History of the Order
In 1209, St. Francis of Assisi received formal approval from Pope Innocent III for his new way of life. He called his community the “Friars Minor,” a title literally meaning Lesser Brothers. St. Francis wanted his followers to imitate the humility of Christ and to minister to the least in society.
After St. Francis’ death, his movement possessed such vitality, with so many opinions on how to live his form of Gospel life, that over time his charism could not be contained in one community. In 1517, the Order divided into autonomous branches, each professing a valid perspective of their observance of his Rule.
The “Conventual” followers of St. Francis chose to minister in the heart of the cities rather than in more remote hermitages. They chose to band together in large houses (conventus, in Latin). From these “fortresses of faith” the concentration of talented men living a life steeped in prayer, study, and work became like a well-armed garrison that fought against the power of darkness and despondency on the battleground of urban life.
From these friaries (as Franciscan houses are called in Australia), these Conventual friars charted the stars with Galileo, developed math theorems with Da Vinci, composed with Mozart, invented eyeglasses, and offered charity and consolation toward all.
History in Australia
The first Franciscan to arrive on the shores of Australia was Friar Laurent Receveur, a Frenchman (1757-1788). He was a young priest-scientist who was commissioned by King Louis XVI to assist the Lapérouse expedition to circumnavigate the globe to gather new plants to be used in medicine. Landing at Botany Bay (Sydney) only a few days after the First Fleet, Receveur died unexpectantly on 17 February 1788. To this day, Franciscans and the French Consulate annually hold a ceremony at Receveur’s grave honouring his memory.
A number of years later, in 1954, when our Order was able to establish a permanent presence in Australia, we chose to place our mission under the patronage of “Our Lady Help of Christians.”
Throughout the years we have served the Church in Australia in a variety of ways. We have helped to establish and minister in Parishes accross the country, both urban and rural; we assit with the chaplaincy of the Secular Franciscan Order, the Militia Immaculata (a ministry of the Conventual Friars), the Legion of Mary, and local schools; on many occasions we have been asked to present conferences and retreats to local and diocesan level groups; and we outreach to the poor through organisations such as the St. Vincent de Paul Society and Caritas Australia. Our latest ministry is the foundation of our new 'Shrine of the Holy Innocents', to promote the sanctity of human life from birth till natural death.
Famous Franciscan Friars
Since the foundation of our Order, many holy men have chosen to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi by leaving all behind to follow the example of Christ. Some of these lived particularly unique and extraordinary lives contributing to the Church and the world in significant ways. Below is a list of only a few of these notable members of our Order.
Saint Anthony of Padua
+1231, Portuguese. 'Doctor of the Church.' First and only theologian personally commissioned by St. Francis. Founded theological school at Bologna. Author of first Biblical concordance.
+1274, Italian. A brilliant theologian at the University of Paris, he followed St. Francis as the leader of the Order and strove to bring unity and harmony to the community. He was created a cardinal and then named a Doctor of the Church.
Saint Joseph of Cupertino
+1663, Italian. This “Patron of Students taking Exams,” was a humble man of peasant stock who counseled and converted many. His gift of levitation also earned him the title: “Patron of Aviators.”
Saint Francis Anthony Fasani
+1742, Italian. This shy young man matured into the “Star of Lucera,” ministering as a professor, novice master, provincial, confessor of prisoners, and a beggar for the indigent.
Blesseds Michael Tomaszek &
+1991, Polish. Martyrs of Peru. Missionaries who ministered to rural mountain villages in the Diocese of Chimbote and were greatly loved by the locals. Killed by 'Shining Path' terrorists because of their ministry and influence with the poorer members of society, preaching hope for a brighter future.
Friar Laurent Receveur
+1788, French. Commissioned by Louis XVI as a botanist to join a French expedition to explore the vast areas of the southern Pacific for purpose of advancing science and medicine. After being attacked and shipwrecked, his funeral was the first Catholic Mass in Australia.
