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  Table of Contents

Norms for Formation

Spiritual Direction
Third Order
Regular Spirituality

GENERAL..imagesblu_gry.gif (541 bytes) Brief History  Third Order Regular

Raffaelle PazzelliTOR

Lino Temperini TOR

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Nicholas Palmer TOR

Patrick J. Quinn, TOR

Seraphin Conley,TOR

Michael Higgins, TOR

Nancy Celaschi, OSF

Diversity of the Third Order Regular
Father/Teacher of the Third Order Regular

Contemplative Nuns of the Third Order Regular
Method for Reading the Writings of St.Francis
Symbols of Identification
& Unity

Development of the New Third Order Rule
Commentary  the Rule of the Third Order Regular
Rule of Life
& Statutes

Study of the Constitutions
Charism of Penance/The Meaning of Penance
The Way of Penance in Francis of Assisi
The T.O.R Charism of Penance
& Minority
& Poverty

Prayer:The Practice of
Lectio Divina

Places in the Story of St. Francis &
The Brothers
of Penance

Penitential Spirituality in
the Franciscan Sources

Be Penitents
Comprehensive Course in Franciscanism
The Practice
of Mendicacy

Guidelines / Directions for Friars
Third Order Regular in Ireland
Franciscan Family Tree
  Franciscan Federation USA

Nicholas Sastre Palmer, TOR - History of the Third Order Regular

By: Fr. Nicholas Sastre Palmer, TOR
Province of the Immaculate Conception - SPAIN

By way of introduction, I would like to present this work with a brief explanation as to what it is and what it hopes to accomplish.

It should not be considered as a Manual of the history of our Order and still less as a research project. It simply offers some points of our history for the private use of the friars of the order. It is more like a dossier or a reworking of some texts, monographs and brief articles dealing with the history of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance.

It lacks footnotes  and citations due to the haste in preparing it for publication and these will be added in a later edition. I am conscious of gaps and errors and am open to suggestions and advice that its readers might be able to offer me. I will be very grateful for their response.

Basically, this dossier has been compiled from the following texts:
Archives of the General Curia T.O.R. "Various Documents ... "
Via dei Fori Imperiali, 1  Rome

Isidoro de Villapadierna. Vida Comunitaria de Los Terciarios Franciscanos de Espana en el siglo XIV, en Prime manifestazione de vita comunitaria maschile e femminile nel movimiento francescano della penitenza (1215-1447). ed. R. Pazzelli - L. Temperini, CRI-TOR, Rome, 1982

Pazzelli, Rafaele. II Terz'Ordine Regolare di S. Francesco attraverso i secoli. Curia General TOR, Rome, 1958

Sastre Palmer, Nicholas. La espiritualidad penitencial a traves de la historia. Thesis for the Master's Degree, Antonianum, Rome. 1978.

-------- Origens de la provincia espanyola del Tercer Orde Regular de Penitencia de Sant Francesc d'Assis a Mallorca. a COMUNICACIO, n. 23, Palma, 1982, pp. 23-30.

(Translated by Fr. Seraphin Conley, TOR)


A General Outline of Our History


"Do penance, the Kingdom of God is at hand" (Mt.4, 17, Mk 1, 15). Penance or conversion of heart is a basic and preliminary requisite in order to enter the Kingdom which Jesus Christ preached.

This penitential attitude is also lived and preached by His disciples. Penance/Conversion is a fundamental element of Christianity.

In the early Church there was a gradual development of a penitential discipline as the means of reconciliation within the Community and, at the same time, as an ascetical path of spirituality.

1. The Fathers and penance/conversion

The Fathers of the Church present us with the spiritual aspect of penance under these ideas:

  • Continual Conversion

  • Prayer

  • Fasting and Mortification

  • Almsgiving

  • Charitable works

2. The penitential discipline of the Church
     and voluntary penitents

The era of persecution, that period of heroism in which Christians showed themselves willing to sacrifice their lives to affirm their faith and fidelity to Christ, finally ended. There arose new forms of "witness" (martirio) and voluntary heroism. One of these forms was the choice of entrance into the "Ordo Poenitentiae" or the acceptance of the public "Penitential Discipline.

In other words, we find a number of Christians willingly embracing the program of penance which the Church had prepared for public sinners. They did this as their way of striving towards personal perfection.

St. Cyprian (3rd cent.) speaks of those Christians who, without deserving it, by their own free choice, accept the public penances established for repentant sinners before their re-admittance to the Eucharist.

Those who sought perfection by means of the penitential state were called "conversi," "continents," "virgins," "voluntary penitents,"etc.

In actual practice, the life-style of such voluntary penitents became characterized, among other things, by a celibate life or, in the case of married Christians, the renunciation of their marital rights or of re-marriage in the case of widows. (N.B. In the 13th century we find a certain mitigation in this matter whereby married penitents are held to observe only a periodic continence.) They were required to wear simple clothes, avoiding any type of elegance in dress. They were to be abstemious in their meals and also were held to frequent fasts. They were to practice a life of intense prayer and to observe a certain withdrawal from worldly social events which might be harmful to Christian living. Preferably, they were to dedicate a great deal of time to charitable activities in favor of the needy.

These "converted ones" or "voluntary penitents" followed various styles of life.

3. Styles of life among the Penitents:

a. Those who withdrew "to do penance" in solitude. These were the hermit penitents or anchorites.

b. Those who lived in the vicinity of monasteries so as to participate in the monastic life to some extent.

c. Some continued to live at home with their families but accepting the obligations of a penitent, especially, a life of continence.

d. From about the 4th century groups of penitents united in fraternities, more or less homogeneous, serving in hospitals or leprosaria and dedicating themselves generally to works of charity. These groups of penitents very often also adopted a definite Propositum of life. 

This penitential movement reached its peak in the 13th century. In southern Europe we find the "Humillados," the "Disciplined," and the "Flagellants." A little while later there will be found the (Third) Order of Penance of St. Francis, of St. Dominic, and of Mt. Carmel. In central Europe the movement of the Beguines and Beghards will be strongly represented.

Greatly influenced by the preaching of the Mendicant Orders, the penitential movement continued to group together and to unite. They gravitated around the Orders and these not only influenced the penitential movement but, also integrated them into their respective "Third Orders." At the same time that the Mendicant Orders were absorbing these movements, they were also sharing in their spread and growth.


1. Francis, the penitent

The vocation of Francis of Assisi was born and developed in this penitential environment which flourished in 13th century Italy. Francis, during the first years of his conversion, lived as a penitent (a member of the conversi) in the outskirts of Assisi. But, in a certain moment, Francis felt himself called by God to begin an itinerant, apostolic life, living a radical form of poverty. Gradually he discovered his special charism based on a radical living of the Gospel. With his first companions he founded the Order of Friars Minor (Ist Order). Francis felt called to live the Gospel completely and radically, emphasizing "minority" (poverty), fraternity and evangelization (an itinerant apostolate).


2. The relationship of Francis of Assisi
     to the penitents or tertiaries

In spite of the originality of the charism of Francis, a penitential foundation always remained in his spirituality. And it may be supposed that he continued his relationship with the penitential movement although we do not know of any of his writings directed exclusively to these penitents. Although the great Franciscan scholar, Fr. Kajetan Esser, OFM considers the I Letter to All the Faithful as written by St. Francis to the penitents, we find ourselves in the realm of a "working hypothesis." Therefore, it is my belief that we cannot affirm so absolutely, as has often been the case, that Francis of Assisi and his first followers are the Founders of the Third Order of Penance. Rather, we should speak of them as the propagators or promoters of this penitential movement which in its second phase (some 50 years later) became the Franciscan "Third Order" of Penance.

cf. Fr. Lino Temperini's essay: St. Francis of Assisi: Father and Teacher of the Third Order in the following.chapter. See especially page 49.

Let us recapitulate the preceding material in four points:

I . St. Francis and his companions labored to promote the state of penance among Christians. As a result of their penitential preaching and influence, many new groups of penitents arose. This promotion logically brings along with it a certain "franciscanization. "

2. Franciscanism, in its beginnings, scarcely changed the spirituality and internal structure of the pre-existing penitential movement.

3. Francis and his companions must be considered "preachers of penance" and not simply "voluntary penitents."

4. It cannot continue to be held that among those faithful close to St. Francis, first there arose groups of Christian lay people desiring to live in penance (T.O.F.), and only later, from these arose the "regular, or religious Franciscan penitents" (T.O.R.) as the more or less "traditional" explanation had it.

Nowadays, as the result of serious studies carried out, we must speak of simultaneous origins. There co-existed during this period starting from the 12th-13th centuries, lay groups and "regular" groups of penitents (i.e. groups which lived together in community with a rule of life or "propositum").


Since this aspect of the relationship of St. Francis with the penitents and that of the first Franciscans with the penitential movement has been so little studied, it must be remembered that here we are in the realm of theory or "working hypothesis" as stated above.

Nevertheless, in the year 1289, 63 years after the death of St. Francis (+ 1226), the first Franciscan Pope (Girolamo de Ascoli), Nicholas IV, approved the Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of Penance of St. Francis of Assisi with the Bull Supra Montem (1289) calling St. Francis of Assisi the "Institutor" of the "Order of Penance."

a. When did the Penitential Franciscan Movement begin to be called the Third Order of St. Francis?

This is not known exactly but there are some leads:

  • Friar Thomas of Celano, in his first Life of St. Francis (n.37) uses the expression "the threefold army."

  • Friar Bernardo de Bessa, a Franciscan and the secretary of St. Bonaventure, already uses the term "Third Order" in his book "Liber de Laudibus bti. Francisci" (chap.viii) written in 1287.

  • Cardinal G. Buccamuzzi, during the "sede vacante" of 1287-1288, speaks of the Fratres et Sorores de Poenitentia vel, ut superinducto utamur vocabulo, de Tertia Regula bti. Francisci.

In this way, gradually it became the custom to use the title of Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance.

