“To the praise and glory of the Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, invoking the protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, our Seraphic Father St. Francis and the Seraphic Doctor St. Bonaventure, in my capacity as Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty, I hereby open the 2020-2021 academic year – the 117th academic year of the Faculty.”
With this ritual formula, Friar Jan MACIEJOWSKI, the Vicar General of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual and Vice Grand Chancellor of the St. Bonaventure Pontifical Theological Faculty in Rome, officially opened the Faculty’s new academic year. The event took place on Saturday October 17, 2020.
As the morning began, Friar Jan presided over Mass in the Seraphicum chapel. He spoke often about the difficult period we are going through due to the pandemic, underlining how “in this time of trial we must be men of hope.” During his homily he stressed the identity of the Seraphicum, that it was not just any academic institution, but one faithful to the Franciscan charism and one that points to St. Bonaventure, the patron of the Faculty, reiterating the saint’s “advice” that we study to edify others and practice humility, even in study, because a theologian must always know how to recognize his own limits and feel involved in everyday life and its problems. This advice is an invitation to students and professors to challenge each other, to ensure that students do their best and professors live up to their role as witnesses.
Next, there was the academic section introduced by the Dean, Friar Đinh Anh Nhuệ NGUYỄN. He gave an overview of the activities planned for this new academic year. He acknowledged the uncertainties that are facing the whole world but he expressed his desire for the Faculty to continue its educational path with determination. It was an opportunity for him to underline the Faculty’s international character, with its students from all over the world, and also to mention the upcoming academic appointments.
The highlight of the academic section came in the form of a lecture from Friar-Professor Luciano BERTAZZO, OFM Conv. Friar Luciano is a professor of Church History at the Theological Faculty in Triveneto, Italy. He is also the Director of the “Centro Studi Antoniani,” an authoritative voice in the Franciscan academic world, thanks to the important studies it has conducted on St. Anthony of Padua. The theme of his presentation was: “Franciscan Studies: Comparing Friar Francis and Friar Anthony. Historical Journeys and Historiographical Reflection.”
The presentation dealt with the various historical, historiographical and bibliographic aspects of Brother Francis and Brother Anthony, and came to a certain conclusion: “it is impossible to claim one can fully define St. Francis because his complete definition is always just out of reach! Saint Francis expands into a multiplicity of presences and interpretative readings. He is Francis / Friar Francis / Saint Francis, multitasking for progress in interreligious ecumenism, ecology and the economy. He is a Francis who is used and interpreted for ‘over here,’ but who nevertheless always remains ‘over there,’ somewhere within the mysterious charm of his personal history, his personality, and his message, but always beyond the needed interpretative constraints.”
And Anthony? “As for Anthony,” concluded Friar Luciano, “we can say that we still lack a biography capable of returning him to us in all his complexity, not only in terms of the dynamics of minority as an apostolic expression of early Franciscanism, but also in his own shy and silent personality, a personality which we seem to understand, but whose charm was fully grasped by the ‘little ones’ who felt that he was their ‘father and brother’ amidst the toils of life.”
Also present at the inauguration ceremony, besides the professors and students, were Friar Agustín HERNÁNDEZ, OFM, the Vice Rector of the Pontifical Antonianum University; Friar Luca BIANCHI, OFM Cap., the Dean of the Franciscan Institute of Spirituality; and Friar Dominique Joseph MATHIEU, the Assistant General for the Conventual Franciscan CEF Federation.
Elisabetta LO IACONO, Seraphicum Press Office