Blessed Raphael Chylinski
+1741, Polish. Born of poor nobility, Friar Raphael was rich in charity. A lover of solitude, yet he unreservedly gave his own clothes to the needy, cared for the handicapped, plague victims, and anyone with terminal disease.
Blessed Francis Zirano
+1603, Italian. In 1599, Pope Clement VIII authorized Friar Francis to collect funds to ransom Christians (his own cousin among them) who were being held as slaves in North Africa. He journeyed to Algiers arriving in 1602. In early 1603, he was captured and condemned to death for being a Christian. He refused to renounce his faith and spent his last days encouraging other Christians in prison. He was martyred by being skinned alive.
Venerable Martin Benedict
+1986, Romanian. Priest and Doctor. Fr. Martin Benedict lived during the time of the Communist persecution of the Church in Romania. Because of restrictions on religious orders and seminaries, he entered the friars and was ordained in secret whilst also completing school to practice as a doctor. He would often pray quietly beside dying patients and live out his priesthood in a discreet way. Eventually his full identity was discovered and he was constantly threatened and persecuted until his eventual death on the 12th July, 1986.
Friar Luigi Faccenda
+2005, Italian. Priest and Founder. Ordained in the midst of World War II, Fr. Luigi always had a yearning for the missionary apostolate and to spread devotion to the Blessed Mother. He was comissioned by his superiors to promote the spirituality of St. Maximilian Kolbe; he and a group of female MI members founded the 'Fr. Kolbe Missionaries of the Immaculata', which has since spread throughout the world, and now includes a male branch in South America, and lay associates.
Venerable Benvenuto Bambozzi
+1875, Italian. Priest. Born in Osimo and joined the Conventual Franciscan Friars there in 1822. He lived a very humble and austere life dedicated to contemplation and evangelisation. He became the Novice Master of the friary in Osimo and helped to form many students. He was dedicated to the confessional, and was a great friend to the poor, the sick, and the marginalised.
Venerable Giacomo Bulgaro
+1967, Italian. Religious Brother. Emerging from humble beginnings, Giacomo began to serve Mass as soon as he was old enough. He showed great enthusiasm for studies, but due to the early deaths of both his parents, was forced to work as a cobbler to support his siblings. After falling into bad circles and living a very worldy life for much of his early 20s, he had an intimate vision of Our Lady and Jesus, which led him to reformed his life, reembraced the faith and dedicated his life to God through serving the poor and afflicted. Later, though he was fifty years of age, the Minister general personally allowed him to join the order. He lived a life of dedicated service and prayer. His beautiful spiritual journals were found after his death.
Servant of God Didák Kelemen
+1744, Transilvanian. Confessor and councelor. Born in the principality of Transilvania, Didák studied under the Conventual Franciscans and later entered the Order in 1702. After being elected Guardian at the young age of twenty-seven, he went about restoring the common life after years of dispersion. He taught by example, serving Catholics and non-Catholics during successive outbreaks of the plague. He was elected Provincial of Hungary and Transilvania at only thirty-four years of age. He organised the friars into an 'army of charity' doing great works of mercy, and interceding for prisoners of war and those imprisoned wrongfully. He wrote many catechetical books and articles, was wlecomed by people of all faiths, and was a key figure in restoring the Catholic Faith to Hungary.
Blessed Luke Belludi
+1287, Italian. Disciple and Companion of St. Anthony of Padua. Luke (Luc) Belludi came from a wealthy family and received a privileged education, but occupied his time with holy activities. His purity and humility caught the attention of St. Anthony of Padua who recommended the young man to St. Francis who happily received Luke into the Order. Friar Luke accompanied St. Anthony on many of his preaching ventures and learned many valuable lessons from his saintly mentor. After the death of St. Anthony, Friar Luke played an important role in the building of the Basilica over his tomb, despite much turmoil and persecution by the oppressive government. Friar Luke received a mystical reassurance from St. Anthony to persevere and that conditions would improve. He was eventually elected Minister Provincial and received many miraculous favours from God. After his death, Luke Belludi was laid to rest in the basilica of St. Anthony, in the same marble sarcophagus the saint's remains were once held.
