From January 31 to February 21, 2020, the Assistant General for the Federazione Inter-mediterranea Ministri Provinciali (FIMP) Friar Giovanni VOLTAN, conducted the first part of a canonical visitation to the Province of St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M. in Romania. Friar Giovanni was there as the Delegate of the Minister General.
The visitation was held in preparation for Romania’s next Ordinary Provincial Chapter. The first part of the Chapter is scheduled for April 20-25, 2020, and the second part for June 20-27.
Following a timetable agreed upon with the Minister Provincial, Friar Teofil PETRIŞOR, the Visitator set out from Bacău, the seat of the Provincial Curia, to visit the various friaries in the Moldova region. The capital city of Moldava is Iaşi. He met (in chronological order) with the friars of Târgu; Trotuş; Luizi; Călugăra; Prăjeşti; Buruieneşti; Nisiporeşti; Hălăuceşti; Cacica; Galaţi; Huşi; Viişoara; the Sf. Anton de Padova Friary in Roman and the Sf. Francisc de Assisi Friary, also in Roman. An attempt was made to spend more time in Roman: the Sf. Francisc de Assisi Friary has a community of thirty solemnly professed. In addition to the stable community, there is also a minor seminary and a post-novitiate. Also in Roman are the nine friars of the nearby fraternity of St. Anthony. The friary houses the charitable face of the Province known as the Pacea (peace) Foundation, which provides assistance to the poor and a school for Roma children. The friary also features the operations for the Messenger of St. Anthony in Romanian, the Serafica Publishing House and a plant nursery called “Green Time”.
The Visitator also met with Most Reverend Iosif PĂULEȚ, Bishop of Iaşi, Romania. The Diocese of Iaşi was erected in 1884 with one of our confreres, the Most Reverend Nicolae Iosif CAMILLI, as its first bishop. Our missionary friars have been commissioned by the Holy See for the evangelization of Moldova and Wallachia since 1600.
The Romanian presences are mainly involved in parish ministry. There are also some houses of formation. Besides Roman’s two seminaries, there is also the Sf. Francisc de Assisi Theological Institute. There is the postulancy house In Viişoara and the novitiate in Prăjeşti. Charitable work is carried out by the Sf. Anton de Padova Friary in Roman and the location of the novitiate is close to the poor of Bucharest.
At present, the Province of Romania has 108 solemnly professed friars. Out of the 19 million inhabitants in Romania, only 5 percent are Catholics. There are 101 friars from Romania currently serving in other Jurisdictions of the Order: the majority in Italy, then Germany, Austria-Switzerland, France, England-Ireland, Chile, the USA, Slovenia, Spain, Ghana, and Japan. It is a large diaspora doing valuable service for the Order. One should also mention that there are nine Romanian friars working in the Provincial Custody of the East and the Holy Land, a Jurisdiction that has been entrusted to Romania since 2010.
Finally we should mention those who are on the path. Romania has six novices and some thirty temporarily professed friars, some of whom are at the post novitiate in Roman and others serving in other Jurisdictions.
The Assistant General organized his calendar in order to meet with friars of the Province of Romania who are inserted in some Italian Provinces (December 28, 2019, Padua; January 4-5-28, Rome; and March 9-10, Assisi). In recent months, he met with friars who are de familia, living in the friaries of Chile, Spain and the Custody of the Orient and the Holy Land.
Friar Giovanni thanked the Assistant General for the Centralis Europae Foederatio (CEF), Friar Dominique MATHIEU, for going to Germany on February 2-6, 2020, as the Delegate of the Minister General, in order to meet with the friars operating there who are from the Province of Romania.
At the end of February, Friar Giovanni had to return to the General Curia for meetings of the General Definitory and to take care of various FIMP commitments. He still needs to carry out the second part of the visitation which, God willing, will take place March 13-27, 2020 and will cover the remaining friaries of Romania. At the beginning of March, he will make a stop at the communities of L’Aquila and Campobasso in the Province of St. Bernardine and St. Angelo in Italy (Abruzzo), which are led by friars from Romania.
This large and young Province (the average age is 40), faces a number of challenges. After the fall of the communist regime in December of 1989, and after surviving as a hidden fraternity, through a handful of heroic friars, the Province flourished with an abundance of vocations. Now there is an evident decline in vocations. At the moment there are no postulants. We need courageous, wise and far-sighted planning for the present and the future, which the current Minister Provincial and his Definitory have already tried to outline. Certainly, the decline must be contextualized within the cultural, social and religious climate of Romania, where the winds of secularization are increasingly insinuating being felt. Along with that there is the search for better and safer living conditions.
The departure of several solemnly and temporarily professed friars in recent years has been wounding. Dialogue and serious reflection is underway between the government of the Order and the Province to help overcome this crisis, by significantly strengthening formation and one’s sense of belonging to the Order.
At the end of this first part of the Visitation Friar Giovanni met with the Provincial Definitory, which is getting thoroughly prepared for the Chapter. He felt somewhat “repaid” and reassured by the fraternal and collaborative hospitality he experienced in all of the communities.
Fra Giovanni VOLTAN Assistente generale FIMP