1979-1989 / 1990-2004

Foundation and Rebirth

The Beginning of the Order in the Philippines

And they prepared the ground...

The early Franciscan Conventual missionaries who set foot on the shore of the 'Pearl of the Orient' prepared the ground for the founding of the Franciscan Conventuals in the Philippines and be a part of the work of evangelization. We will mention three prominent holy Franciscan Conventual missionaries who came here in the Philippines. They are Blessed Odorico from Friuli, Italy, Venerable Giambattista Lucarelli of Pesaro, Italy and St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, a Polish friar and martyr during World War II in the concentration camp of Auschwitz.

In the booklet Blessed Odorico from Friuli, Italy, of Fr. Luigi Malaocco of the Stigmatine Fathers, relates his discovery that the first mass in the Philippines is not actually in Limasawa or in the Visayan province or any other place in the Philippines but in Bolinao, Pangasinan, the northern part of Luzon. It is about the year 1324 when he arrived here. He must also be the First Franciscan who set his foot in the Philippines. We can say that Blessed Odorico is the first evangelizer in the Philippines. Mother nature through the "bagyo" (typhoon) led him to the place of Bolinao Bay (Pangasinan) to take refuge before going to his missionary trips to China. Antonio Del Castillo, professor an writer at Lingayen University said that

"In 1324, after landing and taking refuge in Bolinao during stormy weather, Father Odorico, an Italian priest of the Franciscan Order, celebrated a thanksgiving mass. In the said mass in Bolinao, he baptized many of these Malayan immigrants."

Blessed Odorico and Companions
Blessed Odorico and companions

Another Conventual Franciscan missionary to the Philippines who followed Blessed Odorico was the Venerable Giambattista Lucarelli of Pesaro, Italy in the year 1578. He was together with the OFM Alcantarins who came to evangelize the Philippines. He was one of the Founders of Agoo, La Union in the Philippines. This was the earliest recorded account of the Conventual Franciscan presence in the Philippines. It was recorded as early as 2nd of June 1578, when the Venerable Father arrived in Manila. He simply availed himself as a missionary in Pangansinan and Ilocos, at Agoo, La Union. Later he established a church that stands to this day.

On May-June 1936, Fr. St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, returned for the Provincial Chapter in Cracow, Poland where he is appointed guardian of Niepokalanow on July 16, 1936, leaving Japan for good. But before reaching Poland, on the 30th of May 1936, St. Maximilian M. Kolbe was able to visit Manila in a very short time. He offered the mass and prayed for the future missionary presence of the Conventuals in the Philippines and that the Immaculata whom he loved so much would always triumph on this land known to be "il pueblo amante di Maria". It was His Holiness Pope John Paul II who called him the "Apostle of the Difficult Age", and "Martyr of Charity". It was indeed a blessing to have the saintly presence of Father Kolbe even for a short a time then. His missionary undertaking to win the whole world to the Sacred Heart through Mary Immaculate and his Franciscan-Marian way of life had inspired the Franciscan Conventual Fathers to establish the Order here in the Philippines in August 1979. These fathers propagate the movement of St. Maximilian Kolbe here in the Philippines called the "Militia of the Immaculate" as one of their primary apostolate and way of evangelization.

Establishing the Order

It was in November 1977 when Fr. Philip Blaine, General Secretary of the Mission of the Order, visited the Philippines to see the possibility of our Conventual Franciscan presence. The Minister General, Fr. Vitale Bommarco, enthusiastic about the situation of the local Church and the possibility of the Order here, worked out the opening of the Mission in the Philippines. The mission was entrusted to the Province of Naples.

Arrival of the Missionaries in the Philippines

The group of the first four missionaries to the Philippines arrived in Manila on the 24th August 1979. These four friars of the Casa Mariana in Frigento, a community belonging to the Province of Naples, who were accompanied by their Minister Provincial of the Province of Naples, Antonio M. D’Apice, were Friar Gabriel M. Pellettieri, Friar Rosario M. D’Aniello, Friar Francesco M. Romanazzi and Friar Carlo M. Iellici. They were accommodated as guests of the OFMs in Our Lady of the Angels Seminary, Bagbag, Novaliches, Q.C. until October 15, 1979 while preparing for their pastoral work and establishment of their religious house. Later, in December 29, 1979, the Parish that they helped to establish was entrusted to them. Under the patronage of St. Francis and Sta. Quiteria, they served as pastors for four years, while preparing as well to establish and open a seminary.

Immaculata Formation House

The Birth of the First Formation House

In 2nd June 1982 came the birth of the first formation house, a place to build a family of the Franciscan Conventuals in the Philippines under the guidance and protection of Mary. This house, which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, is called Immaculata Formation House located in Greenfields I Subdivision, Novaliches, Quezon City. On this year they started accepting candidates.

