH’s biannual meeting, also held in Puerto Rico, the General Minister talked with the board, sharing ways it can be of ongoing assistance to the Order. A number of other issues were discussed relevant to the mission and function of the board, which includes friars from various United States provinces.

The Church in Puerto Rico
While in San Juan, the board members were invited to a luncheon hosted by Roberto, who has served as archbishop of San Juan since 1999.

“The luncheon took place at the historic Archbishop’s Palace, where the archbishop provided us with information on the current state of the Church in Puerto Rico, as well as some insights into its history there,” said Daniel, an associate professor of history at Siena College, outside Albany, N.Y. “Our meetings were held next door in the Seminario Conciliar de San Idelfonso, home of the Centro de Estudios Avanzados de Puerto Rico y el Caribe.”

On Saturday morning, the members of the board were guests of the archdiocese for a tour of historic sites connected with the Church and the Order. Special arrangements were made for the friars to tour the ancient Dominican church of San Jose, built in 1523, the second oldest church in the “New World.”

“Because the church has been under renovation for a number of years, hardhats were required as board members climbed scaffolding and even descended into the crypt that originally held the body of Juan Ponce de Leon,” said Dan. “This was followed by a visit to the site of the original Franciscan church and friary in San Juan, and to the Third Order Chapel that is today in the keeping of the Capuchin Friars.

“Our tour ended with a visit to the cathedral and to the archdiocesan archives where board members, accompanied by Father Alfonso, were graciously hosted by the director of the archives, Else Zayas-Leon and Hector Balvanera Alfaro who is in charge of the cultural and artistic patrimony of the archdiocese,” added Dan. “Finally, the board members attended the Eucharistic celebration at the cathedral.”

Academy of American Franciscan History
Since its founding in 1943, the Academy of American Franciscan History has published more than 40 volumes, all dealing with the history of the Franciscans in the Americas. According to the AAFH website, “its publications include numerous monographs on topics of American Franciscan history, as well as definitive editions of the writings of American Franciscan missionaries, such as Junípero Serra, Fermín Francisco de Lasuén, Francisco Palóu, Toribio de Motolinía, and others.”

The academy, based in Oceanside, Calif., organizes a variety of seminars and other events. They include an annual lecture in honor of the late Fr. Antoine Tibesar, assistance to doctoral candidates who are writing on Franciscans in the Americas, and cosponsorship of two conferences at Flagler College in Florida, and a meeting with archeologists at the site of the martyrdom of some of the Georgia martyrs.

The academy is currently preparing to release a series of thematic histories of Franciscans in the United States since the 1840s, with topics focusing on parishes, communication, health care and social services, and missionaries to Africa, China and South America.

Others who attended this month’s meeting were Brian Belanger, OFM, director of Siena College’s Center for International Programs; AAFH executive director Jeffrey Burns; board secretary Fr. Patrick McCloskey, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province;  board treasurer Fr. John Puodziunas, OFM, of Assumption Province, and Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, of our Lady of Guadalupe Province. Dominic Monti, OFM, of St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, is also a member of the AAFH board.

— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.