Category Archives: Franciscans

Franciscans by the 2015 numbers

St Francis FZurbaranI’m always curious to where the various religious orders are in terms of ministry and the manpower. What can we extrapolate from the numbers and how is the charism lived? Next to the Society of Jesus the Order of Friars Minor are the most significant orders Mother Church has to preach the Gospel and to administer sacraments.

Prescinding what may be several institutional issues like faithfulness to the charism, orthodox teaching, authentic and holy life according to the mind of the founder, and the like, Franciscan friars have taken up the call to serve the Divine Master since the 13th century. The matter becomes: what difference does Jesus and the Church make in the lives of the friars? In the laity who follow the Saint Francis?

Franciscan Friar Father Dominic, a Franciscan historian stationed at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, presented these facts:

The Order began the year 2015 with a membership of 13,632 friars. This is 113 friars fewer than the previous year, as the growth of the Order in the younger entities cannot yet compensate for the losses in Western Europe and North America. There are 11,794 solemnly professed friars, including 9,243 priests, 59 permanent deacons, 416 friars preparing for ordination, and 1957 lay friars. There was a slight increase of friars in initial formation — 1413 temporary professed and 425 novices. In terms of age, 34% of the world’s friars are under the age of 45, 29% between the ages of 45-64, and 37% over the age of 65.

A closer look at the Order’s six regions shows considerable divergence: four registered growth from the preceding year, whereas two — dominated by elderly friars — posted declines. These were Western Europe, with 3,999 friars, which was down 125 friars from the preceding year, and North America (the U.S. and Canada), with 1,273 friars, which was down 50. On the other hand, the other four regions of the Order showed growth: Latin America, with 3,334 friars, was up 20 friars; Africa, with 1,161 friars (up 30); Asia, with 1423 friars (up 5), and Eastern Europe, with 2442 friars (up 15). To illustrate the age difference among these entities: in the English-speaking Conference, for every friar under the age of 45, there are seven friars over 65. In Africa, on the other hand, the friars under the age of 45 outnumber the seniors 3 to 1.

Holy Name Province has now slipped to the eighth largest of the Order’s 125 entities. Just two years ago, it was fifth largest. The Province of Sts. Francis and James (Jalisco, Mexico) continues to be in first place with 472 friars (120 of whom are in initial formation) The Immaculate Conception Province (São Paolo, Brazil) follows, with 379 members (40 in formation). The third largest entity is now the Immaculate Conception Province (Krakow, Poland), with 338 friars, followed closely by the Province of the Holy Cross (Sarajevo, Bosnia) with 336 members. The German province (Munich) is fifth (322), and the Province of St. Anthony (Venice, Italy), is sixth (309). Slightly ahead of Holy Name (304 friars) is now the Assumption Province (Katowice, Poland) with 307 friars.

In terms of individual nations where the Order is present, Italy still has by far the greatest number of friars (2,038), followed by the United States (1,145), Poland (1,006), Mexico (990), and Brazil (950). It is interesting to note that these five countries comprise almost half the Franciscan friars in the world.

Holy Name, with 304 friars, continues to be the largest entity in the Order’s English-speaking Conference. The other provinces of the ESC are Sacred Heart, based in St. Louis, with 207 members; the Irish Province (which now includes Great Britain), 179; St. Barbara (based in Oakland, Calif.), 168; St. John the Baptist (Cincinnati), 147; Immaculate Conception (New York), 121; Assumption BVM (Franklin, Wis.), 111; St. Joseph (Montreal, Quebec), 68; Our Lady of Guadalupe (Albuquerque, N.M.), 57; Malta, 56; Lithuania, 42; and Christ the King (Edmonton, Alberta), with 33.

Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate: How they were…

A video of the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate

[credit: Rorate Caeli]

Criminal escapes Capuchin friary

CapuchinI laughed and laughed and laughed this morning when I read the story of a criminal serving his sentence with Capuchin friars pleading to be sent back to prison… because Capuchin life is too hard, he claimed! The reason for the humor is that Capuchins aren’t too known for their austerities today in North America; the Capuchin order may be strict only in a few places in the world but…may be this is a wake up call to the Friars Minor Capuchin (and others)…

I got this story via a friend:

Austere existence: A convicted criminal serving out his sentence in a Sicilian monastery run by Capuchin monks has escaped for the second time and asked to be sent back to prison because life there was too tough .

