ROME — The general ministers of the First Order recently announced their intention to establish a new Pontifical Franciscan university. The friars wish to establish “a centre which is capable of responding to developing needs in the areas of Church and university,” according to a letter distributed on Nov. 29, the feast of All Saints of the Seraphic Order.
The idea of the university was inspired in part by Pope Francis, who urged the friars during his October 2013 visit to be a sign of a common united Franciscan identity. The general ministers also recognize the signs of the times, which “indicate that the energies which the Lord still gives us should not be scattered, but should instead impel us to work together collaboratively.”
The Secretariats of Formation and Studies from each order will form a steering group to create a process that will lead to the establishment of this new academic entity by Easter 2018. Those who teach in the academic centers in Rome will be consulted as the project moves forward. The letter also mentions that this initiative “has been very much welcomed at the highest levels of the Vatican.”
“We believe that a single Franciscan University project finds its place within the Church’s evangelizing mission, which desires that ‘the very power of the Gospel should permeate thought patterns, standards of judgment and norms of behavior,’ of human culture (Sapientia Christiana, #1),” wrote the general ministers. “As an expression of the academic unity of the Franciscan family, this project will be committed to an emphasis on the distinctive wisdom of the primacy of love in the Franciscan School. This will give new impetus to the affective way, which in our history has been explored through a variety of avenues.”
Update on General Chapter and Order’s Finances
As follow-up to the General Chapter that took place earlier this year, the Order distributed the final document, “Going to the Peripheries with the Joy of the Gospel — Fratres et Minores in Nostra Aetate,” in November. Members of Holy Name Province received the document, co-written by Dominic Monti, OFM, in an email sent on Nov. 17. The email also included reflection questions prepared by the Provincial Council for use in both formal and informal settings.
In other news, Italian and Swiss police searched the offices and homes of a financial broker suspected of committing a €20m fraud against the Order of Friars Minor. The Order announced last year that it was facing grave financial difficulties as the result of “questionable activities” conducted by non-Franciscans.
“The financial crisis being faced by the General Administration of our Franciscan Order is serious and concerning,” wrote the provincial ministers of the English-speaking Conference. “However, the financial and governance structures of the individual Franciscan provinces are autonomous and are not affected by this crisis.”
Those with questions about the financial crisis are invited to contact the General Administration directly.
New Fraternities in New Countries, Other Updates
The Franciscan Order continues to expand in other parts of the world. The first presence of the Order of Friars Minor in Senegal, Africa, was established in the capital city of Dakar, according to Fraternitas, the Order’s monthly newsletter. Three friars will serve as part of this international fraternity, named after the Porziuncola. In Juba, capital of South Sudan, the friars marked a significant milestone with the blessing and official opening on Oct. 26 of their new friary. Bishop Santo Loku Pio of Juba officiated at the ceremony.
Earlier this fall, on the feast of St. Francis, Fr. Vitaly Kostiuk, OFM, was ordained to the priesthood, the first ordination for the Order’s foundation in Russia and Kazakhstan. He is ministering as associate pastor in the friars’ parish in Almaty, the largest city in Kazakhstan.
Michael Johnson, OFM, of Silver Spring, Md., was among friars featured on the cover of Fraternitas. He is one of 24 friars who have been named general visitors to different provinces and custodies around the world. The general visitors were in Rome last month for a training session related to their responsibilities. Michael has been appointed general visitor for the Province of the Holy Spirit (Australia and New Zealand) and will begin his duties in 2016.
Other news from the Order includes:
- Information about the Inter-Franciscan Missionary Program for those who feel they are called to be missionaries, those who are returning from missions, and those who work as missionary animators in their own regions
- The conclusion of the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the founding of the Province of Saints Peter and Paul of Michoacán in Mexico
- New provincial ministers in Chile, Italy, Mexico, the Philippines, and the United States
- The General Minister’s schedule, including a visit to Paris for COP 21 and various events in Rome, including the celebration of the beginning of the Year of Mercy
- A list of friars working at the Curia as of September
- Descriptions of five recently-published books
— Compiled by Maria Hayes
- “American Michael Perry Re-elected General Minister” — May 27, 2015, HNP Today
- “Dominic Monti Appointed General Visitor for California Province” — Oct. 3, 2014, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Leaders Encourage Collaboration” — Oct. 23, 2013, HNP Today
- “General Visitors Meet in Rome” — Dec. 8, 2010, HNP Today