Editor's note: However, as Fr. Gabriele Andreozzi TOR points out in his Storia delle Regole e delle Constituzioni dell'Ordine francescano secolare this title was not pleasing to the Friars of Penance, very conscious of their autonomy, and so was never used in their official documents. However, the name "third order" became more and more commonly used by the Minors and, consequently, in papal documents inspired by them.

b. The growth and unification of the groups of penitents or ternaries

The number of persons belonging to the Franciscan Order of Penance rapidly increased. Since they followed the most varied forms of religious life then permitted, they found themselves involved in a serious problem. The Church at that time was struggling with all its might against the various groups of heretics demanding reforms. Due to the similarity of life-styles and desire for reform among both the heretical groups and the fraternities of penitents/tertiaries, the hierarchy did not always know how to separate the wheat from the chaff! For an example of the problem, we might examine the "penitent communities" of Belgium and Holland. The communities of brothers felt the full force of these difficulties both from persons and groups within the Church desirous of either the suppression of any type of community or eremitical life or their absorption into the first Franciscan Order.

c. Examples showing the existence of communities and fraternities of Franciscan tertiary penitents in Europe (13th-14th centuries).

We can find any number of these groups throughout Europe during this period.

In Italy:

  • 1289. At Montecasale, Tuscany, there existed a community of Tertiary Hermits. (Cfr. ANDREOZZI, G., Monte Casale nei Fioretti e nella nostra storia. en Analecta TOR, V, 813-814).

  • 1295. In Montefalco, the Bishop of Spoleto approved a community of Tertiary Sisters professing the Rule of Nicholas IV. (Cfr. ANDREOZZI, G., S. Rocco en Montefalco, La Porziuncula del TOR. Analecta TOR, IV, p.220ff.)


In Spain (Majorca):
  • 14th century. "Favorably approved by the Regent, Phillip, and under James III, the Beguines were able to establish themselves in Majorca. Like their companions. in Catalonia and Valencia, they are called and are members of the Third Order of St. Francis. They are in charge of hospices ... "

There was a community of Beguines in Palma which was connected to the one in Valencia. Some "Beguinas" of the Order of the Third Rule of St. Francis lived in Puig de Pollence before 1345, They had an excellent rapport with the pious faithful and were favored by the King himself. Later, they united in order to follow their common life in a new convent dedicated to St. Elisabeth of Hungary. (Cfr. Comunicacions, n. 23).

  • 1317: In Palma there was a Convent under the patronage of St. Elizabeth of Hungary which was the residence of a community of Beguine Sisters. This is the present day Monastery of St. Jerome. (1bidem)

In Austria:

  • 1242: There is documentation for a fraternity of Beguine brothers in Wiener Neustadt connected with the Franciscans.

  • 1255:  In a chronicle of the Franciscans of Vienna, it is related that 5 of the tertiary brothers had moved from Linz to Switzerland at the invitation of Hartmann the Elder who built for them the Monastery of Bernberg unter Winterthur.

  • 1302:  A house of religious women living near the Franciscan Friary is mentioned in the relation. The document also speaks of a "meisterin" or lady teacher of the Order of Penance of St. Francis. (Cfr. PASTOR, B. Analecta TOR... )

4. The evolution towards the formation of T.O.R. congregations

14th Century:

The first official document on behalf of the "Tertiaries Regular," properly so called, is the Bull Altissimo in divinis of Pope John XXII in 1324 which recognizes the existence of the community form of life of the friars or Tertiaries Regular.

In regards to the female branch of the Third Order Regular, in 1397, Blessed Angeline of Marsciano established her first monastery of Tertiary Franciscan Sisters who were especially dedicated to the instruction of youth.

Editor's note: In 1241, Graf Hartmann IV of Dillingen (Diocese of Augsburg, Germany) endowed a small group of pious women with a house by the city wall to ensure their livelihood. In 1303, the Bishop of Augsburg gave them the recently approved Rule of Nicholas IV and some Statutes which defined their community style of life, thereby distinguishing them from the Third Order Seculars. The Dillingen Franciscan Sisters seem to have the earliest date of existence among all present day TOR Franciscan congregations. (cfr. "TAU-INFO,"vol. 6,1991 - CFI, Rome. 

15th Century:

During the first half of the 15th century there began the process of unification of the communities of the Third Order Regular in the various countries of Europe resulting in the formation of national TOR Congregations.

  • 1401: Union of the Tertiaries Regular of Utrecht.
  • 1413: The communities in Flanders unite.
  • 1427: Union of the Tertiaries Regular of Cologne.
  • 1436: Union of those in Belgium. (cfr. the Bull of Eugene IV Ad apostolicae dignitatis).
  • 1442: Union of the Tertiaries Regular of Spain. (cfr. Bull of Eugene IV Injunctum nobis).
  • 1447: Union of Tertiary Friars of Italy with the Bull of Nicholas V Pastoralis Officii.
  • 1473: Union of the Tertiary Friars of Dalmatia.

16th Century:

  • 1521: Pope Leo X promulgated a Rule for the Tertiaries Regular which was accepted by those communities associated with the Ist Order.

  • 1568: Pius V, with the Bull Ea est officii nostri suppressed the offices of Minister, Vicar and Visitator General of the Third Order Regular of both male and female branches "in universum orbem. "

  • 1586: The Conventual Franciscan Pope Sixtus V with the Bull Romanis pontificis providentia of March 29, 1586 authorized the Tertiaries Regular of Italy to again hold a General Chapter and elect their own ministers.

17th Century:

The Dalmatian and Croatian Congregation of Friars united with the Italian Congregation of the Third Order Regular in 1601.

The other national TOR congregations began to disappear due to local problems, or the increasing old age of their members or absorption into the First Order.

19th Century:

There is need to highlight the flourishing of apostolic institutes of men and women, but especially the latter, which adopted the TOR Rule for their Congregations, although this was often for legal rather than charismatic motives. These Institutes arose for specific purposes such as assistance to children, the elderly, the poor, immigrants, orphans, the sick, for both popular and professional teaching, assistance to juvenile delinquents, etc.

In this period, the ancient Spanish TOR Congregation (Terceros) approved in 1413 was suppressed by the civil laws of exclaustration of 1835.

20th Century:

In the year 1927, the Holy Father Pius XI approved an "aggiornamento" of the Rule of the Third Order Regular. This remained in effect until the new TOR Rule was approved by Pope John Paul II with the Apostolic Letter Franciscanum Vitae Propositum dated December 8, 1982.




Admitting that even if St. Francis of Assisi and his first companions were only the "Promoters" and not exactly the Founders of the Franciscan Penitents, we can agree that "Francis allowed those Penitents who wished to follow him, while remaining in the world, to adopt as their rule the Memoriale Propositi (Thesis, n. 66). In this way, we may consider Francis and his friars as the teachers, the formers, the inspirers of these fraternities of penitents.

cf. Fr. Lino Temperini's essay: St. Francis of Assisi: Father and Teacher of the Third Order in the following chapter. See especially page 49.


I . The Memoriale Propositi (1221-1228)

There are 3 Latin editions of the Memoriale which have come down to us:

  • The Capistrano edition published by Paul Sabatier
  • The Koenisberg edition by L. Lenunens
  • The Venetian edition by B. Bughetti

This last dates from 1228 and is the oldest.

The Propositum which the penitents used in 1221 is preserved for us in a memorial of May 20, 1228. There are at least two additions to this edition of 1228 (which contains the text assumed to date from 1221): no. 17 which is an allusion to the Bull of May 21, 1227 and the final paragraph no. 39 of Dominican inspiration regarding the legal obligation of observing the Propositum.

A summary of the 39 articles of the Memoriale

Articles I to 15: Personal Ascetical Practices

  • 1- 4: Regulations about the style of clothing
  • 5:      Prohibition of attending banquets, dances and  immodest shows
  • 6-11: Concerning fasts and abstinence
  • 12-15: Prayer, the recitation of the Divine Office or the 24  "Paters. " Obligation of confession 3 times annuall  and reception of Communion on Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost

Articles 16 to 28: Social Obligations-Works of charity

  • 16-18: Prohibition against bearing arms and swearing oaths. Here we enter into the duties to the community, the promise of mutual peace and the promise to preserve a just relationship with one's neighbor
  • 19-22: The obligation to assist at the monthly meeting in order to attend Mass, listen to a conference by a learned brother regarding the penitential way of life, of sharing of material goods and offering mutual assistance
  • 23-24: Duties towards the deceased members: Attendance at the funeral, the suffrages for each deceased member. The Priest is to offer 3 Masses for both the living and the dead.
  • 25: The obligation to make a Will so as to avoid lawsuits among the members of one's family
  • 26: They must be reconciled among themselves and, if involved in lawsuits with nonmembers, should follow the counsel of the Ministers. The Peace-making Mission of the Penitents.
  • 27: When harassed by laws, privileges, or by civil authorities they shall take counsel with the Ministers and the Bishop
  • 28: Let each one accept the duty which he has been called to perform. Obedience.

Articles 29 to 39: Internal Organization and Administration of the Fraternity

  • 29-33: The requirements for those seeking admittance to the "Order of Penance." The Ministers are to examine them and oblige them to fulfill certain duties and promises. These duties will be amplified in the Rule of Nicholas IV.
  • 34-36: Penalties which are to be imposed by the Visitator or by those in authority
  • 37:   The power of the Minister to dispense
  • 38:   The election of other ministers for organization and administration
  • 39: The penance imposed by the Visitator and the obligation to fulfill it

This last article dealing with the Visitator is an interesting point as the possible connection between the Penitents and the Friars Minor which will be examined in the evolution of the Rule of Nicholas IV:

  • In the Memoriale it is not stated whether the Visitator must be a priest, a religious or a Friar Minor.

  • In the Rule of Friar Caro of Florence (1284) we find that the Visitator must be a priest.

  • In the Rule of Nicholas IV it is stated that the Visitator is to be a priest of the Friars Minor.

Another interesting aspect of the Memoriale is that it expresses the raison d'etre of this movement, or the spiritual and ecclesial basis for the penitents:

"Continual penance, mercy and the works of charity represent and encompass the specific purpose of the "Order of Penance" and its reason for existing in the Church" (69).

Let us briefly explain this statement:

  • continual penance: its "vertical" obligations. Conversion to God is expressed in a simple and modest style of clothes, the refusal to attend indecent shows and recreations, the fasts and abstinences, frequent prayer and participation in the sacraments, attendance at the monthly meeting, and being present at the funerals of departed brothers and sisters.

