Third Order Regular of Saint Francis of Penance
The twelfth century saw a marked emphasis toward the penitential life, reflected in monastic reforms of Romuald (+ 1027), and Peter Damian among others. The Third Order Regular developed from the Third Order Secular movement which arose in the early 13th century from the convergence of groups of penitents who were inspired by the life of Francis of Assisi. Sometime between 1209 and 1220, Saint Francis communicated with some of these groups through a series of letters entitled the "Exhortations to the Brothers and Sisters of Penance". In 1221 Francis asked Cardinal Ugolino di Conti to draft a rule for lay people whose personal circumstances precluded their joining a religious order such as the Friars Minor or the Poor Clares. These individuals formed the Third Order of Saint Francis and were called "tertiaries".
The organized form of this life, though, can be more reliably traced back to the second half of the thirteenth century. In 1289 the first Franciscan pope, Pope Nicholas IV decided to recognize the Third Order of San Francis in a formal manner. He gave approval to the Order of Penance, and reissued the “Memoriale Propositi”, the Rule of 1221 in a more juridic form. Those Penitent Franciscans who remained in their homes (married or single) constituted the Secular Third Order (TOS), which since 1978 has been called the Secular Franciscan Order (OFS).
Some secular tertiaries, who in many cases had their house of meeting, gradually withdrew entirely from the world and so formed religious communities, but without the three vows of religious orders. Some of the penitents began to live communal life dedicating themselves to works of mercy; others began to live in remote places as hermits. Members of religious organizations, such as the Beguines (women) and Beghards (men) in the Low Countries, sometimes joined the Third Order. These groups were known as the Religious of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis.
In 1295, Pope Boniface VIII promulgated the papal bull Cupientes cultum which approved the style of community life of the tertiaries and the pastoral ministry they offered to the people. He permitted the brothers of penitence (Tertiaries) of northern Germany, to live in community and have oratories in their houses in order to celebrate the divine office. The aim of these fraternities was normally that of taking care of hospitals.
By the fifteenth century tertiary communities of men and women existed in different parts of Europe. In 1447, Pope Nicholas V united the eremitical communities in Umbria and the Marches which followed the Third Order rule into a single community under a minister general. This community of men is one part of the Third Order Regular. The order spread throughout Italy. To introduce uniformity to the numerous congregations, in 1521 Pope Leo X gave a new form to the Rule, retaining much of the Rule published by Nicholas IV and adding new points, especially the three solemn vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.
In several countries there was a gradual development of national tertiary orders. Some orders disappeared due to government suppression or war, while others joined with the Italian congregation in a single entity which today is called the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis. The French congregation maintained close ties with the First Order until its extinction during the French Revolution.
Secular tertiaries existed in Ireland as early as 1385. By 1441 brothers of the Third Order Regular were established at Clonfert, Killala and Tuam. In the fifteenth century there were about forty friaries of TOR Friars in Ireland, made up of small groups of clerical and lay brothers. The friars served the spiritual needs of the local people in their friaries and churches and in the surrounding parishes. They supported themselves by farming the nearby land. Each friary held a school. The friaries were abolished with the Reformation, yet a few individual friars remained, although clandestine.
The Franciscan Brothers of the Third Order Regular are noted for their having secretly taught the boys of the Catholic population of Ireland for decades in the underground "bog schools". The Order did not formerly re-emerge again in Ireland until the early 1800s at Merchant's Quay in Dublin with a group of secular tertiaries of the Friar Minor's church of Adam and Eve. They established a monastery and school at Milltown, Dublin in 1818, after the relaxation of the Penal Laws which had forbidden Catholic education. A second was opened at Dalkey.
In 1820 they transferred their monastery to Mountbellew in County Galway, where the Bellew family had invited them and had donated land and a house to get established. The Brothers ran a free primary school and specialized in trade schools for young men. The brothers at Mountbellew taught catechism, Gaelic, and established an agricultural school. In 1992 there were about fifty members.
In the course of the nineteenth century, Brothers from the Irish communities established foundations in the United States, which became independent Institutes in their own right. Franciscan Brothers Mountbellew, the Irish congregation of Brothers from which the friars of the T.O.R. sprang, has maintained a presence in the U.S. since the 1950s. In 1957, Brothers from Ireland began work in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Originally working both in the Bronx, New York and California, they now serve only on the West Coast. As an Institute of Pontifical Right, they also work in Kenya and Uganda in education and agriculture.
In the mid-19th century, in response to the request from bishops in the United States, the Brothers accepted apostolic works outside of Ireland. A group of Franciscan Brothers from the community at Mountbellew traveled to the United States to minister as teachers and established permanent foundations in Loretto, Pennsylvania, Brooklyn, New York, and Spaulding, Nebraska.
There are two provinces in the United States: The Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Loretto, Pennsylvania, and the Province of the Immaculate Conception, Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. The Sacred Heart Province focused its efforts on education and developed what is now Saint Francis University and The Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. The Province of the Immaculate Conception was formed out of the need to serve Italian immigrants who came to Pennsylvania to work on the railroad, in the mines, or in steel mills.
