The annual statistical snapshot of the Order of Friars Minor reveals that Holy Name Province is now the sixth largest province in the worldwide Order of Friars Minor. This is according to the official report published in the June issue of the Acta Ordinis Minorum.
The largest of the Order’s 106 provinces is Sts. Francis and James (Jalisco, Mexico) with 457 friars, 104 of whom are in initial formation. The Immaculate Conception Province (São Paolo, Brazil) follows with 373 members.
The new German province, formed two years ago, is third (364). Last year, Holy Name Province was fourth, but that position is now held by the Immaculate Conception Province (Krakow, Poland) with 340 friars, followed by the Province of the Holy Cross (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina), with 339. Holy Name Province numbered 332 friars, 17 fewer than the previous year.
Decrease in HNP Membership
Older friars recall that back in the 1950s and 1960s, Holy Name Province was the second largest in the Order, after the Dutch province, finally overtaking it in the 1970s to become the largest OFM entity in the world. Then, for some years, Holy Name and the Province of St. Anthony (Venice, Italy) alternated in the number 1 spot. But, in the 1990s, both were gradually overtaken, as vocations in Western Europe and North America declined sharply, in comparison to Latin America, Africa, and Asia, and, to some extent, Eastern Europe.
The 14,067 Friars Minor — or OFMs — in the world as of Dec. 31, 2011, comprised some 12,332 solemnly professed members. This is a decline of about 200 from the preceding year. However, it is encouraging to see that there are some 1,745 friars in initial formation throughout the world (1,380 simply professed and 365 novices).
A breakdown of these statistics for the six regions of the Order clarifies current trends. Two of them — Western Europe (4,362 friars, a decline of 131 from last year) and North America (1,423 friars, down 38) — are marked by many deaths and relatively few new vocations in their highly secularized environment. The provinces of Eastern Europe (2,442 friars, down 23) and Latin America (3,374 friars, down 39) generally have a good number of new vocations but also experience numerous departures. The two smallest regions, Africa/Middle East (1,088 friars, down only 12) and Asia/Oceania (1,374, up 73), show the most growth. Although many men do leave in initial formation in these countries, a number of provinces are growing considerably. For example, the Province of Vietnam has 70 friars in initial formation, and Congo has 57.
Survey of Nations
In terms of individual nations where the Order is present, Italy currently continues to have the greatest number of friars (2,241), followed by the United States (1,266), Poland (1,026), Mexico (953), and Brazil (936). These five countries comprise almost half the Franciscan friars in the world.
Holy Name continues to be the largest entity in the English-speaking Conference of the Order. The other provinces of the ESC are Sacred Heart, based in St. Louis, with 229 members; St. Barbara (Oakland, Calif.), 185; St. John the Baptist (Cincinnati), 170; Immaculate Conception (New York), 148; Ireland (145); Assumption BVM (Franklin, Wis.), 122; St. Joseph (Montreal, Quebec), 80; Malta, 69; Our Lady of Guadalupe (Albuquerque, N.M.), 63; England, 46; and Lithuania and Christ the King (Edmonton, Alberta), with 41 friars each.
Fr. Dominic, a widely-respected Franciscan historian, is Provincial Vicar of Holy Name Province. His book, Francis and His Brothers: A Popular History of the Franciscan Friars, was published in 2009 to coincide with the 800th anniversary of the Order.