  • mercy and the works of charity: its "horizontal" obligations or relations with one's neighbour. The penitent is to live peacefully with one's neighbour, to respect the property and rights of others, to pay one's taxes, not to bear arms nor to take oaths, to be apostles to one's family, to assist financially the poorer brothers and the sick to visit and to care for the sick brothers, to make a will so as to avoid disputes and legal controversies, not just to be peaceful but to be peace-makers.(79)

2. The Rule of Friar Caro of Florence (1284)

In 1284, two fraternities of Penitents in Florence compiled a single Rule with the intention of unifying and reconciling the "grey" (Franciscan oriented) and the "black" (Dominican oriented) penitents. This Rule is attributed to the Florentine Friar Minor Caro (or Claro, or Chiaro). This new Rule contained 20 chapters and essentially reproduced what was contained in the Memoriale, amplifying it and modifying it with a reference to the First Order. The visitator should be a priest of any approved Order, a pious man, well instructed in the Word of God. (cfr. Peano, Le religiose franciscane .... p. 13)

3. The Rule of Nicholas IV (1289)

On the 18th of August, 1289, the first Franciscan Pope Nicholas IV (Girolamo Massi de Ascoli-Picena) issued the Bull Supra Montem which gave a new Rule to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance.

This Rule of Nicholas IV consists of 20 chapters and 60 articles. It seems to have been substantially taken from that of Friar Caro of Florence with some changes. It proclaimed St. Francis of Assisi as the "Institutor of this Order" and advises that the Visitators be chosen from the members of the Ist Franciscan Order.

This Rule seems to have been the canonical response of the Holy See to the numerous requests of the penitents, whether living in their own homes or in communities, for some official recognition of their way of life. With this official approbation of the Church, many movements and associations .... penitents and Beguines welcomed this document as a means of legalizing their situations and became Franciscan ternaries. (cfr. Pazzelli, passim).

Here we should review the state of the juridical situation of the penitents or ternaries of the 13th century from the Memoriale on to the Rule of Nicholas IV:

  • We do not have the original text of the Memoriale of 1221.

  • We do have various manuscripts giving us the Rule as it was from 1228 until that of Nicholas IV (1289).

  • The oldest text we have is that published by Fr. Bughetti and the oldest commentary that of Fr. Oliger.

  • We do have texts of the Rule as published by Nicholas IV and later elaborations by Fr. Mariano of Florence.

  • In the manuscripts we find the title as the "Rule of the Penitents," or "of the Continents." Very rarely is found the addition "of St. Francis."

  • Finally, we know that the Rule of the Penitents was modified in 1284 by the Friar Minor Caro of Florence. It is this Rule, with some minor alterations, which was approved in 1289 by Nicholas IV, a Franciscan, as the "Rule of the Franciscan Penitents." (Thesis n. 72).

4. The Rule of Leo X (1521)

The 5th Lateran Council (1512-1517) had insisted on a thorough reform of the Church in its institutions and its members. As a response to this need, two editions of a revised Rule were drawn up which should be of interest to every member of the Third Order Regular.

With the Bull Inter Cetera Nostro Regiminis, (Ann. Minorum, an. 1521,n. 19,t.XVI, Quaracchi, 1933, pp. 147-150) Pope Leo X promulgated, on Jan. 20, 1521, a revised Rule for Regular Tertiaries but without specifying exactly for whom it was destined, nor how obligatory was its acceptance. The Pope took the Rule of Nicholas IV and adapted it to religious life by removing all those articles which referred to lay people and by adding guidelines for religious perfection.

This Rule has 10 chapters, very brief, with the following titles:

1. The Reception of Novices
II. Of that which the Religious must promise at their Profession
Ill. Fasting
IV. The Divine Office and Prayer
V. The Election of Superiors and Officials
VI. The Manner of External and Interior Comportment
VII. Visiting and Caring for the Sick
VIll. Visitation of the Religious by the Superiors
IX. Suffrages for the Deceased
X. The Obligation to Observe the Rule

The Italian Congregation did not accept this revised Rule but continued to observe the Rule of Nicholas IV along with the "General Statutes" issued at the General Chapter of Florence in 1472. The Leonine revision of the Rule only mentioned Local Ministers (the offices of the Provincials and the Visitator disappearing) since these Local Ministers were to be under the authority of the Ministers General and Provincial of the Friars Minor. Therefore, the Rule was not acceptable to the Friars of Italy since this would have meant renouncing the privilege of autonomy and having their own Minister General, privileges which the Pope had not suppressed.

5. The TOR Rules of Pope Paul Ill (1547)

Pope Paul Ill approved a Rule with the Bull Ad fructus uberes dated July 3, 1547 (cfr. BORDONI, Archivium .... Parmae, 1658, pp.444-482). Actually, this was a triple Rule meant for religious men, women, and laity respectively who lived in the Kingdoms of Spain and Portugal. Each text of the Rule is composed of 10 chapters after the model of the 10 Commandments.

6. The TOR "Rule" of Fr. Bonaventure Da Vicenza (1549)

With the passing of time, the necessity of revising the Rule of Nicholas IV and the adjustments of the "Statutes" of 1472 was recognized. Therefore, Friar Bonaventure da Vicenza, the Minister General, decided to undertake a revision of the TOR Rule for the Italian Congregation. He arranged and codified the Statutes of 1472 so that, in 1549 with the consent of his Definitory, he petitioned and received the approval of this "Rule" with the apostolic authority of Cardinal Rodolfo Pio da Carpi, the Protector of the Order. This revision is written in the elegant Latin of the Renaissance and consists of 30 chapters. This revised Rule was the one professed by the friars of the Italian congregation until the Rule of Pius XI in 1927.

7. The TOR Rule of Pius XI (1927)

In the year 1925, Pope Pius XI named a commission to draw up a new Rule for the Third Order Regular and all the numerous Tertiary Franciscan Congregations which had arisen in the 19th century. This new Rule took into account the Franciscan spirit and the legislation contained in the new Code of Canon Law. It was approved with the promulgation of the Bull Rerum Conditio on October 4, 1927 (AAS. 19/1927/ 361-7). Essentially, it was an adaptation of the Rule of Leo X and it became the official text for all congregations of the Third Order Regular.

It has eight chapters with these titles:

I. Summary of Religious Life
II. Novitiate and Profession
Ill.    Charity towards God and Neighbour
IV. The Divine Office, Prayer and Fasting
V. Manner of Interior and External Behaviour
VI. The Care of the Sick
VII.  Work and the Manner of Working
VIll. The Obligation to Observe Everything Contained in the Rule

8. The TOR Rule of Pope John Paul 11 (1982)

Following the Second World War (1939-1945) with all that this meant in the change of mentality and in society, even before Vatican II, the religious orders desired an adaptation in their way of life. The Council, besides the changes proposed for the Church, also insisted very strongly on the need for religious institutes to return to their roots and to deepen their own charism. Logically, all of this affected the many congregations of men and women which professed the Rule of the Third Order Regular approved in 1927.

In 1965 twenty-five congregations of Franciscan Sisters of France and Belgium joined together in a project of forming a Rule meant only for TOR women. The resulting document of 12 chapters was entitled "The Rule of Life of the Franciscan Religious (Sisters)" and was published in 1972.

In 1967 nineteen Dutch congregations joined in a similar project and composed "The Dutch TOR Rule" in 6 chapters.

The Franciscan congregations of Germany also prepared a text of 6 chapters entitled "The German TOR Rule."

In 1974, the IV Interobediential Congress of the Third Order Regular met at Madrid and prepared a project on the Rule in 6 chapters entitled "An Understanding of Franciscan Penitential Life." This later became known as "The Madrid Document."

Each of these projects came about independently of the others and was based, at times, on different or even contrasting principles!

The promoters of the French Project organized an International Congress of Franciscan Sisters, or The Assembly of 1976, which took place in Assisi. Although the French Project served as the basic text, the Dutch, the German and the Madrid documents were also presented. The representatives of masculine congregations of the TOR noted two omissions that should be avoided in the future: any proposed Rule should be the same for both masculine and feminine congregations in accord with the TOR tradition from its origins, and that the penitential spirituality, so characteristic of TOR spirituality should not be so completely ignored!

The International Franciscan Meeting at Assisi, October, 1979. In this meeting the collaboration and participation of male TOR congregations was invited and 4 delegates representing the OFM Conv., the OFM, the OFM Cap., and the TOR were named. Two international organizations were also established: the International Franciscan Bureau (BFI) composed of 6 general superiors of TOR congregations, and an International Franciscan Commission (CFI) composed of 9 members. In the votation on the various projects, the French text received 92 votes out of a possible 116.

The Grottaferrata Meeting was held from March 8-10, 1980 between the members of the CFI, the BFI, and the 4 delegates of the Franciscan Friars. At this meeting, it was decided that:

1. The projected text should be the same for men and woman Franciscan groups.

2. The text should take into account the basic principles of Franciscan spirituality and the fundamental values which had inspired the various congregations.

3. The basic text would be the one which had received the most votes at the Assisi meeting.

4. A group would be set up to work on the project.

The working team met at Reute, Germany from the Ist to the 10th of September, 1980. The members of the BFI and CFI met on the 11th- 13th and then sent on the text to alI the congregations so that these could examine it and propose possible changes before April 15, 1981. The members of the working team met again May 10-20th, 1981 in Brussels to review the 205 observations received. The text was again recast and became known as "The Brussels Text" and was sent out to all the congregations so that the General Councils could approve it officially in the name of each congregation.

A General Assembly took place at the "Domum Pacis" in Rome from March 1-10, 1982. It was the most important and most attended of all the meetings and assemblies to that date. Some 192 General Superiors or their delegates were present so that the number of participants was more than 260 persons representing 285 TOR congregations from 37 countries and the 5 continents. The 8 days of meetings and prayer brought the participants to a deeper understanding of what it means to form part of the Third Order Regular Family. In spite of a variety of origins, apostolates, and styles of life there were common fundamental values (the Rule) at the same time as a rich and precious diversity (Constitutions). The text was voted upon and approved by the Assembly and was presented by the BFI to the Sacred Congregation of Religious. The Prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Pironio announced on April 30, 1983 the solemn papal confirmation of the Rule with the Brief Franciscanum Vitae Propositum dated December 8, 1982. His Holiness Pope John Paul II had confirmed this latest text of "The Rule and Life of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi." (cfr. Pazzelli, R. ... Commentario pp.43-53; Morelli,R.A., La Nueva Regla ... en Seleciones de Franciscanismo, n. 37, 1984. pp.31-38.


Until 1638, the Friars of the Third Order Regular Congregation of Italy did not have their own Constitutions separate from the Rule.

