The Croatian Franciscan Custody of the Holy Family (1969 - current)

Numerous reasons, especially those of political nature, had an impact on the growth of the Croatian population in the United States and later in Canada, as well as the growth of Croatian Franciscans in the same areas. In 1945, the tragic changes in the homeland had an enormous influence in the Croatian community in America. The slaughter of Croatian youth in Bleiburg, various convoys of death, and the Communist persecution of anything Croatian or Catholic led large numbers of Croatians as well as Franciscans to flee the homeland. A large number of them ended up in America and Canada. It caused further extension of pastoral, national and cultural activities. The Custody, being the only clerical organization among Croatians living in America and Canada, took over many of these obligations. Hard economic times in the communist Yugoslavia, especially in the first few decades after World War II, forced out the new generations of Croatians. The Franciscans established new parishes, took over parishes that no longer had pastors, published newspapers and magazines, as well as helped the Croatian Diaspora in their new surroundings. 

Because of the growing number of Franciscans in Chicago, two more buildings were bought, one in 1944 and the other in 1952. St. Anthony Friary , consisting of three buildings, is a fine complex for the Croatian Franciscans in America. The seminarians resided in the first building until the second building, bought in 1952, was appropriately renovated. . Besides these three buildings, the Franciscans opened up two more Franciscan residences which had different functions. There was a plan to establish a novitiate at Our Lady of Peace Friary in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. The house and grounds were bought in 1965 and the residence was canonically confirmed in 1966. As there was a decline of vocations to the priesthood, the friary's primary reason for existence was never actualized. St. Francis Friary in Gulf Breeze, Florida was established in 1956 so that the brothers could have a vacationing spot. In 1977 the Croatian Franciscan Custody had its largest number of working places; the main friary in Chicago and two other friaries, while the brothers ministered in thirteen American and seven Canadian parishes or missions. Later in 1989 the parish in Kitchener, Ontario was assumed. The friars published various pamphlets, magazines, books, and they had their own printery. 

However, for many reasons which will be presented later, the Custody started to minimize the scope of its activities. As a result, the friaries in Florida and Pennsylvania were sold. The friars withdrew from some parishes, and certain publications had to be discontinued. The major reason for this was the end of many decades of the Serbo-Communist regime, and the long awaited independence of Croatia. Certain activities in the immigrant world were no longer necessary.

Up to this point, the following friars led the Custody with the title Custos: Fr. Vjekoslav Bambir (1967 - 1973), Fr. Častimir (Timothy) Majić (1973 - 1976), Fr. Marko Kozina (1976 - 1979), Fr. Steve Raich (1979 - 1982), Fr. Jozo Abramović (1982 - 1985), Fr. Paul Maslač (1985 - 1994), Fr. Slavko Soldo (1994 - 2001), Fr. Marko Puljic (2001 - 2009), Fr. Paul Maslač (2009 - 2012). Fr. Jozo Grbeš  is currently the Custos.




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