Thief David Catalano, 31, was sent to a Santa Maria degli Angeli community run by Capuchin monks in Sicily last November.

But he found their austere lifetstyle too tough to handle and soon escaped. After a short while on the run he was caught by police and sent back.

On Monday he fled for the second time in six weeks, only to swiftly turn himself in at a police station and beg officers to send him back to jail in the nearby town of Nicosia.

He told the stunned policemen: ‘Prison is better than being at that hostel run by monks.’

A police spokesman said: ‘Catalano arrived out of the blue and said there was no way he could stay on with the monks.

‘He said it was too tough and he wanted to go back to prison, so we happily obliged and he is now back behind bars serving the rest of his sentence.

‘Life with the monks can be pretty tough – there are no mod cons and they are up early and go to bed early. There are no luxuries at the hostel and the monks run a very austere regime.’

The Santa Maria degli Angeli community is based in a monastery near Enna on the island of Sicily.

‘He said it was too tough and he wanted to go back to prison, so we happily obliged and he is now back behind bars’

It has been run as a halfway house by the Capuchin friars for more than 12 years with around 60 prisoners accommodated there as they near the end of their sentences.

Fr Benedict Groeschel RIP

Benedict Groeschel obit

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace. Amen. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord, and let perpetual light shin upon him.

A webpage dedicated to Father Benedict is posted here.

Rest in Peace Fr. Benedict.

First woman named Rector of a Roman School

Sr Mary MeloneSister Mary Melone, a  Franciscan Sisters of Blessed Angelina, born in 1964, is the next Rector of the Faculty of Theology of the Pontifical University Antonianum. The venerable Antonianum is run by the Order of Friars Minor.

In recent history of this Roman pontifical university, Sister Melone is the first woman to be appointed a dean, and now the first woman to become a rector of a pontifical university in Rome. Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski, prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education appointed Melone to a term lasting from 2014-2017. She is an expert on St. Anthony of Padua, and other points in Franciscan theology.

May Saint Anthony of Padua intercede for Sister Mary Melone’s intentions.


When Sr. Melone was elected the dean of the Antonianum she gave an interview to L’Osservatore Romano where she said: 

The approach of a woman: “I don’t give much importance to these kinds of labels, female theology. Above all, I don’t like comparisons although I recognize that in the past there may have been a reason for making comparisons. Maybe there is one today as well, I don’t know. More space definitely needs to be given to women. The reference to female theology does not really fit with my vision of things: all that exists is theology. Theology as research, as a focus on mystery, as a reflection on this mystery. But precisely because this requires different sensitivities. A woman’s approach to mystery, the way in which she reflects on this mystery which offers itself and reveals itself, is certainly different from that of a man. But they do not contrast.  I believe in theology and I believe that theology created by a woman is typical of a woman. It is different but without the element of laying claim to it. Otherwise it almost seems as though I am manipulating theology, when it is instead a field that requires honesty from the person who places him/herself before the mystery.”

More on women:  “a reflection on this cannot be commensurate to the Church’s age as this reflects a development of thought that has gone on for hundreds of years. However, in my opinion a new space does exist and it is real. I also think it is irreversible, meaning that it is not a concession but a sign of the times from which there is no return. It is no pretense. I believe this depends a great deal on us women too. It is us who should get the ball rolling. Women cannot measure how much space they have in the Church in comparison to men: we have a space of our own, which is neither smaller nor greater than the space men occupy. It is our space. Thinking that we have to achieve what men have, will not get us anywhere. Of course, although the steps we take may be real, this does not mean the job is complete. A great deal more can be done but there is change, you can see it, feel it. I think that (my case aside) the election of a woman in a pontifical university is also proof this. The body who elected me was made up entirely of men!”

The Church does NOT need gender quotas?  “No, it doesn’t need quotas, it needs collaboration. And collaboration needs to grow!”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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