1. The Urbanite Constitutions of 1639

These were drawn up at the General Chapter held at Rome in 1638 with the Cardinal Protector Francesco Barberini presiding. They were approved by Pope Urban VIII on July 8, 1639 although they were not printed until 1648. (cfr. Pazzelli, R., pp. 189-191).

2. The Clementine Constitutions of 1734

By the end of the century the internal and external conditions had so changed that a new adaptation of our legislation was needed. The General Chapter of 1725 began the revision of the Urbanite Constitutions. This revised text of the Constitutions was approved by Pope Clement XII on January 26, 1734.

3 . The Constitutions of Pius XI of 1929

In the Chapter of 1920, a revised text of the Constitutions was presented but was not approved. In the General Chapter of 1926 another text, adjusted to the requirements of the new Code of Canon Law (1917), was edited. The text was approved by the Sacred Congregation of Religious on March 7, 1929. This text was updated during the term of the Minister General, Fr. John Parisi (1936-1947).

4. The Constitutions of the Special Chapter of 1969

An Extraordinary General Chapter was held at Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Rome from January 2 - March 6, 1969 to update the Constitutions in the light of Vatican II. This text was approved "ad experimentum" on April 30, 1969.

In the years following the promulgation of the new Rule by Pope John Paul II in 1982, an International Commission was appointed to edit a complete revision of the Constitutions.

Editor's note: This new revision of the Constitutions and also a text of the General Statutes were approved at the General Chapter of 1989. These texts were approved by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on Feb. 2, 1991.



As can easily be deduced from the previous material drawn from history, we are not dealing with an Order which is compact and unified in its organization and, even less is this true of its activities. The "Family" of the Third Order Regular embraces diverse life-styles and apostolates.

Present day styles of life

Presently we find that the congregations which profess the TOR rule comprise the following ways of life:

1. The contemplative life: This way of life is lived in monasteries or hermitages by nuns of the Third Order Regular.

2. Active or apostolic life: This describes the life-style of congregations dedicated to charitable apostolates such as operating reformatories, hospitals, hospices, schools and colleges, missions, parish work, etc.

Numbered among these congregations, whether male or female, there are those of PONTIFICAL right and those of DIOCESAN right.

Among the male congregations, there are those institutes which are simply LAY (no priest members) and some few CLERICAL institutes (composed of priests and brothers).


The Monasteries of TOR Cloistered Nuns number approximately 70 in Europe and North America. There are Federations of TOR nuns in Spain and Mexico and three Monasteries in Italy which are associated with the Friars of the Third Order Regular.

There are approximately 18 male TOR congregations, while the number of female congregations which follow the TOR is more than 400 (415 known).

There are nearly 200,000 religious women and 5,000 religious men professing the TOR Rule. It follows then that one cannot speak of a specific, clear and uniform nature for all Congregations of the Franciscan Third Order Regular. One could envision any possible Confederation only in the distant future.

All these institutes of Franciscan Tertiaries Regular, masculine or feminine, form a very broad spiritual family with a great diversity of activities and ways of life; nevertheless, they are united in professing one and the same "Rule of the Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Assisi. "


a. The Interobediential Congresses

At the initiative of the Minister General of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance, Fr. John Boccelia (1947-1965), Interobediential Congresses of the different congregations of TOR friars were held. Their purpose was to come to know one another better and to investigate the possibility of a Confederation. The idea of such a Confederation had been proposed by Pope Benedict XV in his Letter Tertii Ordinis a Poenitentia February 20, 1921 directed to the then Minister General, Fr. Arnaldo Rigo, T.O.R.


The First Interobediential Congress

This meeting was held from the 14th-16th of September, 1950, at the Convento dei Ss. Cosma e Damiano, Rome, the seat of the T.O.R. General Curia. (cfr. Actas in ANALECTA TOR, V.pp. 560-606). Representatives from 6 congregations were present. Besides getting acquainted with one another and the apostolates of each institute, they agreed to a "spiritual alliance" among themselves.

The Second Interobediential Congress

Five years later, at the same locale, from October 24th-27th, the second meeting took place. To the original 6 representatives were added 2 more. At this congress, the idea of a possible federation or confederation of the different Congregations was examined. The purpose would be to collaborate in different areas of the apostolate to arrive more easily at their common goals. This Congress was followed with much interest and approval by the Sacred Congregation for Religious (cfr. Pazzelli, Historia..... pp. 244-357).

The Third Interobediential Congress

This meeting was held from August 25th-28th, 1961, again at Ss. Cosma e Damiano, Rome, with representatives of the 8 TOR Congregations attending. The representatives decided to establish a Permanent Secretariate of the Interobedential Congress (IOC). Bro. Joseph Schieffer of the Congregation of the Poor Brothers of the Seraphic St. Francis, Aachen, Germany was elected the first secretary. The Secretariate was charged with publishing a semi-annual bulletin of information about the various congregations: articles, bibliographies, professions, necrology. It was also to publish a DIRECTORY of the Congregations participating in the Interobediential Congress. (cfr. ANALECTA TOR, IX, 1961, pp. 294ff.)

The Fourth Interobeditial Congress

This meeting took place at the "St. Peter the Martyr Center" in Madrid, Spain from April 16th-19th, 1972. There were representatives from 10 TOR Congregations of men and, for the first time, 6 Congregations of Franciscan Sisters participated. Further, an Anglican Franciscan Congregation, the Society of St. Francis attended the congress. The central business of this congress was the proposal of a projected new Rule for the Third Order Regular of St. Francis entitled "The Understanding of Franciscan Penitential Life." This project was to be sent for study and comment to all the members of the Third Order Regular Franciscans. Bro. Paul Mc Mullen, T.O.R. was elected as the Secretary of the IOC (cfr. ANALECTA TOR, XIII, 1974. p.7ff.).

From this date various informal meetings took place among the members to prepare the text for a new TOR Rule.

In October of 1985, Bro. Allen Von Kobs, CFP was named General Secretary of the Interobediential Congress (IOC).



The Fifth Interobediential Congress

At the TOR Convent of San Antonio, Assisi, October 7th-9th, 1987 the 5th Interobediential Congress was held. Of the 15 TOR Congregations of Franciscan men invited, 12 sent representatives. At this meeting, it was decided to dissolve the Interobediential Congress since almost all the Congregations now formed part of the International Franciscan Conference founded at Assisi in 1985 following the approbation of the new TOR Rule. For the sake of unity, it was judged inopportune to multiply federations of Tertiaries Regular.

b. The International Franciscan Conference

At a gathering in Assisi, October 16th-26th, the Assembly of the Congregations of Brothers and Sisters following the Rule of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis formed the International Franciscan Conference. 159 Franciscan Institutes having the right to vote participated at this Assembly with a total number of 230 persons coming from 28 countries.

The Purpose of the Assembly was:

To examine the situation of the TOR Institutes in the modern world, and the problems and challenges which faced them,

2. To discuss, to edit, and to approve the Statutes which were to direct the operation of the International Franciscan Conference of the TOR,

3. To elect a Permanent International Council composed of a President, 5 Councillors, and a Secretary.

The office of the C.F.I. Secretariate was to be located at the Convent "S. Paolo alla Regola, Rome.


The Little Church of San Rocco, Montefalco. The "Portiuncula of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance."

On July 25, 1448, in a scene reminiscent of the Chapter of Mats, some 300 friars of the Franciscan Order of Penance came together around the little Church of San Rocco on the outskirts of Montefalco. They were representatives of the fraternities of Italy. They were responding to the Bull Pastoralis Officii of Pope Nicholas V to hold the first General Chapter of the Order under the presidency of Bishop Antonio Severini of Gubbio, Bishop Venturino Marni of Cremona, and the Abbot of St. Paul Outside the Walls, Rome.

Fr. Bartolomeo Bonamati of Perugia was elected the first Minister General. In this place were also held the 2nd (August 3, 1451) and the 10th (May 15,1476) General Chapters of the Third Order Regular of St.Francis of Penance.



(The Congregation of the TOR originating in Italy
General Curia at the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Rome)

1 . Origin and Development throughout history

At this point we begin entering the specific history of one of the many groups or federations of Tertiaries Regular, namely, the Third Order Regular which originated and developed in Italy. Through the centuries the other national Congregations disappeared or were united to this Congregation. In fact, this process continues and the majority of the Provinces originated in independent national or local TOR congregations.

  • The 15th Century

    The canonical approbation of the unification and central organization of the previously existing Fraternities of Third Order friars living as hermits or in Community was given by Pope Nicholas V in 1447 with the Bull Pastoralis Officii.

    On July 25, 1448, the first General Chapter took place at the Church of San Rocco, Montefalco, with delegates from communities throughout Italy. Friar Bartolomeo Bonamati of Perugia was elected the first Minister General.

    Fr. Antonio de Sillis of Bergamo, Minister General from 1607-13 states that at the beginning of the Union there were 20 TOR Provinces, although not all of them had their own Minister Provincial.

  • The 16th Century

    In the year 1512, during the pontificate of Julius II, through the good offices of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, the Roman TOR Province received the Diaconal Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian located in the historic center of Rome in the Imperial Forum.

    In 1549, the Rule was codified by Fr. Bonaventura da Vicenza and approved by the Cardinal Protector, Rodolfo Pio da Carpi. This Rule was observed by the Italian TOR until that of Pius XI in 1927.

    In 1568, Pope Pius V suppressed the office of Minister General and placed the Order under the jurisdiction of the major superiors of the Friars Minor. This suppression lasted 18 years until the office of Minister General was restored by the Conventual Pope, Sixtus V, in 1586.

    By the end of the 16th century the number of provinces was reduced and restructured so that there were 11 Provinces: Milan, Brescia, Venice, Bologna, The Marches, Umbria, Rome, Abruzzo, Naples, Calabria and Sicily.

  • The 17th Century

    A statistic from the year 1625 lists the Italian TOR Congregation as having 124 convents and 2250 friars. In the 17th century, which was a time of splendour for the Italian Friars, we might highlight:

  • Many new convents were founded in all the Provinces. In 1605, the Provinces of Umbria and Piceno were united. In 1619, the masterful Commentary of Fr. Antonio de Sillis on the Rule of Bonaventure da Piacenza was published. The Constitutions of the Order were approved by Pope Urban VIII in 1639.