Venerable Melchior Fordon
+1927, Polish. Fr. Melchior began his ministerial life as a diocesan priest for the Diocese of Vilnius. He served as parish priest of various locations and as guardian over a house for constricted priests deemed dangerous to the Russian state. After 23 years of priesthood, and with the consent of the diocese, Fr. Melchior discerned to enter the Conventual Franciscans. He was stationed at Grodno during WWI, where he saved the lives of 15 firemen from execution, thought to be Russian Spies by the German authorities, guaranteeing their innocence with his life. He was a great supporter of the young St. Maximilian Kolbe and a councilor to friars in formation, hearing their confessions and encouraging devotion to Our Lady.
Saint Maximilian Kolbe
+1941, Polish. Martyr of Charity, dying in Auschwitz in place of another man. Renewed Franciscan charism through exemplary communal prayer and innovative evangelization using the modern media. Dedicated his life to the spread of Marian consecration.
Friar Casimir Cypher
+1975, American. Martyr of Honduras. A missionary who worked tirelessly to bring the Gospel to the people through His own exemplary life. Friar Casimir was caught up in the region's civil unrest, was publicly humiliated, tortured, and shot by the military who were very suspicious of any religious people, especially priests.
Venerable Placido Cortese
+1944, Italian. Editor of the 'Messenger of St. Anthony' magazine. Assisted countless WWII prisoners of war to escape from Facist and Nazi camps near Padua. Was kidnapped, tortured, but never revealed those who assisted him. No one knows exactly what became of Fr. Placido, but most theorise he was shot and the body cremated.
Blessed Antonio Lucci
+1752, Italian. He entered the Order of Friars Minor Conventual and stood out for his ability to study and teach theology, which further inspired his search for perfection, his zealous work in the apostolate to the poor and his humble collaboration with the Apostolic See as Bishop of Bovino in Puglia. He worked tirelessly to bring the faith and Christian life to his people.
Friar Camillus Delude
+2014, American. Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS) in 1993 and given only a few years to live, Brother Camillus defied the odds and went on to live with this cross for more than two decades. He was always prayerful and never a complaint was heard, even as he slowly began to lose the ability to move. He was a dedicated member of the Militia Immaculata as a 'Knight at the Foot of the Cross', offering up his suffering and praying for the intentions of the MI, the Order, and the Church.
Blessed Carlos de Dios Murias
+1976, Argentinian. Murdered during Argentina's 'Dirty War', Fr. Carlos was a young friar priest who had a passion for helping the poor and underprivileged of La Rioja where he and a French Diocesan priest, Fr. Gabriel Longueville, were stationed in a parish. They received threats because of their ministry and influence in the community. One night both priests were kidnapped and taken to an Air Force Base. Their mutilated bodies were found two days later.
Blessed Alfonso Lopez Lopez and Companions
+1936, Spanish. Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. Six friars from the friary in Granollers, Spain, were expelled by Republicans and forced to live in hiding with friends and family. In the Summer they were seized and executed, being brutally beaten and shot. They were beatified by Pope St. John Paul II in 2001.
Fr. Alfonso Lopez Lopez, Br. Miguel Remon Salvador, Fr. Modesto Vegas, Fr. Dionisio Vicente Ramos, Br. Francisco Remon Jativa, and Fr. Pedro Rivera.
Blesseds John Francis Burte,
John Baptist Troquerie and Companions
+1792-94, French. Martyrs of the French Revolution. During this time of civil unrest in the country the Church was serverely persecuted and thousands were executed for refusing to swear the 'Oath of 1791', which was a blatant attempt to force people to abandon their Catholic Faith. The French province of Conventual Franciscans was decimated because of this.
