Junipero Serra and Beyond: Evolving Franciscan Missiologies Offered by AAFH

Jim McIntosh, OFM Franciscan World

Blessed Junipero Serra will be canonized by Pope Francis during his visit to the United States in September at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — The Academy of American Franciscan History presented a two-day seminar last month on Franciscan Missiology that included Franciscans and others from assorted academic backgrounds. The event, titled “Junipero Serra and Beyond: Evolving Franciscan Missiologies” was held from Oct. 21 to 22 at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land.

To open the gathering, Dr. John Schwaller, a professor at the University at Albany, N.Y., gave a lecture on Friday titled “Vetancurt and the ‘Via Crucis’ in Nahuatl” which discussed what appears to be a hand-copy of the Stations of the Cross written in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, by Friar Augustín de Vetancurt, a 17th century historian of the Franciscans in Mexico.

On Oct. 22, AAFH director Dr. Jeffrey Burns spoke on “Serra’s Missiology.” Dr. David Rex Galindo, of the Max Planck Intitute for European Legal History in Frankfurt, Germany, spoke on “Commissary-Prefects and the Forging of the Franciscan Missionary Program in 18th-Century Spanish America.” Dr. Cameron Jones, of the California Polytechnic State University, spoke on “‘The Most Precious and Resplendent Jewel’: The Patronato Real and the College of Santa Rosa de Ocopa, [Peru] 1709-1824.” Dr. Jay Harrison, of Hood College, spoke on “Making Missionaries: Franciscan Recruitment and Missionary Training in the Apostolic Colleges of New Spain.”

Michael Perry speaks on “The Concept and Practice of Franciscan Mission Today"

Michael Perry speaks on “The Concept and Practice of Franciscan Mission Today.” (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

Fr. Michael Perry OFM, General Minister of the Order of Friars Minor, spoke on “The Concept and Practice of Franciscan Mission Today: Lessons from Junípero Serra.” He said that the Church’s concept of itself has changed since Vatican II, therefore how the church proclaims the good news has changed. The church now speaks differently in different parts of the world. The growing importance of lay missionaries, he said, can no longer be ignored. The Church says that all baptized are not only called to be missionaries but are already missionaries. The new digital world, he said, creates new missionary opportunities, ones much faster than the oceans over which earlier missionaries traveled. Finally, he said that the missionaries of today are longer “lone rangers.” Franciscan missionaries go out as a fraternity to a world that is looking for fraternitas.

Ranging out from Spain colonial history, Fr. Rob Carbonneau, CP, executive director of the U.S. Catholic China Bureau, spoke on “Franciscan Missions in Twentieth Century China.” In his talk, he quoted Fr. John Ostdiek OFM, as saying, “What do the Chinese missions have to tell us today? That Franciscans are willing to go to the peripheries.”

Sr. Margaret Guider, OSF, of Boston College, spoke on “‘With Hearts Open’: U.S. Franciscan Missionaries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa (1709-2009).” She said that contemporary missionaries are rarely “lifers” but instead their missions can be for two weeks, two months, two years or 20 years. She said that U.S. Franciscans learned the importance of missionary work from the founders of their provinces and congregations, who were themselves missionaries when they traveled to the U.S.

Russel Murray

Russel Murray also participated in last month’s meeting. (Photo courtesy of Jim McIntosh)

Other participants at last month’s gathering were historian Dominic Monti, OFM, Russel Murray, OFM, general animator for evangelization on of the Order, Fr. Jack Clark Robinson, OFM, provincial minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province; and Br. William Short, OFM, and Brian Bellanger, OFM, president and vice-president of the academy.

This symposium was organized in part as follow-up to the canonization of Junipero Serra last fall.

The Academy of American Franciscan History is a research institute affiliated with the Franciscan School of Theology in Oceanside, Calif. It is dedicated to the encouragement of the study of the Franciscan Order in the Americas primarily through the publication of monographs, documents, a scholarly journal, as well as sponsoring seminars, conferences, and public lectures.

– Br. Jim, a resident of Philadelphia, is national social media director for the US Franciscans.

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