The Capuchin Community
"A truly brotherly life based on simplicity and evangelical charity, open
to the meaning of the universal brotherhood of all people and indeed of all
creatures... a most eloquent witness... to a society such as ours which is so
strongly marked by inequality and by a spirit of wanting to prevail over
others." Pope John Paul; II (July 5, 1982)
St. Francis (1182-1226) was brought up in Assisi (Italy), the son of a
prosperous cloth merchant. Up to the age of twenty he was one of the leading
young men of this important trading town. Then, after becoming involved in a
skirmish against the neighbouring city of Perugia, he was taken prisoner, and
held captive and sick for a year. He emerged from that experience with a growing
conviction that challenged materialism. He says in his Testament, that the
decisive moment of choice came for him when he embraced a leper, a thing which
had seemed repugnant to him before he saw Christ in all creatures.
Taking the Gospel as his guide he went about inviting people to praise God
for His goodness and bounty.
In his spiritual life Francis was torn between the activity of wandering for
two years in the wake of a crusade which led to an amicable meeting with the
Sultan, and the tree-clad inaccessibility of Mount Alverna, from which he
emerged marked with the wounds of Christ when he was just over forty.
St. Francis was not the man for institutions or for seeking a following, but
the Lord sent like-minded men to him and such a responsibility prompted him to
approach the Pope for approval for his Way of Life.
Equally attracted to a Gospel way of life, an eighteen year old daughter of a
noble Assisi family, called Clare, came to the friars at the Porziuncola. Not
content with a Benedictine convent at Bastia, nor with a group of women recluses
at San Angelo di Panzo, she was finally enclosed at San Damiano under the unique
rule for Franciscan contemplative life. Thus began the Poor Clares.
Members of the penitential movement, residing in their own homes and working
to earn a living, turned to the friars for spiritual guidance, and began what
today flourishes as the Order of Secular Franciscans.
Across the centuries the Franciscan charism has been preserved in various
branches of the Order, with the First Order of friars continuing today in the
Observants, Conventuals and the Capuchins.
By the sixteenth century the Friars Minor had grown into a large, complex
institution. Friars seeking a more simple lifestyle were gradually formed into a
distinct branch of the Order known as the Capuchins.
Many of the first Capuchins were attracted to contemplative prayer in
hermitages, which they combined with travelling preaching.
At present about 12,000 Capuchins live and work in every part of the world.
One third of us live and work in underdeveloped countries.
In the Southeast Asia-Pacific region, to which Australia belongs, there are
more than 500 Capuchin friars.
The Order is a community of brothers, who strive to live the Gospel,
following the Rule of St. Francis, taking the vows of poverty, chastity and
obedience and living in community.
After making a contribution to the pioneering days of the Church mainly in
the Diocese of Armidale, the Capuchins came to Australia following the Second
World War to establish the Order.
They took up work among the post-war European migrants and began the
formation of those who came to join the Capuchins.
Today the Capuchins live in fraternities in all the mainland capitals of
Australia. They undertake various works of evangelization (proclaiming the
Gospel) including parish activity, assistance to migrants and other apostolates.
While the talents of the individual are respected as gifts of God, a high
priority is placed upon fraternity in prayer, in work and in daily living.