Some time ago, the friars of the Province of St. Elizabeth in Germany residing at the Heilig Kreuz Friary in Würzburg decided that they would celebrate the 800th anniversary of Franciscan presence in Germany on the day after Pentecost. This year, that was Monday May 24, 2021.
In 1221, the first friars of St. Francis of Assisi settled in Germany and thus began the continuous presence of the Minors in the city of Würzburg. The Friars Minor Conventual live in the oldest, continuously inhabited friary this side of the Alps. The pandemic prevented the planned celebration of the feast, but “Franciscan flexibility” still found a way to celebrate this great jubilee.
Part of the celebration was moved outdoors, to the “Wöllrieder Hof,” an estate on the outskirts of Würzburg. The first friars settled there to care for lepers. The Mayor of Würzburg, Johann Christian SCHUCHARDT, took the opportunity to briefly meet with the friars. He conveyed the congratulations of the city and stressed the importance of the friary in the city’s life. He again praised the friars’ pastoral work and referred to the friary as the “confessional of Würzburg.”
From the “Wöllrieder Hof”, the confreres returned to the city, accompanied by the Most Reverend Franz JUNG Bishop of the Diocese of Würzburg. Four Franciscan Sisters of Oberzell were also present. Numerous local residents were surprised by the “procession.” Many greeted the friars in a friendly way with the typical Bavarian greeting “Grüß Gott!” (Your servant – hello!).
After returning to the friary, the Minister Provincial, Friar Andreas MURK, read a greeting from the Minister General, Friar Carlos A. TROVARELLI, who had to postpone his visit to Germany. Among other things, Friar Carlos wrote: “The friars in Germany have gone forth several times over the last eight hundred years. The Province has experienced its own ups and downs, but has always managed to revive itself. These revivals, however, are not connected to statistical strengths such as the age of the friars or the size of the Province. Rather, they are linked to our trust in God’s fidelity and our deep convictions. A good example of this was the recent erection of your friary in the Diocese of Osnabrück. It showed that you are men who believe, men who are capable of doing new things with others. The world has changed and keeps on moving. Yet, even in old “posts” such as Würzburg and throughout Germany, new things can happen. We must not only focus on ourselves, but incorporate a believing, faithful and forward-thinking outlook.”
The Guardian, Friar Adam KALINOWSKI, invited the confreres into the refectory, where, among other things, a “jubilee cake” was served. Finally, Mass was celebrated at 5:30 p.m. in the friary church with the bishop presiding. Friar Adam, made some introductory remarks at the Mass, stating: “Not only did the bishops of Würzburg host the Conventuals in the shadow of their cathedral for eight centuries; they also always granted them their protection and blessing. Furthermore, they gave the friars a lot of autonomy. We are deeply and sincerely grateful to you and your predecessors for all of these things.”
The bishop gave a very profound and Franciscan homily. He started by congratulating the community on its record of service in the city of Würzburg. Moreover, he pointed out some observations for Franciscan life today, drawing upon the Chronicle by Jordan of Giano, which tells of the arrival of the first Franciscans in Germany. Among other things, he invited the friars to speak the language of the people, to address everyone and to be understood by all. Secondly, he urged the friars to courageously declare “no” to anything that obscures or weakens one’s living the Gospel. He also encouraged the friars not to resign themselves and not to be guided by false fears, but to be bold, trusting in God. He concluded, saying: “I wish you many more blessed years here in Würzburg”!
Organist Peter RIES provided music for the celebration. He has been associated with the friary for decades. In addition, there was a choir in which three of the singers were friars from Würzburg, namely, Friars Maximilian M. BAUER, Josef FISCHER and Leopold MADER.
After Mass, the festive day concluded with a relaxing barbecue. The Vicar Provincial, Friar Mateusz KOTYŁO, was in charge of roasting the meat and Friar Tobias MATHEIS served homemade “jubilee beer.”
We thank the Lord that even in the midst of the pandemic it was still possible to have a joyful celebration. God willing, this jubilee will be solemnly celebrated on Pentecost Monday, 2022.
Friar Andreas MURK, Minister Provincial