Do you know where to find the Franciscans? I do not just mean where we live or minister or pray. The Franciscans have always been found on the margins, walking with the poor and serving where no one else wants to go. That is why I joined the Franciscans soon after graduating from Archbishop Ryan High School in Philadelphia, a school operated by the Franciscan friars at the time.
Pope Francis teaches us again and again that if we wish to find Jesus, then we must “go to the periphery.” Our Holy Father recently wrote, “It is necessary to go out from the churches, to go outside and look for people where they live, where they suffer, and where they hope.” Will you walk “to the periphery” with Franciscan missionaries once again, this time in northeast India? Since being invited by the archbishop of Guwahati in 1997, the Franciscans have been ministering to some of the most overlooked, marginalized people, the tribal people of Assam in northeastern India.
About 28 million people live in this region and 9 out of 10 are Christian. They depend on the forest for their livelihood and sustenance. They live in huts made of twigs and mud or bamboo and many live in the hills, which are infested with mosquitoes carrying malaria. Fifteen of our missionary friars serve these Christians in pastoral work, education, healthcare and social services. And their ministry is bearing fruit! Many young men have witnessed the love and sacrifice our missionaries have shown to the poor. Now these young men have responded to God’s call to follow in the footsteps of Saint Francis of Assisi as Franciscans.
Currently, there are 29 young men in various stages of education and formation to be Franciscan missionaries. They have been called to give their entire lives to serving the Church and the poor in Assam. What a blessing and answer to our prayers for vocations! This great blessing also comes with a great challenge. The local Friary, St. Anthony’s, does not have a facility to house, educate and form these young men for the priesthood. The friars are building a simple, 2-story formation house to accommodate the young men. The cost to construct this building is a little over $230,000. Will you pray for us and support our efforts?
The Franciscan Order has been blessed with vocations, not just in India, but also in many other developing countries. Many of these vocations come from the periphery, areas where their Franciscan presence is surely needed. In many locations, young aspirants and novices are sleeping on the floor or sleeping in bunk beds six to a room in a space designed for two. And many young men must be turned away because the Franciscan provinces do not have the space to accept any more candidates.
I wish to ask you to continue sending our Franciscan friars to serve the poor by helping us provide the space to house, educate and form the young men as missionary priests. But more importantly, I ask you to walk with us as Franciscan missionaries “go to the periphery” in response to the unique Franciscan calling to minister where few others would be willing to go.
Another area of need is the Franciscan Province in South Africa, which has been blessed with many young men in formation, but there is no place to house them. There are plans to purchase an existing home that will be expanded to meet the needs of the growing formation program.
The Custody of St. Anthony of Padua in the Philippines is also blessed with many young men called to serve God and the Church as Franciscan friars. But two years ago, tragedy struck! An electrical fire burned their formation house to the ground. The friars in the Philippines built a new, single-story formation house on the site of the building destroyed last year. This year, they plan to add a new wing to the existing building. This addition will be able to accommodate an increasing number of postulants. The cost to construct this addition is $48,000.
We follow in the blessed footsteps of Saint Francis and Saint Anthony who ministered before us. We follow in the footsteps of so many holy, faithful friars who helped build the Church among the poor in our developing world. Will you please offer your most generous gift today?Please work with us to build formation houses where they are needed most.
The men educated and formed in these houses will serve and minister to the poor in the periphery of our world for their entire lives. And beyond these tangible needs, will you go out with us to meet people in need where they live and where they suffer, on the very margins of our developing world? Will you go forth with us to bring them hope? Know that you and your intentions remain daily in the prayers of Franciscan missionaries throughout the world. In my own daily prayer, I ask the Lord to grant you and your family grace and peace.
Your brother in Christ and St. Francis,
Brother Andrew Brophy, OFM
P.S.May I ask you to once again “go out to the periphery,” to the margins of our developing world alongside our Franciscan priests and brothers? These men of faith and hope willingly give their lives in service to people in greatest need. Please offer them today your own prayers and generous support.