Wednesday, June 19, 2024

In Special Mass at St. Francis of Assisi, Capuchin Franciscans Celebrate 150th Anniversary of Their Province

One hundred and fifty years ago, three Capuchin Franciscans embarked from Bavaria to the United States, to expand the congregation’s mission of practicing poverty, prayer and penance in carrying forth their love for the Lord.

Today, their journey of faith to the United States has flourished throughout the country, with their friars serving in various ministries while maintaining a life of austerity, holiness and solidarity with the poor.

On Saturday evening, September 30, the Capuchin Franciscans from the Province of St. Augustine celebrated their 150th anniversary with a Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Harrisburg, which has been cared for by the religious community since 2005.

Bishop Timothy Senior served as the principal celebrant for the Mass, and was joined by several members of the Capuchin Franciscan community, including Father Manuel Aviles, pastor; Father Carlos Reyes, parochial vicar; and Father Emilio Biosca of Washington, D.C., a member of the Provincial Council, who served as homilist.

Father Aviles expressed his sentiments that it was a great blessing for the parish to host the anniversary celebration.

“It is a delight that we have the honor of receiving our new Bishop, Timothy Senior, and our Provincial representative, Brother Emilio, for this Mass,” he said.

Bishop Senior extended his congratulations to the members of the religious order on the occasion of their anniversary, saying, “Your ministry is so great a gift to our local Church, and we could not be more blessed. Thank you for your continued presence and ministry among us. We pray for many more vocations to your province.”

The Capuchin Franciscans were established in 1528 to follow the rule and ideals of St. Francis. They are dedicated to devoting themselves to prayer, penance and preaching while serving the poor, the sick and the dying.

“The founding of our Capuchin Province is a story much like the stories of our own families – best told and understood through actively living Divine Providence, a profound faith in God and loving fraternity,” Father Biosca said in his homily.

He told the story of St. Conrad of Parzham, OFM Cap., (1819-1894), a porter and beggar for the Capuchins for 40 years in Altotting, Bavaria. He patiently bore sacrifices, observed silence as much as possible, and practiced mortification among other resolutions he made at the time of his profession in the order.

“St. Conrad had two great loves – Jesus in the Eucharist, and Jesus in the poor and in his Capuchin Brothers,” Father Biosca said. “We know through oral tradition in our Capuchin Province that the three Brothers who left from Bavaria and set sail to the United States to found our Province were blessed by St. Conrad. “His example and way of thinking, and his commitment to pray for the three Capuchins who were embarking to found this Province has been part of our cherished history and heritage.”

In their early years of ministry in the United States, the Capuchin Franciscans worked among immigrants and the poor, and eventually took charge of parishes that had congregations who spoke different languages. Since 2005, a total of 17 Friars have served at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, as pastors, parochial vicars, hospital chaplains and directors of the parish’s soup kitchen.

“We hope the Capuchin community here in Harrisburg will continue to be a place where our Brothers can grow in holiness,” Father Biosca said. “Our Capuchin Constitutions teach us that, in each of our fraternities, we have to make an effort to give priority to a life of prayer, especially contemplative prayer. Living as pilgrims and strangers in this world, we practice radical poverty and propose a life of austerity and joyful penance out of love for the Cross of Our Lord.”

(Photos by Chris Heisey, The Catholic Witness.)

By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness

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