Blessed Bonaventure of Potenza
+1711, Italian. 'Apostle of Obedience'. Born in Naples of poor but virtuous parents, Bonaventure was received into the Conventual Franciscans at age fifteen. As a priest, he laboured with great success, leading many people to Christ through his words, conduct, prayer, and mortification. His simple sermons made a large impact on the hearts of those who heard them. At times even a single word of his was enough to move the most hardened sinner to contrition; his deep prayer life gave him strength to spend coutless hours in the confessional. Bonaventure was a shining modle of virtue to his brothers, even on his death bed, asking pardon for his faults and kissing the feet of Christ on the crucifix before entered his eternal reward.
Venerable Wenanty Katarzyniec
+1921, Polish. One of St. Maximilian Kolbe's closest friends; after his early death the saint himself prayed for the intercesion of Fr. Wenanty when trying to get 'The Knight' published and further petitioned for the canonisation of his humble friend to the Minister General. Wenanty had a passion for history and culture, starting a Franciscan history club whilst in the seminary called 'Zealous Franciscans'. He met Maxmimilian Kolbe and a strong friendship quickly developed. He spent his short yet holy priesthood visiting cancer patients and was dedicated to the confessional and the pulpit. He was Novice Master in Lviv, whilst also teaching philosophy, Latin and Greek. In 1917, he contracted Spanish flue, leading to tuberculosis. He endured with patient suffering in prayer and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, entrusting his worries to the Immaculate Virgin Mary. He died at the age of thirty-one.
Blessed John of Parma
+1257, Italian. Seventh Minister General of the Franciscan Order. Blessed John is remembered for his quiet and gentle spirit, kindness, and orthodox reforms of the order which had lapsed following the death of St. Francis of Assisi. Blessed John worked tirelessly, crossing the continent of Europe until his death at age 80. His spiritual works bore great fruit, reinforcing the Rule of St. Francis, and reaffirming the faith and commitment of the Franciscans. He was a renowned theologian and taught at universities in Bologna, Naples, and Rome and was the first Minister General to visit all the friaries around the world at the time. He was embraced in welcome by King Henry III of England, and St. Louis IX of France received his blessing before going on crusade. John served as Papal Legate to Constantinople where he successfully convinced the Greek schismatics to return in communion with Rome. He spent the last years of his life in quiet contemplation at the Greccio hermitage.
Venerable Luigi Lo Verde
+1932, Tanzanian/Italian. Born 'Filippo', Friar Luigi knew from a young age that he wanted to consecrate his life to God. He attended the Friars' middle school in Sicily, and took the Franciscan habit in his second year. He would speak beautifully of his desire to give himself to the Lord in his letters home. Continuing his schooling and Franciscan Formation, it was during his Theological studies that Luigi contracted a terminal illness. He was admired for his saintly patience in enduring suffering, generosity shown to others, and total reliance on God through prayer. He was able to profess Simple Vows and received minor orders of porter and lector. His illness took a drastic turn and after being bedridden for four months, Friar Luigi died surrounded by family and friars.
Friar Zeno Zebrowski
+1982, Polish. Companion of St. Maximilian in Nagasaki, Japan. Founded trade schools and centers for the orphaned, the handicapped, and the elderly. Received national service awards in Japan and Poland.
Blessed John Duns Scotus
+1308, Scottish. Theologian at Paris, Oxford, and Cologne. His Mariology was the foundation that eventually led to the solemn definition of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.
Friar Roger Bacon
+1292, English. Father of Modern Science. Transformed methodology of experimental study. First scientific classification of nature, the elements and music. His study of light led to the invention of eyeglasses.
Blessed Pius Bartoski and Companions
+1943, Polish. In a group of 108 Polish martyrs from WWII who were beatified by Pope St. John Paul II, there were among them seven Conventual Franciscan Friars. Priests Pius Bartowski, Antonino Bajewski, Innocent Wojciech Guz, Herman Stepien, Achille Puchala, and Religious Brothers Boniface Zukowski, and Timothy Troianowski. Five were with St. Maximilian Kolbe when he was arrested, and two (Herman and Achille) were working in parish ministry.
Blessed Odoric of Pordenone
+1331, Italian. Missionary to the Orient. Travelled throughout the Asian region and was the first European to enter Tibet. Wrote many manuscripts recounting his journeys which became extremely useful to explorers during the Middle Ages. He helped to spread the Gospel to all he encountered and emersed himself in the cultures of the local people.