Eventually, the communities in Pennsylvania and Nebraska were permitted by their bishops to seek consolidation with the friars of the Third Order Regular, by then based in Rome. Papal permission was granted and in 1908, the two communities were incorporated into the Order, and in 1910 were established as the autonomous American Province of the Sacred Heart of the Franciscan Friars of the Third Order Regular. In 1920, the Province divided and the Province of the Immaculate Conception were established. The office of the Minister General is in Rome, near the Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian.
Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Prior to 1906, three separate and independent communities of men of the Third Order Regular existed in the United States. All of them were institutes of lay brothers dedicated to teaching and other works of charity. These were located in Brooklyn, New York (1858); Loretto, Pennsylvania (1847); and Spalding, Nebraska, which came about from a school founded for Native American boys (ca. 1882), at the request of Bishop John Ireland. The communities at Loretto and Brooklyn had been founded from Mountbellew Monastery, in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland, at the request of the bishops of Brooklyn and Pittsburgh, respectively. The community in Nebraska was a branch of the Brooklyn community.
As communities of lay Brothers, they were under the authority of their local bishops, who acted canonically as the superior general of the community within their diocese. The Brothers, however, came to desire a closer connection with the wider Franciscan Order. Additionally, due to the desire of some of the Brothers for ordination, as well as seeing a need to have the pastoral care of both the Brothers and their students coming from within their community, Brothers Raphael Brehenny, O.S.F., and his successor, Brother Linus Lynch, O.S.F., the superiors of the Brooklyn community, asked the bishop of that diocese for permission to have some of the members of that community ordained as priests. This request the bishop refused, as the community had been introduced into the diocese for the care of parish schools, and the bishop feared that in the event of its members becoming priests this work would suffer. Thus, in May 1906, a petition was then sent to the minister general, the Most Rev. Fr. Angelus de Mattia, T.O.R., asking for union with the friars of the Third Order Regular of St. Francis in Italy. The Bishop of Brooklyn, however, worked actively to block this effort, and it was halted.
In November of that same year, the Spalding community made the same request to Fr. Angelo, the minister general in Rome. In their case, however, the local bishop was in accord with their desire and gave his authorization for such a merger. The following December 8, the minister general, Fr. Angelo, signed a decree of union of the Spalding community with the Third Order Regular. In January 1907, he formally petitioned the Holy See to allow the establishment of a community of the Order in Nebraska, and to receive the vows of any qualified Brothers there. This was granted immediately, with the official approval and blessing of Pope Pius X being formally declared that following November. The Brothers were received into the Order by Fr. Stanislaus Dujmoric, T.O.R., of the Province of Dalmatia, who had been sent as the official delegate of the minister general to supervise the merger.
As their own union could not be effected, some of the Brooklyn Brothers determined to ask for a dispensation from their religious vows in order to join the friars in Nebraska. In the spring of 1907, several left New York and transferred to Spalding. The former superior, Bro. Raphael, appears to have been among them. That July, led by Bro. Linus, 23 Brothers also left Brooklyn and went to Spalding. At that point, the Nebraska community had increased from the initial size of six to thirty. Relying heavily upon the teaching experience of the New York Brothers, the community opened Spalding College in January 1908.
During that year of upheaval for the Brooklyn foundation, the diocesan community of Franciscan Brothers at Loretto—now in the new Diocese of Altoona—also sought incorporation with the Third Order Regular friars with the approval of their bishop, the Rt. Rev. Eugene A. Garvey. This was done on December 29, 1907. Permission for their admission received papal approval on May 22, 1908, and the union was achieved on May 28. To oversee this process, the minister general in Rome sent Fr. Jerome Zazzara, T.O.R., as his delegate, assisted by Fr. Anthony Balastieri, T.O.R. Brother Raphael and three other Brothers came from Spalding to help in the process.
At the request of Bishop Garvey, who was struggling to meet the needs of Italian-speaking Catholics, Fr. Jerome accepted charge of the Church of St. Anthony of Padua at Johnstown, Pennsylvania, in November 1909 as a permanent ministry of the friars, appointing his fellow Italian, Fr. Anthony, as pastor. With the establishment of a small community of friars in that parish, there now existed three separate communities in the United States, the minimum canonically required for an independent province. The following month, Fr. Jerome also accepted the Church of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Altoona, Pennsylvania, and took on the office of pastor himself.
The four houses in the United States were erected into a province, 24 September 1910, under the title of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Fr. Jerome was appointed as the first minister provincial. The Archbishop of Chicago later gave the friars charge of Sts. Peter and Paul Slavic Church in that city, and a new college was to be opened at Sioux City, Iowa, in 1912. At that point, the American Province had five friaries, two colleges, 65 professed members, and 20 novices and postulants. Fr. Raphael Brehenny, original superior of the Brooklyn Brothers, was elected the first native minister provincial in 1913. The provincial motherhouse is at St. Francis University, Loretto, Pennsylvania.
