The Franciscans are referred to as “friars,” from the Latin frater, meaning “brother.” Franciscans are essentially an order of brothers striving to live the Gospel with the same simplicity and fervor as their founder, St. Francis of Assisi. After growing up in a wealthy family and then experiencing a powerful conversion at the age of 25, Francis donned the clothes of a penitent and began to live a very poor lifestyle, dedicating himself to prayer and service of the poor. Before long, inspired by his fervent lifestyle, men began to join Francis and to imitate his way of life. This gave rise to the birth of the Franciscan Order in 1223.
In the 16th century, a group of Franciscans were inspired to live the Franciscan lifestyle in a more radical manner, returning to the original emphasis on prayer and poverty. These men broke away from the Franciscans and began a reform movement which stressed the priority of contemplative prayer and a more rigorous austerity. Wearing habits with large hoods, they soon garnered the name cappucio, the Italian word for “hood.” The Capuchins recieved approval of their way of life and were recognized as an official, indepedent branch of the Franciscans in 1525 in the papal bull Religionis Zellus.
Today there are seven regional jurisdictions of Capuchins in the United States. Usually found in the poorer sections of towns and cities, the Capuchins have a special charism for working among the common people and taking those assignments which others refuse. Capuchins can be found working in soup kitchens and homeless shelters, serving as hospital chaplains or prison ministers, confessors and spiritual directors. Capuchins can also be found in some of the city’s poorest parishes.
The Capuchins build their life and ministry on two essential foundations: prayer and fraternity. The priority of prayer and the contemplative life is at the heart of the Capuchin charism. Personal and community prayer nourishes the brothers’ relationship with God and one another and enables them to give fully of themselves to everyone they meet. The Capuchin tradition has placed great emphasis on Eucharistic devotion and veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Along with prayer, fraternity is of great importance to the Capuchin charism. A Capuchin is first and foremost a brother among brothers. This fraternal life is founded upon the Gospel in which, after washing the disciples’ feet, the Lord exhorts his followers to do the same for others. This witness to fraternity is crucial in an increasingly isolated and alienated world.
The Capuchin Province of St. Conrad was established in 1977. The province serves the people of Colorado, Kansas, Texas and the foreign missions in Papua, New Guinea. The province’s eight stateside friaries are located in Denver, Colorado; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lawrence, Kansas; Victoria, Kansas and San Antonio, Texas.