Conventual Franciscan History

While there are many Franciscan Orders, the Conventual Franciscans are one of the three branches of the First Order of St. Francis that follow his Rule of 1223 . The First Order includes the Order of Friars Minor ("Brown Franciscans"), Order of Friars Minor Capuchin ("the Capuchins"), and the Order of Friars Minor Conventual ("the Conventual Franciscans").

In the early days, the Conventual followers of Saint Francis chose to minister in the heart of the city rather than in more remote hermitages. Hence the suffix, Conventual, as derived from the Latin, convenire , "to come together." Ever since then they have lived together in "convents" or friaries.

The First Order is spread throughout the world, structured into various Provinces (geographical regions), and includes about 5000 priests and brothers who are all commonly called Friars. There are five provinces in North America, and a jurisdiction in the UK and Ireland. Depending on climate and jurisdiction, the Conventual friars wear a black or gray habit with a simple three-knotted cord representing our Vows of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience. This is different from the brown garment typically worn by other Franciscan communities.

The Minister General of the Conventual Franciscans resides in Rome at the Church of Santi Apostoli (Holy Apostles). The Spiritual Center of the Order is in Assisi, Italy, where the Friars care for the Basilica of St. Francis, which includes his tomb. In addition, the Conventuals are the Vatican confessors at St. Peter's Basilica. In Christ's name, they continue the ministry of healing so fundamental to the understanding of Saint Francis.


The New World

Although the friars had been missionaries to the East since the thirteenth century, by 1492 they felt it was time to explore any new worlds to the West. Christopher Columbus, a Secular Franciscan, sought the advocacy of the Conventual friars of the Rabida Friary in Seville, Spain. It was Friar Juan Perez, an astronomer, who pleaded Columbus' case before King Ferdinand, to whom he was financial advisor, and to Queen Isabella, to whom he was confessor. Needless to say, the monarchs were won over. Friar Juan Perez was able to sail with Columbus on his second voyage in 1493. He is credited with celebrating the first Mass in the New World.

As time passed, it would be another branch of the Franciscan Order that would evangelize the Spanish colonies of the Southwestern parts of the United States. The Conventual branch of the Order focused its attention on the former British colonies of the East Coast.

The United States… (more)

The First Province… (more)

New Provinces An Expansion of Conventual Heritage…. (more)

An Expansion of Conventual Heritage…(more)

Source: Conventual Franciscans website

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