|September 7, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 15 • Oakland, CA|
| Year of Consecrated Life
Franciscan traditions trace back hundreds of years
The Franciscan Friars of the St. Barbara Province are members of a worldwide Catholic religious order that can be traced to St. Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscans in 1209.
In 1769, Blessed Junipero Serra, OFM, came to Alta California after Spain authorized the colonization of California. As president of the new missions, Blessed Serra, and later his successors, established a string of 21 missions in California, which stretch from San Diego to the San Francisco Bay Area. Blessed Serra will be canonized by Pope Francis later this month during his visit to the U.S.
After the independence of Mexico from Spain in 1821, the friars, who were the sole representatives of the Catholic Church in the west for decades, came under attack. As a result the California missions were taken from the friars' care in the 1830s, according to the Franciscan website at https://sbfranciscans.org
The Franciscans used the opportunity to branch out and become involved in other ministries. The friars, for example, responded to the needs of people who came to California during the Gold Rush by establishing orphanages and seminaries. The friars also became more active in itinerant preaching "to meet the people where they were," according to the Province history area of their website.
After the Spanish and Mexican friars returned to their homelands, the Franciscan tradition was revived in the late 1800s with the arrival of Franciscans from Germany. These German friars had fled their homeland because of anti-Catholic laws and settled in the U.S. They established parishes and ministries in the Midwest and in California. Within the East Bay, in what would become the Diocese of Oakland, St. Elizabeth Parish was established in 1892 initially for German Catholics.
When the U.S. annexed the territory California, the only place the friars were able to stay to continue their work was Mission Santa Barbara and they continue their service there to this day. When the province was officially established on Dec. 4, 1915, St. Barbara became the official patron.
In the Diocese of Oakland, the Franciscan friars are probably best known for their retreat ministry — the San Damiano retreat center in Danville has provided a place for reflection and healing for 50 years.
The Franciscans also served the diocese in other ways. The late Franciscan priest, Rev. Oliver Lynch, OFM, served as director of on-going education for the clergy of the diocese for many years, said Rev. Paul Lackie, OFM, who has been researching the Franciscans' history in the diocese. The Franciscan School of Theology, which was located in Berkeley for 40 years, also contributed greatly to the life of the diocese. Although the school recently moved to Oceanside, California, Franciscan students continue to carry on with their studies at Holy Names University in Oakland and other local schools, said Father Lackie.
Today the friars — celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Province of St. Barbara — are stationed throughout the western U.S. from Phoenix and Tucson, Arizona, to Portland, Oregon, and Spokane, Washington.
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