December 14, 2012

Conventual Franciscans take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience

By Natalie Hoefer (Special to The Criterion)

The family of Franciscan orders was founded in the 13th century by St. Francis of Assisi. Franciscans take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, and all share in the mission of living the Gospel and serving the poor.

Friars can be priests or brothers, in which case they work as educators, administrators, nurses or in other ministries.

Several Franciscan communities have been founded since the time of Francis. Included among them are several orders of Franciscan sisters and Poor Clare nuns.

There are three main communities of Franciscans for men:

  • Friars Minor—This is the largest and oldest Franciscan community. They are known for their brown habits with short hoods. Members of this order use the initials “O.F.M.” after their name.
  • Capuchin Franciscans—This order is the strictest observer of the Franciscan rule, wearing only sandals and habits, following Christ’s instructions to his disciples to take no extra sandals or cloak when he commissioned them to preach. They are identified by brown habits with hoods extending to the middle back. “O.F.M. Cap.” follows the names of the members of this order. St. Pio of Pietreclina was a Capuchin Franciscan friar in Italy.
  • Conventual Franciscans—They are identified by habits of black or varying shades of gray or white. St. Maximilian Kolbe was a Conventual Franciscan friar. “O.F.M. Conv.” follows the names of the members of this order.

Each branch has subdivisions. The Conventual Franciscians of Immaculate Mary, who operate Mother of the Redeemer Retreat Center in Monroe County, are a division of the Conventual Franciscan friars. They take an additional vow of consecration to the Blessed Mother.

The Conventual Franciscans were invited to Terre Haute in 1872 by Bishop Maurice de St. Palais. The decree of invitation can be found in the Centennial of the Parish of St. Joseph, published in 1938. Bishop Palais called the Conventual Franciscans to Terre Haute “to provide for the care of souls” at the churches of St. Benedict and St. Joseph. The friars have ministered at both parishes ever since. (Related story: St. Joseph University Parish celebrates 175 years of faith)

There are currently four friars in community in Terre Haute. All live at the rectory at St. Benedict Parish.

Father Mark Weaver is pastor of St. Joseph University Parish. He is assisted by Father John Bamman, associate pastor.

Father Edmund Goldbach serves as pastor of St. Benedict Parish. Retired Friar Joel Burget, a native of Terre Haute, is a former pastor of St. Benedict Parish. He celebrates the sacraments in Terre Haute whenever a substitute priest is needed.

Another Conventual Franciscan and native of Terre Haute is Father Basil Heiser. He was elected to the highest office of the Franciscan order—minister general—in 1960, and served as the 114th successor of St. Francis until 1972. He was 100 when he died in 2009. †

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