  • The notable friar of this time was certainly Fr. Francesco Bordoni da Parma, theologian, jurist, historian (42 printed works and 15 unedited), theological consultor for the City of Parma and Synodal Examiner, and later Minister General of the Order (1653-1659), Marian Doctor and zealous defender of the Immaculate Conception.

  • The 18th and 19th Centuries

    We know very little about the 18th and 19th centuries because of the many suppressions, exclaustrations and persecutions which the TOR suffered along with most other religious institutes. One unfortunate result of all this was that most Provincial and Friary archives have been destroyed, or "lost," or have ended up in the civil archives or public libraries. However, concerning the 18th century, we might say that, as was the case with most religious orders of that era, the history was one of "decadence." It is enough to mention that, at the beginning of the century, the Order consisted of 12 Provinces and at the end there were only 4, which were in a sorry condition.

    At the beginning of the 19th century, the Order was confined to the limits of the Papal States, Dalmatia and Sicily. In 1810, the time of the Napoleonic invasion, all religious orders were suppressed and this forced exclaustration lasted until 1814. From this time on, there was a serious effort to restore the Order, which began to have good results during the second half of the century. These would probably have been even more notable if it had not been for the further suppressions of 1861 and 1873. In 1878, Fr. Salemi, in a Provincial Congregation, tried to regroup the dispersed friars belonging to the Provinces of Umbria-Piceno and The Marches. By 1882, the Community at Assisi was re-established.

    During the tenure of Fr. Emidio Maricotti as Minister General (1885-1897) there was a great effort towards fostering the growth of the Order in Italy. This brought forth its fruits during the Generalate of Fr. Angelo de Mattia (1903-1912) with the unification of other Tertiary Congregations outside of Italy and their establishment as Provinces of the Order.

2. Unification and History
    of the Provinces of the Order 15th Century

The Province of St. Francis of Assisi

This Province is the heir of all the history of the Third Order Regular in Italy since it is the direct descendant of the Provinces of Umbria-Piceno, The Marches and of the fraternities of central and northern Italy. The Province also has houses in Rome and Milan.

In 1950, the Umbria-Piceno Province (which in 1957 adopted the ancient title of the Umbrian Province: "Province of St. Francis of Assisi"), responding to the petition of the Papal Nuncio to Paraguay, Mons. Federico Lunardi, established a mission in that country with its central house in the small city of San Estanislao.

The Province of Sts. Joachim and Anna, Sicily

Very little is known about the history of the TOR in Sicily before its unification with tile Order. There is information about a convent in Messina in 1437, another in Ferracane (today's Giarratana/Siracusa) and still another in Palermo before 1461. According to Bordoni, Sicily was united to the Order since its centralization in 1447. It seems certain that in 1478 it celebrated its first provincial Chapter. In the 14th until the middle of the 16th century, the Province seems not to have been very vital and there was little growth. However, in the mid 1500s, the restorer and animator of the TOR in Sicily, Friar Giacomo da Gubbio, OFM Cap. began his work. He had entered the Capuchin Reform in 1525 and had gone to Sicily with the intention of continuing on to Africa to evangelize the peoples of that continent. Nevertheless, he energetically dedicated himself to an apostolate of preaching in the Sicilian towns of Trapani, Marsala, and Monte Giuliani. The people pressed him to establish a religious community and so he decided to promote the Third Order Regular of St. Francis still sparsely spread throughout Sicily. He himself made the profession of the Rule of the Third Order Regular.

In 1540, he founded the Convent of Our Lady of the Angels at Martogna. Imitating the Capuchins in many of their observances, these Tertiary Friars of Friar Giacomo were called in Sicily "The Discalced. " Friar Giacomo suffered much misunderstanding and persecution. In 1565, aided by the Cardinal Protector, Charles Borromeo, he petitioned Pope Pius IV to grant that only the Minister General of the Conventuals could make the Canonical Visitation of the Congregation. This concession caused him many difficulties with the Friars Minor of the Observance. In 1570, the Tertiaries of Sicily were authorized to celebrate their Provincial Chapter at which Friar Girolamo Rizzo, a disciple of Friar Giacomo, was elected as the Minister. Friar Giacomo died in Rome, having put off the TOR habit in obedience to the command of Pius V and again being vested in the Capuchin habit.

Fr. Francesco Bordoni da Parma, in 1655, during his term as Minister General of the Third Order Regular, made a visitation of all the convents of Sicily. He wrote that the Sicilian Province numbered 35 convents and 256 friars, of whom 172 were priests.

The 17th Century.

The Province of St. Jerome, Croatia

In 1602, the TOR Congregation of Dalmatia-Croatia was united with the Italian Congregation of the Third Order Regular.

The ancient Croatian TOR Congregation seems to have originated around 1215 judging from a document which states that around this time some Hermits of St. Francis lived in Zadar. (cfr. Zec, D. "Ititium Provinciae Dalmatiae et Histriae, " Analecta TOR, 1, p.210) Various hermitages of tertiaries were founded on the islands of the Adriatic. Thanks to the labors of Friar Mateo de Bosnia, these fraternities were united into a Congregation in 1473 by an Apostolic Brief of Sixtus IV. This Province was characterized from its beginnings by its eremitical style of life and also by the use of the Old Slovanic language in its Liturgy and preaching.

Pope Clement VIII, with the Bull Pro Nostri Pastoralis Muneris of September 2, 1662 united the Croatian-Dalmatian Congregation to that of the Third Order Regular of Italy as a Province.

The Belgian Province (No longer in existence)

In 1650, the TOR Congregation of Flanders was united to the Order. However, after 1695, delegates from this Province no longer participated at the General Chapters celebrated in Italy.

The series of suppressions of religious institutes decreed by Liberal governments throughout Europe decimated the male branch of the Franciscan Third Order Regular. Nevertheless, the Italian Congregation barely managed to survive. At the start of the 20th century, it numbered only 4 Provinces and scarcely 200 friars.

The 20th Century


The Province of the Immaculate Conception - Spain

In 1906, a small congregation of Regular Tertiaries of Mallorca, comprising both priests and brothers, was united to the Order to form the Spanish Province of the Immaculate Conception.

The Ancient Spanish Congregation

The Kingdom of Castille: The phenomenon of a religious community form of life following the Third Rule of St. Francis is recorded around 1370 in the northwestern region of Spain (Galicia and Leon), also in the south (Andalusia). In Castille, these Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis were called: "frayres," "freyles" and "freyas" or "freylas." The founder of these Tertiaries of community life is said to have been a Canon of St. James of Compostela, Juan "el Cardenal, " who, according to legend was received into the Order of Penance in 1214, by St. Francis himself. Thereafter, this person is supposed to have established both male and female congregations of Tertiaries of common life. (cfr. SOTO, J.L. Proyecto espafiol. in A.I.A., II, 40/1980/37-72).

In the Kingdom of Castille, these communities of Tertiaries established by different founders make one think of immediate and concrete origins linked to the reform movement which arose throughout europe in the mid-14th century (the beginnings of the Observant Reform, the Benedictine Reform at Subiaco, etc.)

In the southern region of Spain, the movement of Franciscan Tertiaries towards community life seems to have been rooted, although this is unproven and unclear, in the eremitical life of Friar Tomasuccio da Foligno. This reformer had various Spanish followers, among them, Rodrigo the Logician who after the death of his master, withdrew into the mountains of Cordoba.

The origins of these diverse groups indicate that the community form of life on the Iberian Penisular was not necessarily an evolution from the Third Order Secular. The founders of these fraternities may or may not have been secular tertiaries previously. What is certain is their adoption of the Third Order Rule of St. Francis as the most suited to their purpose whether charitable, pastoral or, simply, the eremitic-cenobitic life.

The Galician Group

In 1372 we discover the first Franciscan Tertiary community at Mellid (Province of Coruna, the diocese of Mondonedo) under the title of the Holy Spirit. Fernan Lopez, the Notary, and his wife gave to Friar Alfonso some houses for a church and convent to serve the hospital for the poor and pilgrims. (cfr. PERARNAU, Nuevos datos ... ). This donation and the foundation was confirmed by the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII in a Bull of February 26, 1396.

In 1392, outside the walls of Mondonedo in Villaorente, we find the house of St. Martin in reconstruction and a document dated September 21st in which Clement VII granted indulgences to anyone visiting the church and helping this work of charity.

Around 1382, Fernan Gomez de Andrade established the Convent of Sta. Catalina de Montefaro near the seashore. Benedict XIII ratified the foundation of a Church dedicated to St. Catherine. With another Bull of 1403, he approved the incorporation of the parish church of Sta. Maria del Nino to the house at Montefaro. Moreover, the Hospital of Puentedueme with its church and hospice was placed under the house of Sta. Catalina. It is evident that here we are dealing with a center of pastoral and charitable activities. Sta. Maria la Nueva, or "of Marcarelos" in Santiago was founded by Friar Alfonso of Mellid through the donation of some houses on May 13, 1390.

The Community of Valparaiso, located in the Diocese of Tuy near the border with Portugal, was not connected with the group at Mellid and Montefaro. It was founded by Friar Juan de Esteban with his own resources and donations from benefactors. The chapel was dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Roman Pontiff, Boniface IX, on May 21, 1401, ratified this foundation and the conventual buildings and granted permission to establish another house, Sta. Catalina, for Tertiary women. Both these foundations seem to have been of the cenobitic-contemplative type.

Another foundation, that of Avargia, whose exact location within the Archdiocese of Santiago de Compostela has not been identified, was also not connected to the Tertiary foundations of Mellid or Montefaro. The founder was Paul Nicolas de Sicilia who petitioned the granting of indulgences for this Hermitage on the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity. This petition was granted by Pope Boniface IX in a Bull of October 4, 1400.

The Leon-Castile Group

The Community at Holy Spirit, outside the walls of Astorga, was established canonically by the Pope on September 13, 1403. This leads one to suppose that the actual date of its foundation was somewhat earlier (c. 1383). This Community seems to have followed a contemplative and eremtical style of life.

The Convent of Santa Maria de Val, or Valle, in Benavente, Province of Zamora, Diocese of Astorga, was probably established in 1392 under Bishop Pascasio (1390-93). Pope Benedict XIII in a Bull dated September 9, 1403, confirmed this foundation and granted indulgences to whomever contributed to its charitable works.

