The descriptions below summarize recent developments throughout the Order of Friars Minor. Additional details can be found on the OFM website and by following the Order on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Information is also provided by the Curia in its monthly international newsletter, Fraternitas, which is produced in eight languages. This month’s issue includes articles on how young Franciscans are addressing global issues, a march in Rome against human trafficking, the restoration of a Bernini masterpiece in a Franciscan church, how the Conventuals are planning for the 8th centenary of St. Anthony of Padua, and a number of new Franciscan books.
► One of the first medical institutions to treat victims of COVID-19, better known as the Coronavirus, was the Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital, whose origins are connected to the Order of Friars Minor. When founded in 1926, the facility was originally known as the Father Mei Memorial Catholic Hospital of Hankou – representing the Chinese name given to Italian missionary-friar Pascal Ange (Angelicus) Melotto, OFM. Assigned to China in 1902, Pascal became involved in a local conflict and was kidnapped in 1923. He succumbed three months later after being shot in the stomach with a poisoned bullet, after uttering, “I am happy to die for the Chinese. I lived in China for the Chinese and now I am happy to die for them.” Rather than demand reparations from the Chinese government, the first Apostolic Delegate to China, Celso Costantini, OFM, proposed the construction of a hospital in Pascal’s honor. The Fr. Mei Hospital served the poor of Hankou for many years, but in 1952, when all missionaries were expelled, the facility was confiscated and renamed Wuhan Jinyintan.
► In response to the Coronavirus threat, the Franciscans in Hong Kong have produced a video series called “Facing the Epidemic with St. Francis.” The videos, subtitled in Chinese and English, can be viewed on the Franciscan Education Channel on YouTube.
► The JPIC office in the General Curia is deeply committed to implementing the vision of Laudato Si’, according to Jaime Campos, OFM. “As individuals, fraternities and entities – and as an international order – we feel strongly challenged to make a clear and radical option in the direction of the ways of living indicated by Laudato Si’,” said Jaime, the director of the Curia’s JPIC office. “We are called to a radical option to authentically live our charism and embark on a journey of ecological conversion to be a beacon of ecological hope.” In the context of that perspective, the JPIC office is promoting “Laudato Si’ Week,” which was designated by Pope Francis for May 16 to 24. The weeklong program, which coincides with the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’, seeks to engage the world’s 1.3 billion Catholics in ambitious actions to protect our common home. With 220,000 parishes around the globe, the Catholic Church plays a vital role in addressing the environmental crisis. In a video, Pope Francis reflects on environmental protection as a core theme of his papacy and encourages the faithful to participate in Laudato Si’ Week. The Laudato Si’ five-year milestone coincides with other events this year, including the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in April, and the 26th United Nations climate change conference in November. More information about Laudato Si’ Week 2020 can be found at https://laudatosiweek.org/.
► Although physically located miles apart, members of 15 ministries of St. Barbara Province – with the help of technology – “gathered” on Feb. 11 to celebrate their Franciscan heritage. The digital celebration was a first by any province of the Order. It was also part of the first Franciscan Legacy Day. Sam Nasada, OFM, led an online video conference, during which participants shared in joyful song and prayer, and watched a video on the Integrity of Creation produced by Ryan Thornton, OFM. The ministries put their ideas into action, from a neighborhood clean-up and letter-writing campaign to planting flora and performing repair projects. After participants each spent 15 minutes in silence, they reconvened to share their reflections.
► Live music, burgers, fries, and tap beer are served up once a month by a community group associated with the friary of San Francesco a Ripa in Trastevere, Rome, at an event called “Friar Pub Ripa.” The event raises money for Ripa dei Settesoli, a project established in 2011 that encourages young adults of various nationalities who are at-risk of becoming marginalized. The monthly gathering is just one aspect of how the friars share their lives with the people of Trastevere. More information can be found (in Italian) online.
► A series of lectures preparing for the Assisi event “The Economy of Francis” – now rescheduled for the fall because of the Coronavirus epidemic in Italy – will address those engaged in a formative journey within the Order of Minors, as well as dialogue with professionals in the world of economics and finance. Speakers will discuss how the global economy of the 21st century tends to legitimize forms of inequality and disregards the most precious of the common goods: the planet’s climate balance, workers’ rights to civil dignity, and the right to a future for the new generations of every continent. Francis’ Rule, lived by every Franciscan, provides an economic vision that looks at humanity and the world. The lectures are taking place this month at the Pontifical Antonianum University in Rome.
► “Don’t sell your conscience for 200 lempiras” (US$9) – that was the message of Avelino Verdugo, OFM, a leader of a local Honduran Franciscan Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Committee, to the population of the neighboring San Esteban municipality. At a meeting last November, representatives of 89 mining concessions offered money to the local people in return for support of a project to mine barium sulfate, which is used to produce barium for medical uses and mud flaps on vehicles. But Avelino and representatives of the Tegucigalpa-based Honduran Center for the Promotion of Community Development – known by its Spanish acronym as CEHPRODEC – presented the flipside of the story. “As Christians, we are called to promote the values of justice, peace, truth, love and solidarity – ‘peace and all good,’” Avelino said. “We have an ethical and moral responsibility to work against the anti-values of those who damage the environment.”
► A seminar will be held to celebrate the missionary work of the Franciscan Order in Bolivia, a land rich in ethnic and cultural diversity where the work of the Franciscans has been recognized as a key element in the formation of Bolivia as a nation. Titled “Franciscans in Bolivia: The Human Rights of People and an Integral Ecology,” the seminar will follow the proposals made by Pope Francis and the bishops of the Amazon as it examines the Order’s respectful approach to the environment and indigenous peoples since the arrival of the Franciscans 200 years ago in the Guarayos region after the expulsion of the Jesuits. The seminar is scheduled for Oct. 7 to 9 at the Catholic University of Bolivia in Cochabamba.
— Jim McIntosh is a communications assistant for the HNP Communications Office.
- “Francis issues ‘urgent call with plans for fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’” – March 3, 2020, National Catholic Reporter
- “Meeting of Provincials and Other News from Curia” – Feb. 10, 2020, HNP Today
- “Franciscans Welcome Laudato Si’” – June 24, 2015, HNP Today