Province of the Immaculate Conception
The other province, Immaculate Conception, has its headquarters at St. Bernadine Monastery in Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania. This province came about as the result of a dispute over the eligibility of the Italian friars to vote in the Provincial Chapter of 1918. The Minister General was unable to oversee the proceedings due to the hostilities between the United States and Italy during World War I. He thus appointed an American friar as his Delegate, who oversaw that Chapter. This friar declared that the foreign friars still belonged to their Italian provinces and thus were ineligible to vote in the Chapter. These friars, along with some Americans, refused to accept the election of a new Minister Provincial which took place. This resulted in the newly elected Minister Provincial and the then-current one both claiming the office.
The matter was referred to the Sacred Congregation in Rome. That office declared that, for the sake of peace, a new Chapter should be held under the presidency of a friar from another Province, and that the Italian friars should declare their intention to transfer formally from their original Provinces. That Chapter, held in 1919, resulted in the same results as the previous one. By that time, however, discontent among the Italian friars and others was so deep that the Italian friars and their supporters petitioned to form a separate Commissariat (a semi-autonomous division in the Order). This was approved in 1920, and the new Commissariat numbered thirteen friars—five Italians and eight Americans. Fr. Jerome was appointed Commissary Provincial.
Five years later, the Dalmatian friar, Fr. Stanislaus, who had supervised the union of the Spalding community into the Order was now Minister General. He raised the Commissariat to the status of a Province. Fr. Jerome was elected the first Minister Provincial. The Province still staffs the two original parishes in Pennsylvania, as well as two in Minnesota. It also runs retreat centers in Orlando, Florida and West Virginia. The current Minister Provincial (2010) is the Very Rev. J. Patrick Quinn, T.O.R. In 1920, the Province divided and the Province of the Immaculate Conception were established. Friars from the Spanish Province were invited to the United States to work with the Spanish-speaking populations of Texas and New York.
A number of the Brothers in Brooklyn also sought to join the congregation in Italy, but were denied permission by the local bishop, who was concerned that he might lose services as teachers. The Brooklyn foundation became the Franciscan Brothers of Brooklyn.
Towards the end of the 1980s the TOR Province of Assisi, Italy, promoted vocations in the Philippines. Four young men replied to the invitation. Out of the four, two became priests, Fr. Dante Anhao and Fr. Milestone Japin. Fr. Dante Anhao (still a deacon at that time) together with Fr. Carlo Stradaioli and Fr. Marcello Fadda, came to the Philippines in 1997. They were welcomed by Bishop Emilio Bataclan, DD, the Ordinary of the Diocese of Iligan. This was the beginning of the TOR Philippine Mission under the Assisi Province.
The small community of three friars has grown in number as some young men came and received formation. Fr. Nilo Laput, a diocesan priest, who stayed with a local Franciscan community in Labason, Zamboanga del Norte, through the invitation of former Minister General, the late Most Rev. Fr. Bonaventure Midili, TOR came to join the new community in 1999. He received his novitiate formation in Assisi, Italy. Alvin Galicia, a former member of Fr. Laput’s community in Labason, came later and also did his novitiate formation in Italy.
At first the friars and their candidates lived in two semi-concrete houses before the establishment of a permanent friary and formation house in 2005. By this time, the temporary professed friars studied theology at St. John Vianney Theological Seminary (SJVTS) in Cagayan de Oro, a city about eighty kilometers from Iligan. In 2007, Fr. George Mailadil, TOR, a friar from Ranchi Province, India, came to help in the formation of the friars in theology in Cagayan de Oro.
In 2009, with the support of Fr. George Mailadil, it was decided that the theological studies of the Junior Friars will be transferred from Saint John Vianney Theological Seminary (SJVTS) to St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City. Davao City is around four thousand kilometers away from Iligan or Cagayan de Oro. At first, they were renting a house in the city while a simple house was constructed in a two-hectare land in Indangan.
On January 6, 2012, the small TOR Philippine Mission was raised to the status of a Delegation. By this, we are now directly under the TOR Generalate in Rome in terms of administration and decisions. The statutes of the new delegation was drafted and was approved by the General Minister on March 20, 2012. The name of the new delegation is The Delegation of Saints Cosmas and Damian.
As the traditional spirituality of the Third Order Regular derives from the Franciscan Penitence Movement the specification “de poenitentia” is always added beside the name of the Order.
The Basilica of Sts. Cosmas and Damian, Rome, is the home of the central government of the Order under the direction of a Minister General. The Order is divided into several provinces composed of friars, (brothers). Some of the friars are ordained priests or studying for ordination, but ordination is not necessary to be a member of the Order. Every six years elected representatives from the Provinces meet in General Chapter to elect the Minister General and his Council and to make decisions for the whole Order.
As of 2016 the Third Order Regular of Saint Francis is present in Italy, Croatia, Spain, France, Germany, the United States, India, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Paraguay, Mexico, Peru, Sweden, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. There are 208 convents. Members assist in pastoral care within parishes, and are engaged with help for the needy, schools for the young, teaching, and missionary work. Members of the Third Order Regular wear a black habit rather than the brown habit worn by First Order congregations focused on poverty and the itinerant preaching of the Gospel.
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