The Convent of San Juan del Monte in Mayorga, near the Diocese of Valderas (Leon) is mentioned by Pope Benedict XIII in a Bull addressed to the Archdeacon of Tricastela (Lugo). This document of September 9, 1403 confirmed for the community the same privileges granted to Santa Maria de Val.

Santa Maria del Soto, in the Diocese of Zamora of the ancient Kingdom of Leon, is mentioned in a Bull of September 9, 1403. Pope Benedict directed the Archdeacon of Zamora to confirm the possession of the church and residence of the tertiary community.

A house in Villapando, province of Zamora, Leon is known only from the granting of a plenary indulgence "in articulo mortis," on September 9, 1403, to a tertiary, Friar Juan del Mercado. Santa Maria de la Mejorada, some 5 kms. from Olmedo in the Province of Vallodolid, Diocese of Avila, is known to have been the residence of tertiaries for several years. It was a hermitage having houses, gardens, a poplar grove and vineyard granted "in perpetuum" to the tertiary friars about the year 1378 by Diego de Roeles, the Bishop of Avila (1378-85). This convent would be the cause of a lawsuit with the Jeronimites who began at this time and closely resembled the tertiary communities.

Santa Maria de los Valles, Diocese of Burgos, whose founders Francisco de Roa and his six companions, went to Valencia and received the permision of Pope Benedict XIII to build a convent at this hermitage in a Bull dated January 31, 1415.

The Andalusian Group

Approximately during the same period as the foundations in Galicia, there also arose in the south of Spain communities of tertiaries living a common life, although of a more contemplative style.

Holy Spirit Hermitage, Osuna. This hermitage was constructed in a mountainous place around 1373 on land donated by Alfonso Gonzalez. These religious lived exclusively by their own manual labor as is seen from the Bull of September 15, 1395 in which Benedict XIII exempts the Community from the duty of paying tithes.

The Community of Casafuerte, Diocese of Seville, is mentioned in a Bull of May 30, 1396 in which Pope Benedict XIII granted to the local Minister the power to absolve and to administer the sacraments to the friars and servants of the house.

It was probably this same Minister, Fray Juan, who exchanged the hermitage of Our Lady of Cuevas for the former parish church of San Juan de Arznalfarache and another rural place near Bollulos par del Condado (Huelva) with Archbishop Gonzalo de Mena of Seville on January 16, 1400. Benedict XIII, in a Bull dated February 2, 1409, directed the Patriarch of Constantinople, Alfonso de Egea, Administrator of the See of Seville, to confirm in favor of the tertiaries, the transfer of the Church of San Juan Aznalfarache outside the walls of Seville.

Thus, around the year 1400, the tertiaries in the south of Spain had at least 4 houses (2 dedicated to pastoral activity and 2 of a contemplative life style). Generally, this is true of the organization and lifestyle of the known communities of tertiary friars: the service of God in the loneliness of a hermitage or, near urban centers, in houses dedicated to the service of the poor and infirm, or to the faithful in the churches they staffed.

Houses dedicated to charitable assistance located at:

  • Mellid
    Santa Catalina de Penha
    Santa Maria la Nueva
    Houses dedicated to pastoral activity:
    Santo Espiritu de Astorga
    Santa Maria del Soto
    San Juan de Aznalfareche
    San Juan de Moranina

Houses dedicated to a contemplative or eremitical life:

  • Valpariso
    Santa Maria de la Mejorada
    Santa Maria del Valle (Benavente)
    San Julian del Monte
    The Convent at Montefaro was involved in
    both pastoral and charitable activities.

In all the papal documents, the religious of these communities are uniformly designated as "Brothers of the Third Order of St. Francis." In the Bull Humilibus precibus September 9. 1403, Pope Benedict XIII adds to this title the equivalent: Brothers called of Penance ... (fratrum de Poenitentia nuncupatum).

Each house and fraternity was independent, except for those affiliated to the principal house as, for example, to Mellid or to Montefaro. In charge of each house was a Minister with faculties similiar to those of the Ministers Provincial of the Ist Order.

In 1423, there is evidence for the existence of a Sevillian Province of the Third Order (cfr. BFr, Vii, 594 ii. 1574-1575). It is possible that the Castillian and Leon group formed a regular province which was later called the Province of Leon. In 1509 this Province was placed under the Observant Province of Santiago de Compostela. (cfr. VILLAPADIERNA,I. OFMCap., Vida Comunitaria de los Tertiarios de Espana, in Primi Manifestazioni di vita .... Convegno Assisi, 1981, pp. 91-111).

15th Century and the Unification
of the Tertiary Communities of Spain
(cfr. Pazzelli, pp.304-318)

For good order and the avoidance of useless problems, Pope Martin V ratified many acts of the anti-pope, Benedict XIII. In this way, he confirmed all the concessions granted to the Spanish Tertiaries with the Bull Apostolicae Nobis of July 15, 1422.
Pope Eugene IV, on February 6, 1442 with the Bull Injunctum Nobis granted the definite approval to the entire Spanish Congregation of the Third Order Regular and authorized the friars in the dioceses of Castille and Leon to hold a chapter every three years for the election of a Visitator General.

Relations between the
Spanish Third Order Regular and the Friars Minor

From 1289 until 1471 there seems to be no papal document referring to relations of the Third Order Regular with the Friars Minor. In 1471, some difficulties arose from a Bull of Sixtus IV concerning the right of the Friars Minor to visitate secular and regular communities not affiliated with any Congregation (Franciscan?) approved by the Holy See. The legal battles continued until 1526 with some periods of calm.

In 1526, Fray Antonio de Tablada, Minister General of the Tertiaries of Castille, Leon and Andalusia petitioned the Roman Curia to clarify these legal questions and so end the controversies. Clement VII in his famous Bull Dum  uberes fructus (cfr. BORDONI: Archives of the TOR, pp.397-413) confirmed all the privileges previously granted to the tertiaries of Spain. Among these was the right to elect their own Minister General and to be exempt from any dependence on the Friars Minor. A later Bull of Paul III Exponi Nobis Desuper modified some concessions of Clement VII.

On July 3, 1547, with the Bull Ad fructus uberes Paul III approved a triple Rule for the tertiaries in Spain. (cfr. BORDONI, Archives of the TOR, 444-482) At this time the Spanish Regular Tertiaries extended throughout the entire territory of Spain and Portugal.

In 1567, Pius V, with the Apostolic Brief Superioribus sensibus suppressed the Tertiaries Regular of Spain and submitted them to the Order of Friars Minor Observants. This papal decision was very much influenced by the King of Spain, Phillip II, and by Cardinal Diego de Espinoza, Inquisitor and President of the Royal Council of State. However, the following year, the ministers of some 6 convents forcefully insisted on presenting their case to the Pope and they were not suppressed.

At the end of the 16th century, the Franciscan Tertiaries Regular obtained from the Cardinal Protector with the approval of the Pope, Clement VIII, the authorization to be governed by their own Visitator Provincial, chosen from among the Friars Minor and always with the permission of the OFM General. This same Cardinal Protector decreed on January 18, 1600 that the convents of the Tertiaries Regular within the Kingdom of Granada would constitute the Bethica Province of the Third Order Regular.

By 1625 we find re-established 3 flourishing Provinces: Portugal, Bethica (Andalusia?) and Galicia-Leon.

About the middle of the 17th century, the Spanish Tertiary Friars tried to unite with the Third Order Regular in Italy. They were unsuccessful since they were never able to obtain the "beneplacitum" of the Friars Minor.

The civil suppressions of the years 1834-5 were the cause of the disappearance of all religious orders in Spain, among them the Congregation of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.

The Spanish TOR in modern times

The re-founding of the Third Order Regular in Spain was due to Fr. Antonio Ripoll Salva, born at Lluchmayor, Mallorca on September 8, 1844, the Feast of the Nativitiy of Mary to whom he was especially devoted.

As a young man he gathered some companions and formed a confraternity under the patronage of Mary Immaculate. They rented a room where they held conferences on spiritual themes and taught catechism to the neighborhood children.

In 1872, Antonio, Juan Garau and Mattia Cardell took steps towards the formation of a tertiary community dedicated to the Virgin Mary. With the permission of the pastor, they moved into some rooms attached to the Church of St. Bonaventure. The small community hoped to be approved as a Congregation of the Third Order Regular. Aided by his pastor, Fr. Gabriel Mir, Antonio was able to undertake studies for the priesthood and was ordained on August 14, 1887. The small community hoped to be approved as a Congregation of the Third Order Regular. Various major superiors of the Friars Minor were approached to this end but without success. Finally, in 1893, the Bishop authorized the formation of a diocesan congregation of the Third Order Regular. The Commissary General of the Friars Minor, Fr. Serafin Linares delegated the Vicar Provincial of Catalonia to formally establish the small Franciscan fraternity.

On June 11, 1883 the 3 priests: Frs. Antonio Ripoll, Bartolomeo Salva, Antonio Puigserver and the 3 brothers: John Garau, Bartolomeo Cler and Miguel Canyelles were invested with the grey habit of the Third Order Regular. Unaware of the existence of the TOR in Rome, contact had been made with the Third Order Regular Congregation of Albi. A modified form of the Albi Congregation's habit was adopted: gray color, heelreaching tunic with cord, the capuce ending in a blunt point in the front and sharp pointed at the rear. The new fraternity professed the Rule of Leo X and followed the Constitutions of the French TOR Congregation.

The Congregation continued to grow and desirous of making the profession of solemn vows, made their petition to the Minister General of the Friars Minor, Dionysius Schuyler. He was well disposed but wanted to restore the ancient system which had led in the past to the assimiliation of the TOR friars into the Order of Friars Minor. After some difficulties with the Minister Provincial of Catalonia, who wanted them to form part of his province, they sent representatives to Rome to present their case to the General. Fr. Schuyler suggested that they first become Friars Minor and when they had increased in numbers an OFM Province might be re-established on Mallorca. They went to the Spanish Cardinal Vives y Tuto, a Capuchin to seek his advice. He directed them to their "own Order" at the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian.

They were received by the Minister General, Fr. Angelo de Mattia who welcomed their petition to be incorporated into the Order as a Province. The various canonical formalities were quickly expedited by Cardinal Vives y Tuto who personally wrote the petition of Union and suggested that the new Province be dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary. On May 7, 1906 the Decree of Union was issued by the Sacred Congregation of Religious. On May 13th, Fr. Bartolomeo Salva and Francisco Fornes had the joy of making their solemn profession into the hands of the Minister General at the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian.