Venerable Girolamo Maria Biasi
+1929, Italian. Co-founder of the Militia Immaculata movement with St. Maximilian Kolbe. Fr. Girolamo was a devoted son of the Blessed Mother and strove to spread devotion to her in all those he encountered. St. Maximilian himself wished that his close friend be canonised by the Church as soon as possible due to the pious life, virtue, and zeal for mission this holy man exuberated.
Venerable Quirico Pignalberi
+1982, Italian. Co-founder of the Militia Immaculata movement with St. Maximilian Kolbe. He worked on the front lines as a medic in WWI, was the Rector of young seminarians, and later a Master of Novices for almost fifty years, helping to shape the religious lives of generations of Franciscan Friars. He was a highly sought after preacher and confessor. He assisted with the reconstruction of communities and recovery of assests damaged or lost after WWII. Despite ill health and even confinment to a wheelchair, he continued to work with his novice brothers until his death.
Servant of God Bartholomew Agricola
+1621, German. A convert from Calvinism who was disowned and physically attacked by his family, inflicting on him serious burns which caused him constant agony for life. He was known to be of a contemplative nature and would often have mystical experiences, but it was his talents as a musician, singing praises to Jesus and Mary, that brought him recognition. He achieved many works of mercy as confessor in a hospital for the incurable. After his death, many miracles were performed through his intercession.
Venerable Leon Veuthey
+1974, Swiss. Having met many times in Veuthey's youth, St. Maximilian Kolbe had written in his diary "Fr. Leon is a supernatural man". A professor of Theology and Philosophy at the Pontifical Urbanianum in Rome and various other institutions. He wrote wonderful pieces for many publications, including the 'Miles', the official journal of the Militia Immaculata. He also served faithfully as a professor and spiritual director at the Seraphicum in Rome. His cause for cononization was opened in 2002, and as a result, a complete edition of his works was published, offering a synthesis of his Franciscan vision of Mariology, especially noting Mary's Immaculate Conception and her divine and spiritual motherhood.
Venerable Francesco Mazzieri
+1983, Italian. Missionary Bishop. Born in Osimo, and was rector of the Seminary in the Republic of San Marin. He was sent as a missionary to the British colony of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1930. He was appointed the vicar apostolic in 1938, and then consecrated bishop in 1949. He worked closely with his brother Franciscans and Dominican Sisters to improve the spiritual and social welfare of his people, establishing clinics, leper villages, and centers for the handicapped. Convinced that the greatest poverty was the slavery to a cycle of ignorance, Mazzieri established many day schools, including schools for the physically and mentally disabled, which were some of the first of their kind in Zambia. Even after his retirement he remained ever energetic. He was especially devoted to Our Lady and, inspired by his former student St. Maximilian Kolbe, would hand out Franciscan Crowns saying that they were instruments of victory.
Cardinal Lorenzo Brancati di Lauria
+1693, Italian. 'The Right Arm of the Apostolic See'. Lorenzo suffered greatly from Asthma at young age, but became well enough by age 18 to enter the Order of Friars Minor Conventual. His superiors quickly became attentive to Lorenzo's intellectual gifts and sent him to study in Rome. We was appointed to the Chair of Dogmatic Theology at the Roman University and was also made a Consultor of the Congregation of the Holy Office by Pope Alexander VII, who coined his nickname (above). He was made the Chief Librarian by Pope Clement X, and created Cardinal by Pope Innocent XI in 1681. He was involved with at least ten different Curial Congregations, and would have likely succeeded Pope Innocent XI to the Papacy had the King of Spain not used his rite of veto. He was a good friend of St. Joseph of Cupertino and his written testimonies were vital in the saint's beatification. His writings also contributed greatly towards the eventual Dogmatic Proclamation of the Immaculate Conception. He was Cardinal Camerlengo until his death.
