Conventual Franciscans ~ 70 Yrs in Latin America

Brazil - Mission Congress Photo 2016

July 13-17, 2016 ~ Rio de Janeiro: A Congress of the Order will take place in Brazil to celebrate the 70Year presence of our Conventual Franciscans in Latin America. The meeting’s focus will be based on a reflection on the missionary efforts of the friars in Latin America and the Caribbean, since the founding of the Immaculate Conception Custody (a Custody of Our Lady of the Angels Province) in 1946. Those in attendance will take on the challenges of the New Evangelization. Participants include friars of our Order as well as those outside of the Order; Brazilian lay people ~ men, women and youth and members of other Franciscan Orders, including the Poor Clare Sisters.
A special graphic was created to commemorate these past 70 years. indexIt takes the form of the TAU. St. Francis of Assisi had an affinity for the sign of the Tau. He spoke of it often and even used it to sign correspondence. Early Christian students of the Old Testament would have used a Greek version called “Septuagint,” in which the tau (last letter of the alphabet) was written as a T. The natural transition from the TAU was to a T representing the cross of Christ as a fulfillment of Old Testament promises. Saint Francis of Assisi was very familiar with this symbol, as it was used as an amulet by a Religious Community that cared for lepers in the area of Assisi; a service he took close to his heart upon his conversion. Today, Religious and Lay followers of Francis wear the tau cross as an exterior symbol of a remembrance of the victory of Christ.
Within the body of the TAU is a map of Latin America & the Caribbean. The color band within the body reflects historical struggle, violence and torture, while the red of the map indicates the presence of the Holy Spirit throughout the land. Look close and you will see a friar dressed in the grey of our habit, with his arms outstretched, as a welcoming presence and fullness of service.

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A bit of history (Taken from the International Missionary Congress OFM Conv. of January, 2006,  in Cochin, India: “Lights and Shadows” pg 7, Completed by former Secretary General for Missions, Fr. Enrique Montero, OFM Conv., a friar from our province – Bishop Gabriel Enrique Montero Umaña, O.F.M. Conv., of the Diocese of San Isidro de El General, Costa Rica)

The 1940’s-1960’s: the first Latin American frontier
This new phase opens in 1946 with the opening of the first friaries in Brazil by the American Province of the Immaculate Conception: a Province that experiences a great missionary boost both in Brazil as well as in Central America, with friaries in Costa Rica (1946), followed later in Honduras (in 1968) by the American Province of Our Lady of Consolation, already engaged in New Mexico with the Hispanics.
A year later, in 1947, the South-American season of the Paduan Province of St. Anthony had its beginning, with the opening of the first houses in Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil: a commitment in gratitude to the memory of St. Anthony, proclaimed doctor of the Church in 1946 and possibly thanks also to the exuberance and vitality of many young friars. It was also an answer to the expressed requirements of the Church that was asking a serious commitment in the South-American continent, that had always lacked an adequately prepared clergy, despite its wide-spread Catholicity. Some twenty years later, in 1968, these two Provinces are joined by the Province of Rome with the opening of a mission in the heart of Brazil, in the region of Maranhão. With the 1960’s the Order is present in four countries. Card. Canali, then protector of the Order, in his speech to the General Chapter of 1960 (which would elect Fr. Basil Heiser as Minister general) expressed the satisfaction of the Holy See for the response that the Conventual Franciscans had given to the request of the Church for a missionary commitment: “It is consoling to realise that in only 15 years the number of friars who work in Latin America has reached a hundred and with that the Order has answered generously to further appeals of the Holy See, that holds dear the apostolate in that vast continent.”