The new Province was blessed by God and enjoyed a steady growth in numbers of friars and convents. Friars were sent forth to labor in Mexico and among the Spanish speaking people of the United States. In 1961, responding to the plea of the Holy Father, John XXIII, the Province accepted a difficult mission in the Andes of Peru.

The Prelacy of Huamachuco is located 3,000 metres above sea level, covers an area of 8,000 sq. kms. comprising 3 provinces of the Department of La Libertad and has a Catholic population of more than 200,000. Two friars of the Province have been ordained bishops and ministered as Ordinaries of the Prelacy of Huamachuco: Mons. Damian Nicolau Roig (1963-81) and Mons. Sebastian Ramis Torrens (1991-).

The Province of the Immaculate Conception in Spain also has had the honor of giving two of its sons to serve as Minister General of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis:

Fr. Arnaldo Rigo (1920 - 1932)
Fr. Jose Angulo Quilis (1983 - 1994)


The Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus (U.S.A.)

In the years 1908-1910 a similiar process as the union of the Spanish friars took place in the United States of America. An Irish-American Congregation of teaching Brothers was united to the Order to form the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The Ancient TOR Congregation of Ireland

The origins of the American communities of Tertiaries Regular are to be found in western Europe or, more exactly, in Ireland. In this country the communities of Franciscan Tertiary Friars formed a Congregation about the year 1456. This Irish Congregation flourished from the 15th to the 17th centuries only to disappear almost entirely towards the end of the 18th century as the result of the religious persecution which took place on the island. Two friars, Bonaventure Lee and Michael Dillon, who seem to be the only surviving members of the ancient tertiary congregation, decided to found at Mount Bellew, the first house of the restored congregation. They were encouraged by the bishop(s) to devote themselves to the teaching of children. (N.B. This seems to have been the characteristic of the early Irish TOR fraternity which had both clerical and non-clerical members.) Gradually other houses were founded in different places of the diocese. From 1819-1830 the brothers were under the jurisdiction of the Friars Minor as established in the Rule of Leo X. In 1830 they received approval of the Sacred Congregation of Religious to transfer to the jurisdiction of the diocesan ordinaries. In 1898 there was an attempt at union with the Third Order Regular in Rome but this was unsuccessful due to the opposition of the bishops.

In 1847 some of these brothers were sent to the United States to collect alms from the Irish immigrants there. In Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, they were invited by the Bishop of that Diocese to establish a school for the education of youth. In 1847, some brothers were sent for this purpose to the United States where they established their first Friary at Loretto, Pennsylvania under the patronage of St. Francis. In that same year, they opened there the College of St. Francis.

After 25 years, the community in the United States numbered 75 brothers and had founded other schools in Pittsburgh, Altoona and Philadelphia. From 1848 until the date of their union with the Order in 1908, the brothers were under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Pittsburgh.

By 1858, another group of brothers from Ireland had founded the College of St. Francis in Brooklyn, N.Y. This Community also enjoyed a rapid growth so that, after 25 years, they had established more than 25 parochial schools.

Union with the Third Order Regular of Rome

Brother Linus Lynch, the superior of the Brooklyn TOR Congregation, in 1906 contacted the General Curia of the Third Order Regular at Sts. Cosmas and Damian with the desire to unite with the Order. Due to the disapproval of the American hierarchy, this first attempt was not successful. In 1907, the Community of Franciscan Brothers at Spalding, Nebraska was joined to the Order thanks to the concern and effort of Bro. Raphael Breheny. In 1908, the Community at Loretto entered into union with the Order. In 1910, the communities at Loretto and Spalding were joined to form the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Fr. Jerome Zazzara was named as the first Minister Provincial. For many years, Sacred Heart Province emphasized the apostolate of education and, besides The College of St. Francis and The University of Steubenville, directed several high schools. In the 1940s friars from this province accepted missionary work in India and helped establish what would become the Province of St. Thomas the Apostle. In the early 1960s the friars also accepted missions in Brazil.

The American Province of the Immaculate Conception

Fr. Arnaldo Rigo, Vicar General of the Order, was sent by the General Curia to preside over the Provincial Chapter of the Sacred Heart Province in 1919. He ascertained the necessity of establishing a new foundation, whether Province or Commissariate. The General Curia approved his proposal and, after reviewing the consultative vote of the friars in favor of the new foundation, authorized the creation of a new Commissariate. The Commissariate of the Immaculate Conception was established on March 15, 1920 with Fr. Jerome Zazzara being named the first Commissary Provincial. The Commissariate was raised to the status of a Province on August 25, 1925. Fr. Jerome Zazzara was elected the first Minister Provincial. For many years, the principal work of the friars of this Province was the parochial ministry among Italian immigrants at the parishes confided to them, or established by them, in the Diocese of Altoona, Pennsylvania.

In 1960, the Province accepted a Mission in the Latin American country of Paraguay which developed into the Prelacy, then Diocese of Coronel Oviedo. Mons. Jerome Pechillo, TOR was named the first Ordinary.

The Province joined with the Province of Assisi in 1979 to establish an Inter-Provincial Novitiate, and later a Clericate, as steps towards a future Paraguayan Province.


The Delegation of   the Assumption of Our Lady - France

In the Marian Year of 1954, The French Congregation of the Third Order Regular was united to the Order as a Province under the Patronage of Our Lady of the Assumption.

The Ancient TOR Congregation in France

In the year 1287 at Tolouse, France, there already existed fraternities of brothers and sisters of the Third Order observing a community form of life. These Tertiaries were to be found throughout Aquitania and Normandy. The TOR Congregation was left in a weakened condition due to the Huguenot unrest. However, Fr. Vincent Mussart, after his election as Minister Provincial in the Chapter of 1604 began a reform among the houses and friars which remained. A Bull of Clement VIII in 1603 had placed this Congregation under the jurisdiction of the Friars Minor and they were considered almost as a province. Pope Paul V restored the office of Visitator General to the French Congregation in 1610 and Fr. Mussart was elected to this position. These Friars professed the Rule of Leo X. In 1731, there was an attempt to be united to the Italian Congregation but this was not successful.

In 1792 this Congregation of the Franciscan Third Order Regular disappeared during the fierce persecution of the French Revolution. It was privileged to give to the Church the witness of Blessed Severin Girault TOR, who was among the first to be killed during the Massacre at the Carmelite Monastery on September 2, 1792. He was formally beatified in Rome in 1926.

Thanks to the zeal of a diocesan priest, Fr. Francois Marie Clausade of Albi, the Congregation was re-born at the Monastery of Notre Dame, Ambialet. On April 15, 1864, Pope Pius IX authorized its re-establishment under the spiritual guidance of the Capuchin Friars. In 1873, it was approved as a TOR Congregation professing simple vows and having its own Superior General. Until 1894, Fr. Francois Marie directed the Congregation giving it an orientation towards mission work in France and in foreign lands. In 1903, the government of France began another persecution of the religious orders. Because of this, some friars went to Brasil and there founded a mission in the difficult region of Mato Grosso. The work of the Friars developed into the Dioceses of Caceres (1915) and the Prelacy of Guajara-mirim (1931). The Friars also established the beautiful Church of Our Lady of Fatima in the Sumare district of Sao Paulo.

The Union of the French Congregation with the Order

The French TOR Congregation had been a part of the Interobediential Congress from the start of this organization. The Congregation and the Order had also worked together in a mission project in Brazil. These cooperative efforts resulted in the union of the Congregation of the Third Order Regular of France to the Order on November 3, 1954 during the Generalates of Fr. Henri Maynadier of Albi and Fr. John H. Boccella, T.O.R. It formed a Province under the patronage of Our Lady of the Assumption.

With the creation of the Vice-Province of Nossa Senhora Aparecida in Brasil and the scarcity of vocations in France, in 1993 the status was changed to that of General Delegation with a special relationship to its former mission in Brasil.


The Province of  St. Thomas the Apostle - India

The Minister General, Fr. John Parisi sent a circular letter dated March 12, 1937 to the whole Order inviting the Provinces to be open to new apostolates, especially the acceptance of foreign missions. The first Province to respond to this call was the      Province of the  | Most Sacred Heart of Jesus | in the United States of America. The Province offered to establish a mission in India. The "Propaganda Fidei" assigned it a vast territory cut off from the Diocese of Patna (Bihar) in the easternmost part of which dwelled mostly the people of the Santal tribe. In 1938, the first group of missionaries departed for India accompanied by Fr. Eugene George, the Minister Provincial. 8 more missionary friars were sent out in 1940. The mission was under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of Patna. In 1947 the work of preparing for a province and forming a native clergy was begun. In 1956-7, the first 4 Indian priests of the Order were ordained. Pope Pius XII, on August 3, 1956 raised the mission to an Apostolic Prefecture with Fr. Urban McGarry TOR of Sacred Heart Province named the Apostolic Prefect. The Prefecture was elevated to a Diocese on January 11, 1965 and Monsignor McGarry was ordained Bishop on May 10, 1965. He served as the local Ordinary until his retirement in 1987 and continued to serve the diocese as professor and spiritual director of the seminarians.

The Commissariate of India became a Province of the Order in 1971 under the title of St. Thomas the Apostle. Friars from this Province have served on the General Curia, and lent assistance to the Provinces of France, Sicily and to the first friars of Bangladesh. The Province has also helped prepare the union of the TOR Congregation of Sri Lanka to the Order and Fr. Anthony Ramanattu served as the first Provincial in Sri Lanka.


The Vice-Province of  Our Lady Aparecida - Brazil

On June 22, 1959, 10 friars of the Brazilian Commissariate dependent on the | French Province of the Assumption | petitioned for recognition as an Independent Commissariate (ViceProvince). After reviewing the situation, the General Curia established on April 19, 1960, that the Brazilian Commissariate be dependent on the General Curia itself in accord with the experimental period of 5 years directed by the Sacred Congregation of Religious before complete autonomy be granted. The first Commissary Provincial was Fr. Luis Roberto Gomez de Arruda. In 1966 he was ordained a bishop and named Prelate-Bishop of Guajara-Mirim until his resignation in 1978. (In 1991, with the permission of the Sacred Congregation, Bishop Gomez accepted the request of his friars to again serve as the Provincial.)

