Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate
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HISTORY OF THE FRANCISCAN FRIARS OF THE IMMACULATE
The Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate (in latin: Congregatio Fratrum Franciscanorum Immaculatae) are a masculine religious institute of pontifical right (initials: F.I.).
The history of the Institute begins in 1965, when Fr. Stefano M. Manelli, O.F.M. Conv., began to meditate anew on the Omnibus, or Franciscan Sources, along the writings of Maximilian M. Kolbe; especially after the Second Vatican Council and its decree on the renewal of consecrated life, “Perfectae Caritatis,” inviting religious to a return to its origins for a more perfect renewal.
On December 24, 1969, Fr. Manelli asked permission from the then Minister General of the Order, Fr. Basil Heiser, to begin a new experience of Franciscan life.
Fr. Heiser was favorable to such an initiative, and asked Fr. Manelli to prepare a way of life, or program, to follow for this new and renewed religious community. That is how the “Traccia” was born, or better the Marian form of Franciscan Life, with the blessing of the then Minister General of the Order of the Friars Minor, Conventual. Fr. Manelli then chose Fr. Gabriel M. Pelletieri as his companion in this new way of life.
On August 2, 1970, Fr. Stefano M. Manelli and Fr. Gabriel M. Pelletieri chose as home for this new experience the poorest friary of the religious Province of Naples, located at Piano della Croce in Frigento (AV), 900m above sea level. The friary is attached to the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Good Counsel, which, thanks to the liturgical and pastoral care of the friars, quickly became a point of reference for devotees in the area and in all regions of Italy.
From the beginning, these two friars chose to lead a life that was very austere: prayer, poverty, penance and works of apostolate. Fra Italo Cammi, in the “Franciscan Legend of the Immaculate,” in describing their way of life, wrote, "One rests on a plain wooden board as a bed, during the seasons of less intense cold; one supports the rugged chill during the long winter months, with the usual temperature of -0 C; sandals with bare feet, under water and snow…". When it came to food they were the last ones to worry, not buying any food for themselves, they completely relied on Divine Providence, knowing that "that which is necessary arrives at our doorstep all the time, and if there is ever a surplus, we try to give it to the poor and those in need."
Within no time, young men began to knock on the doors of these poor friars, asking to be part of this new religious experience. These influxes of new vocations led to the establishment of a novitiate house in 1971, and then an internal seminary, five years later. Almost twenty years later, in 1990, the then Archbishop of Benevento, Mons. Carlo Minchiatti, on the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, signed a decree, "by the decision of the Holy Father" (cfr. Secretary of State Prot. N. 258.501), at that time John Paul II, which inaugurated the founding of the Institute of the Franciscans of the Immaculate, and their status as Diocesan Right. On June 23 of the same year, on the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the inauguration effectively took place for the establishment of the Institute near the residence of the first Minister General at “La Pace” of Benevento, accompanied by the profession of vows by nearly 30 religious.
That which is new and original to the community of these founding fathers is: the Marian Vow. In what does that the Marian Vow consist? It consists in living and working like Mary, after the example given to us by St. Maximilian M. Kolbe, who had his missionary friars privately profess this vow in Japan. This vow for the Franciscans of the Immaculate is fundamental and characteristic, illuminating the other vows which they profess, i.e. poverty, chastity, and obedience.
The rapid growth of the Institute in the world and the recommendations on the part of bishops, in whose diocese they where currently present, led to a recognition on the part of the Holy See, on January 1, 1998, on the solemnity of the Mother of God, of the Franciscans of the Immaculate as pontifical right (cfr. CRIS Prot. n. B 242-1/94).