St. Francis of Assisi received the first brothers as a gift from God the Father in 1208 in his own town where he had started living as a ‘penitent’. And when they reached the number of 12, he felt he had to submit his form of life (made up with quotations from the Gospel) to the pope of his time: Innocent III. This he did in 1209, and after the latter’s initial surprise, he was given the task of “preaching penance” to people.
From that moment, while living the fraternal joyful experience in minority and humility, he allowed the advice of the Church leaders to contribute moulding this family as it grew over the entire Europe and in missionary lands as far as China, and later to the American continent.
In 1517 pope Leo X divided the Franciscan family and called Friars Minor Conventual that section that from the very first century had implemented the popes’ call to renew Christian Europe by preaching, catechizing and administering the sacraments in large town churches, where the friars had continued spreading the message of ‘peace and goodness’. Others had been teaching both to young candidates to the Order and to students at large in the public and private schools which were erected in various countries.
In 1930 a small group of Conventual Friars left Italy for Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) and (after an initial training in the languages and in the local customs of the area with the Missionaries of Africa in Northern Province) on 8 April 1931 settled on the outskirts of Ndola, since the Vatican “Propaganda Fide” (propagation of the Catholic faith) had entrusted to them the evangelization of the entire Copperbelt.
By 1938 they were assigned also the North-Western Province (then called Kasempa Province) and to that combined work contributed over the next 70 years nearly 200 Conventual Friars from Europe and United States of America, and even as far as from Japan.
On 19 July 1991 the first Conventual friars moved from the Franciscan House of Studies in Livingstone to the site where St. Bonaventure was still being built. The first few months were tough, but with the completion of the buildings, the beginning of classes, the cultivation of the vegetable garden, orchard, planting other trees and the introduction of animal husbandry, life became more manageable.
Today prayer, study, manual work and sport fill the daily life of the young student friars who arrive at Rivotorto friary, within the campus of St. Bonaventure University, for the three-year course in Philosophy and Franciscan Studies.
The present composition of the Conventual family stretches both to Western Africa and to Eastern and Southern Africa, with friars from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Togo, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Angola, Zambia.
If you feel like experiencing our life, we repeat to you the words of our Lord: “Come and See”.