Historical Review of the Franciscan Custody

The community of Croatian Franciscans have worked in the United States and Canada for over eighty years. They are part of the universal First Order of Franciscans (O.F.M.). There are approximately 15,000 priests and brothers in the Order who are engaged in every possible Christian apostolate. The Province of the Assumption in Hercegovina to which they are juridically bound had its origin as a Custody in 1852 and became a Province in 1892.

Today there are approximately 200 members in the Province itself. Franciscans from various Croatian provinces came to America in the early decades of the Twentieth Century to serve the needs of the many Croatian immigrants.

At first, the Croatian Franciscans were part of the Holy Cross Commissariat which also included the Slovenian and Slovak friars. The Croatian Commissariat of the Holy Family was canonically established in 1926 with headquarters in Chicago. It was placed under the jurisdiction of the Hercegovinian Province in 1931. The official title was changed to the Croatian Franciscan Custody of the Holy Family in 1967 in compliance with the new General Constitutions.

The main Franciscan monastery is St. Anthony’s in Chicago. Presently, they are in charge of many parishes in the United States and Canada. The friars are engaged in numerous other apostolates. A most important apostolate is that of writing and publishing for the Croatian speaking people of this continent. Other apostolates are chaplaincy work, teaching, and mission-retreat work.

Though they are a small part of the Franciscan Order, they have a definite goal and purpose. They care for the spiritual needs of Croatian immigrants and all others whom God calls to serve.

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