Servant of God Anton Demeter
+2006, Romanian. Fr. Anton underwent his religious formation during the oppression of the Communist regime. After professing Solemn Vows and being ordained, he spent only five years working in parishes before he was arrested in 1958 by the Communist authorities and interrogated. He received a sham trial and was sentenced to twenty years hard labor for instructing children in the Catholic faith. The Communists tried to force him to level charges against other priests, but when he refused, they struck his spine with a hammer, leaving him paralyzed. Over the next two years in labor camps, he was forced to crawl along the floor and receive more torture while others did his work. He was finally pardoned and released in 1963 and eventually settled at the friary in Roman, where he was highly sought after as confessor and spiritual director to the friar seminarians.
Servant of God Antonio Maria Mansi
+1918, Italian. Born in London to Italian parents, Fr. Antonio (of Hope) joined the Order in Ravello, Italy, and completed his studies in various locations around the country, eventually meeting and befriending St. Maximilian M. Kolbe. Together with the Saint and other seminarians, he was a co-founder of the Militia Immaculata in Rome. He was ordained a priest in 1918 at the Seraphic College. He was well known as a man of culture, speaking English, French, Latin and Greek; he also wrote poetry, and had studied music at the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music in Rome. He contracted Spanish Influenza and died in 1918. St. Maximilian held him in high regard as an exemplary friar.
Friar Wojciech Topolinski
+1940, Polish-American. A member of the St. Anthony of Padua Province in America, Fr. Topolinski held many prestigious responsibilities throughout his life; Professor at the Order's Theological Seminary in Rome; Apostolic Confessor at the Basilica of Loreto and St. Peter's Basilica; and finally the Postulator General of the Order. Whilst researching and promoting the cause for Beatification of Friar Didák Kelemen in Hungary, we stopped to visit his homeland of Poland. Whilst there the Second World War broke out and he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Sztum Prison Camp. on the 19th April, 1940, Fr. Topolinski was told he would be released, but instead was lead to the bathhouse and drowned in a tub by the guards.
Servant of God Egidio Merola
+2002, Italian. Giuseppe Merola was born in Barra, Italy in 1906. He grew up attending the Church of St. Anthony which is administered by the Conventual Friars. He began formation with the friars at the age of thirteen as a High School student. He received the habit and the religious name Egidio. He continued his studies in Assisi, Ravello, and Aversa. In 1929 he professed perpetual vows and was ordained. Fr. Egidio taught French, mathematics and geography, becoming renown for his unique talents and exemplary life. In 1930, the Minister General called him to Assisi as the assistant novice master, where his reputation for holiness continued to spread. Fr. Egidio was eventually assigned to the Shrine of St. Joseph of Cupertino in Cupertino, and would remain there for over sixty-five years. He was instrumental in the reestablishment of the order in southern Italy and building devotion to St. Joseph of Cupertino. He died on 6th January, 2002, the Solemnity of the Epiphany.
Friar Martin de Porres Maria Ward
+1999, American. Born Matthias DeWitte Ward into a bi-racial Methodist family in 1928 (Boston, MA), he converted to Catholicism at the age of 17. In his application to join the friars in 1945 he humbly notes that he is a person of colour, not wanting to cause any embarrassment to the Order, and would understand if he was denied entry; after receiving a positive response, he writes, "My heart does rejoice for I am most happy now. Perhaps, I have a right to be more than happy for now I know that the Lord and His Dear Son Jesus Christ have bestowed an abundance of grace on me." Those he lived and ministered to describe him as being holy, warm, loving, and humorous. After ordination he volunteered to go to the newly established mission in Brazil, where he became a dedicated school teacher, and devoted spiritual father to many, especially the poor. He attributed his vocation to Mary Immaculate, who guided and encouraged him through challenging moments, particularly prejudice for his Afro-American origin, and bouts of ill-health. At the end of his life, Fr. Martin suffered chest pains during Sunday Mass, despite this, after pausing to drink some water, he finished the Mass; he was rushed to hospital, and, after a few days, he went to his eternal reward.
Stay tuned for more biographies to come.