On March 14, 1966, the General Curia established the Independent Commissariate (ViceProvince) of Nossa Senhora Aparecida after receiving the required rescript from the Sacred Congregation on March 8, 1966, The new Vice-Province had its provincial residence at the Convent of Our Lady of Fatima, Mogi-Mirim and had responsibility for the Prelacy of Guajara-Mirim. At that time, the Vice-Province numbered 17 professed friars of whom 2 were bishops, 8 were priests, 5 student-friars and some 50 minor seminarians.

With a decree of October 7, 1992, all the friars of the Order working in Brasil in the French and American Commissariates were joined into the one Vice-Province of Our Lady Aparecida. Fr. Alain Hervin was elected the first Minister of the unified vice-province.

The Vice-Province of St. Joseph Republic of South Africa

On January 16, 1982 the Congregation of the Franciscan Familiars of St. Joseph was united to the Order in a ceremony presided over by the Minister General, Fr. Roland Faley, TOR.

The Former Congregation.

The Franciscan Familiars of St. Joseph were founded as a diocesan congregation of priests and brothers on December 20, 1923 by Bishop Albert Fleischer,CMM (1874-1963) the Vicar Apostolic of Marianhill from 1922-1950. The Bishop had founded the congregation for the purpose of providing for religious vocations to the priesthood and brotherhood from among Zulu men. The Holy See granted its approval for the canonical establishment on July 16, 1925.

In its beginnings the formation of its members and the direction of the Institute was confided to the Marianhill Missionaries. In 1928, the fraternity was affiliated spiritually with the Order of Friars Minor. The specific purpose of the Congregation was pastoral and missionary activity in the parishes and missions of the Marianhill Diocese. The apostolate of these friars is quite varied. At the time of the union there were 18 religious of whom 5 were priests, 11 brothers, 2 student friars and 3 novices.

The Union with the Third Order Regular

On January 16, 1979, Fr. Roland Faley,TOR then Minister General, wrote a circular letter to the whole Order announcing that the first steps had been taken towards a possible union. The Holy See approved the proposed union of the Franciscan Familiars of St. Joseph with the Third Order Regular in a decree dated September 26, 1981. The official ceremony of union took place on January 16, 1982 at the Monastery of St. Joseph, the central house in the Diocese of Marianhill, Republic of South Africa. The congregation became an Independent Commissariate or Vice-Province under the patronage of St. Joseph.

The first Commissary Provincial was Fr. Robert Dunstan Sisk of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Several friars of this province and Fr. Cyprian Mercieca of the Immaculate Conception Province (USA) have assisted the African fraternity in various capacities. On November 13, 1990, Fr. Cosmas Mdladla was elected Provincial of the Vice-Province.

The Vice-Province of Our Lady of Sri Lanka

The Congregation of the Franciscan Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul was formally united to the Order on November 13, 1982.

The Former Congregation

This diocesan congregation began as the Confraternity of the Immaculate Conception in 1870. It was established by Fr. Luigi Picenelli (born at Rion, France in 1823) who had been named Vicar Apostolic of Colombo in Ceylon (as it was then known) in 1866. The purpose of this pious association was the teaching of Christian Doctrine, the education of young boys, and the care of orphanages. With the decree of October 20, 1891 granted by the Archbishop of Colombo, Mons. Christopher Bonjean, OMI, the Confraternity was raised to the status of a diocesan religious congregation with the title of the "Congregation of St. Vincent de Paul." The Institute was spiritually affiliated with the Order of Friars Minor in a rescript dated September 1, 1910. A later Archbishop of Colombo, Cardinal Thomas Cooray, OMI, changed the title of the Congregation to that of "The Franciscan Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul. "

On August 22, 1949, a group of Tamil speaking brothers officially withdrew from the Congregation to form an independent Institute called the "Franciscan Brothers of Mary."

In the year 1971, the Congregation of Franciscan Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul numbered 35 members and was established throughout the Archdiocese of Colombo and in the Dioceses of Chilaw and Galle.

An interesting fact is that the first initiatives towards a union with the Order took place in 1928 during the generalate of Fr. Arnaldo Rigo, TOR. Fr. Arnaldo welcomed the petition of the brothers and sent it on for approval by the Holy See. However, the project could not be realized for reasons originating in the local Church of Sri Lanka.

Union with the Third Order Regular

In spite of their original unsuccessful project of union, the Brothers continued to maintain contact with the Order by means of the Interobediential Congresses. In 1978, they again presented the matter of a possible union and concrete steps were taken by Fr. Roland Faley, the Minister General. He and Fr. Anthony Ramanattu, General Definitor, accepted the invitation of Bro. Thomas Tissera, the Superior General of the Congregation to visit Sri Lanka. Later, Fr. Michael Edamanapadavil, Master of Novices for the Province of St. Thomas, was sent to prepare the Congregation for the union with our Order. When the 2 years of preparation were finished, the vote of each brother, together with the "beneplacitum" of the Archbishop of Colombo, Mons. Mark Fernando and the formal consent of the TOR General Curia given on July 2, 1982, were sent to the Holy See. The Sacred Congregation of Religious published the Decree of Union dated September 8, 1982. The official ceremony took place in Sri Lanka on November 13, 1982 and the new fraternity of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis is known as the Vice-Province of Our Lady of Sri Lanka.

At the time of the union, there were 40 professed members, of whom 23 were in perpetual vows, 17 in temporary vows, 5 novices, and 28 young men in the pre-novitiate program. Fr. Anthony Ramanattu was named as the Commissary Provincial (1982-1984) to guide the first steps of this new fraternity of the Order. Bro. Mark Fernando, a Sri Lankan friar, was elected Vice-Provincial in 1984.

In August of 1992, the friars celebrated the centennial of their foundation with the presence of the Minister General, several members of the General Curia and the Ministers Provincial of Spain, Sicily and India.

The Vice Province of St. Anthony of Padua - Pagaruay

On September 17, 1992, with the consent of the Provincial Councila of the Province of St. Francis and the Province of the Immaculate Conception, USA a decree was issued by the Minister General establishing the Vice Province of St. Anthony of Padua. The Vice Province is composed of the Paraguayan friars of the former commissariates of those Italian and American friars who opted to remain. Very Rev. Luis Tosiani was elected the first Vice-Provincial.

The General Delegation of the Bronx, NY
The Fraternity of St. Clare of Assisi

This fraternity, located at San Damiano Friary in the parish of St. Augustine, Bronx, NY began as a way of moving out from the usual large educational and charitable complexes to a simple life style of service in a poor neighborhood.   This vision of Bro. Giles Naedler of the Sacred Heart Province was shared by some other friars. Permission was received from the Minister General, Fr. Roland Faley to initiate the fraternity under his jurisdiction, and eventually to begin a formation program for new members. The brothers are very much appreciated by the people of the parish and have received civic recogonition for their effective social service.

The General Delegation of St. John the Baptist - Sweden

Attracted by the life of St. Francis, two Lutheran men, the one a native of Sweden and the other an American of Swedish extraction began their Franciscan journey in 1973 as novices with the Anglican Society of St. Francis in England. They took this step on the advice of the Lutheran Bishop of Gothenburg, who had encouraged them to get several years of training in a religious community with solid experience of religious life before attempting the project of establishing a fraternity in Sweden.
In the Fall of 1973, a house was established in the greater Gothenburg area and eventually a third brother came to test his vocation and stayed. The life of the fraternity and their ecumenical contacts with Protestants, Catholics and Orthodox necessitated a process of deepening theological reflection. Gradually, they became more aware that their convictions, particularly with regard to the Holy Eucharist, the Priesthood, and the Magisterium were Catholic and that they could not expect to make these convictions credible either to the people encountered in their evangelistic endeavors or to candidates interested in their life if they themselves remained outside the Catholic Church. This was a painful decision since many others within the Church of Sweden shared the same convictions and yet were strongly committed to working and waiting for the corporate reunion of Lutheranism with the Catholic Church. During this period the advice and counsel of the Friars Minor at Linkoping was a great help. In 1983 the Brothers were received into the Catholic Church but were allowed by Bishop Hubertus Brandenburg of the Diocese of Stockholm, which includes all of Sweden, to continue their life in community as a diocesan "consociatio publica. " The continued help of the Dutch Franciscans greatly speeded the integration of the brothers into the Diocese and the Franciscan Family of Orders and Congregations.

In 1988 the community was affiliated with the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance (T.O.R.) with its General Curia located at the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Rome. In 1991 the the Swedish fraternity was permanently united to the Order as the Delegation of St. John the Baptist directly subject to the General Curia. On the Feast of the Birth of St. John the Baptist, the Minister General, Fr. Jos6 Angulo Quilis received the solemn profession of Brothers Frans-Eric, Ingmund and Stefan. At Vespers of the same day, a young man was admitted as a Postulant.

In union with their brothers of the Order throughout the world, the Friars in Sweden try to live out the penitential charism of the Franciscan Third Order Regular understood as repentance or conversion of life. The fruits of penance are to be found in their dedication to community life and apostolic work. The works of mercy as well as the evangelical and pastoral work undertaken by the friars are accomplished in harmony with the rhythm of conventual life. The TOR Franciscan fraternities are composed of ordained and non-ordained members who are "Friars" or "Brothers" equal in all things not pertaining to the celebration of the Sacraments and the proclamation of the Word in a sacramental context. Actually, the Delegation uses the title "brother" for its members, including the ordained priest of the fraternity. None of the friars is exempted from doing humble manual work except on account of illness or weakness. The dark gray habit is used as the normal daily garb both inside and outside of the house.

The primary apostolate of the fraternity is the operation of St. Francis House as a long or short term home for people in need of a supportive environment. To the friars come both men and women, elderly and young people, who are in need of physical or social support or seeking spiritual help. Ordinary lay folk are also often guests at the House which has maintained a distinctly ecumenical character. Whether believer or non-believer, all are welcome to assist at the community's Liturgy, to spend time in private prayer or just enjoy themselves in the quiet. The friars share all their meals with their extended family of residents or guests. Everyone is invited the share in the work of cooking and cleaning, doing repairs or looking out for the vegetable garden.

The Friars know that they really do not fit into the scheme of things in modern, secularized Sweden where less than half the population acknowledges the existence of God , much less the possibility of consecrating one's life to Him in this manner. However, they firmly believe that the very existence of their Fraternity raises questions and this is the essence of their prophetic witness. Not by chance have the brothers chosen St. John the Baptist as the Patron of this Delegation of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis of Penance!


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