THE PROVINCE OF
ST. JEROME, CROATIA.
Province -of St. Jerome has a long history of more than 600 years. The first certain
information we have is from the latter half of the Fourteenth Century where the Friars are
established at the Church of St. John the Baptist near Zara and involved in the care of
the nearby leprosarium. Behind this ancient Church of St. John today is to be found the
new Parish Church and Monastery of St. John. There are documents from the latter part of
the 13th century which first mention "hermits of the Third Order of St. Francis.
" Other historical material describes the Third Order of St. Francis as present in
Split in 1350. Other documents can be found in the cities of Rab, Sibenik, Dugiotok,
process of unification into a single congregation began at the begining of the 15th
century and by the middle of the 15th century there were at least 7 monasteries united
under a Minister.These monasteries were spread along a distance of 200 km. from Koper in
the north and Sibenik in the south.
activity of the friars centered around work as chaplains in leprosaria near the cities and
also pastoral care in different parishes. From the earliest days, the most important
characteristic of the friars was their use of the vernacular language in the Roman
Liturgy. Most of the people easily understood the Old Slavonic of the Liturgy and
devotions while they used the modern Croatina language in their work and daily activates.
This unique privilege of using Old Slavonic in the liturgy was confirmed by papal
documents and was enjoyed by the friars until the renovation of the Roman liturgy after
Vatican Council II.
the 15th century there are many documents which show the Holy See's approval of the
community. One of the most important of such documents is dated December 4, 1439 when they
formally accepted the possession of their monastery and church near Zara. In the 1450s,
the Holy See ordered the Archbishop of Zara to give official recognition to the three
monasteries of St. John, St. Paul, and St. Michael located within his diocese and give
them to the Third Order Regular Friars. In 1473, the Minister of the Third Order Regular
friars received the faculty of acting as the confessors and visitators of the monasteries
of Sisters professing the Rule of the Third Order Regular.
the end of the 15th and the beginning of the 16th century the Croatian Congregation of the
Third Order Regular suffered many losses of friars and monasteries due to the Turkish
occupation of Croatian territory. The only monasteries to survive were those in Dalmatia
which was under the rule of the Venetian Republic. The Bull uniting the Croatian
Congregation to the Friars of the Third Order Regular in Italy was issued by Clement VIII
on September 2, 1602. This was the first national TOR congregation to form a union with
the Italian congregation. From that time, as the Province of St. Jerome, the Croatian
friars took part in the life and government of the Order. The Province has given one of
its friars to serve as Minister General: Fr. Pius Dujmovic (1912-1920).
the 18th century, under the reform movements in Europe, many communities were suppressed
by civil governments or suffered great loss. However, the Province of St. Jerome was
preserved from suppression due to their special privilege of using the Old Slavonic in the
Liturgy. During this period, one of the most esteemed friars of the Province was Fr. Anton
Juranic who was granted the title of Honorary Minister General. He was very active in
ecumenical work with the Orthodox since he shared the same liturgical language. He was
instrumental in publishing the various liturgical books in Old-Slavonic, among them was
the breviary printed by the Propaganda Fidei in 1771. Fr. Juranic was an esteemed
councillor to the Doge of Venice and an expert diplomat. He ended his busy and useful life
in the tranquility of the small Convent of St. Francis in Rab in 1799.
the first part of the 19th century the Province was reduced to approximately 35 friars
maintaining 14 houses. In mid 19th century there was a renewal and special attention was
given to schools and the spiritual and scholastic formation of the friars.
the 20th century, besides the monasteries with 500 years of continuous presence of the
friars, there were a few new houses and parishes. In 1925, Fr. Stanislaus Dujmovic was
sent by the Province to the United States of America to see how the Province might assist
Croatian immigrants there. He was welcomed by the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and
named Administrator of St. Nicholas Parish in Millvale. Other friars were sent to assist
him and later the bishop entrusted them with another Croatian parish, Sacred Heart Church
in McKeesport. In 1951 a house was purchased in Washington, D.C. with the intention of
providing a formation house for American vocations to the Province. St. Jerome House of
Studies was later converted to serve as a locale for pastoral service to Croatian
Catholics in the Washington area. In front of this building there is an impressive bronze
statue of St. Jerome, the work of the famous Croatian artist Ivan Mestrovic. In the 1960s,
the Province started to work with Croatian inunigrants and workers in Germany.
the very beginning, along with the pastoral and social service, the friars were always
interested in promoting cultural values. They concentrated on the study of the
old-slavonic heritage in the area of language and liturgy. In the history of the Croatian
culture, one cannot find a book which does not mention some of the friars in relation to
books from the 15th century, especially in their work as copyists. There are four precious
codices transcribed by Fr. Simeon Klimantovi6' which are preserved in the Provincial
Archives, in the Zagreb Library, at Petrograd, Russia and at Vienna. Most of the expert
authors in Croatian incunabulae are of the opinion that our friars are responsible for the
first Croatian Missal published in 1483. In the Province's Archives there are examples of
writings and books previous to 1500. One of these is the "Ispovid"
("Confession") published in 1483, of which only one copy exists today. Most
authors hold that this book is the work of one of the friars of the Third Order Regular.
Through the centuries there were friars who were noted experts in various fields.
its long history, the Province of St. Jerome has had many holy and exemplary religious. In
1948, Fr. Petar Turkalj, well known for -his charitable apostolate among the poor, was
imprisoned by the Communist government. Another friar who was venerated by the people as a
truly holy man was Fr. Stefan Soric' who died in 1968.
Province is also honored to have had one of its friars ordained to the episcopate by Pope
John Paul II in 1988 and appointed to the Diocese of Sibenik.
For more information:
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