Immaculata Formation House
Immaculata Formation House

Novaliches, Quezon City

The first formation house in Novaliches, Quezon City was constructed in October 1981 and was blessed in June 2, 1982. The construction of the Conventual Church, on the other hand, entitled to the Immaculate Conception began in November 24, 1984 and was consecrated by his Eminence Jaime Card. Sin, D.D. in December 31, 1989. This Formation house has two objectives: the formation of seminarians and the Marian apostolate patterned after St. Maximilian’s Niepolakalanow (City of the Immaculate).

St. Joseph Formation House
St. Joseph Formation House

Tagaytay City

This second formation house was officially established in June 1, 1987 and was blessed in February 2, 1988. The house was dedicated under the patronage of St. Joseph, the Husband of Mary. His Excellency Most Rev. Felix Perez, DD, Bishop of the Diocese of Imus, consecrated St. Joseph Church on May 20, 1988. The objective of the convent is the formation of the Postulants and the Novices.

St. Maximilian Friary
St. Maximilian Friary

Parañaque City

This third Formation house was established and its cornerstone was laid and blessed in August 15, 1988. The house and its chapel were dedicated to St. Maximilian M. Kolbe. It was blessed and consecrated by His Excellency Jaime Card. Sin, DD in August 14, 1991. The objective of this house is the formation of the clerics (students of philosophy and theology) and the center of the Philippine Custody of the Franciscan Conventuals.

The Traccia Way of Life and Movement

The Traccia way of life was the lifestyle and formation used by the first Conventual Franciscan missionaries here in the Philippines for the friars and candidates. It is a particular Franciscan-Marian way of life based on the Traccia Rule and Formation Document called "Traccia: A Marian Plan of Franciscan life."

This is a movement within the Conventual branch of the Franciscan Order that took its inspiration from St. Maximilian Franciscan-Marian way of life and Niepokalanow formation. “Traccia” is an Italian word that means “Plan of life.” The first Traccia friary was established on the feast of Our Lady of the Angels, August 2, 1970, in Frigento Friary, Italy. The entire Traccia formation program has been established most especially in the Province of Naples particularly in Casa Mariana or Frigento Friary and in the Philippines. The Traccia document was given only a permission ad experimentum, and never enjoyed an official confirmation from the Order since several items in the said document were not in consonance with the Constitutions of the Order.

Controversy and Suspension of the Traccia

The extraordinary chapter of the Province of Naples in February 1989 marked the beginning of certain difficulties. Various proposals were approved regarding the Frigento Marian Experience. However, there are needs for certain changes and modification to comply with the decisions approved in the Extraordinary General Chapter of 1986 and that of the Provincial Chapter. But the friars there were unwilling to accept them. It was later discovered they wanted to form a new religious institute. The Traccia became their fundamental norm of life. The crisis of the Order in Frigento affected much the Philippine mission since it was entrusted to the Province of Naples particularly coming from the Friary known as Casa Mariana in Frigento, Italy. The suspension of the Traccia formation program in the Philippine mission became a necessity to give way to the proposed values and formation of the Order based on the approved documents: Constitution, Franciscan Discipleship and the General and Provincial Statutes.

Division in the Order

This growing “Marytown” at Frigento in the Province of Naples, responsible for starting the mission in the Philippines continue to live the Traccia Rule and Formation program untouched by any Chapter or documents of the Order. They attracted friars to their austere life and total consecration to Mary Immaculate in imitation of St. Maximilian. They, including our first four missionaries in the Philippines with the exception of some, left the Order and initiated the diocesan religious institute called the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate, established by the Archbishop of Benevento, Italy in June 23, 1991.

Beginning a New Phase in the Order

New Set of Missionaries

Thanks to God and the collaboration within the Order spearheaded by the General Delegate, Fr. Albert Sammut, the Mission was saved and won over. In 1989 the Mission was elevated to the status of Provincial Custody. New life was given by the coming of new missionaries. Five friars, who came from other missions or had other responsibilities, were instruments of this rebirth. They were Friars Leonardo Mollica and Gerard Scioscia (Naples), Francisco Faldani and Giancarlo Faldani (Padua-Korea), Rocco Cipollone (Abruzzo-Korea), and Vincent Lanchendro (USA-Japan). Other missionaries in the following years came: Friars Tomaso M. Ursidio (Genoa), Thomas Calleja (Malta), and Paolo Primavera (Naples).

Houses of Formation
St. Anthony of Padua Friary, Dolores, Eastern Samar

Houses of Formation and Apostolate


The Order is engaged in other apostolate. The Archdiocese of Manila has entrusted to our care two parishes namely, the Parish of San Agustin in Moonwalk, Parañaque City (1996) and the Parish of Saint Maximilian Mary Kolbe (2000).

The media apostolate of the Order, which was limited only in publication of the Marian magazines, The Knight of the Immaculate, is now updating to the signs of the times and the need for fast communication. The printing apostolate has been temporarily suspended to prepare skilled friars and upgrade printing facilities. As of the moment the Custody makes use of a website to promote the media apostolate.

San Agustin Parish
San Agustin Parish, Parañaque City
St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish
St. Maximilian Kolbe Parish, Novaliches

The Order has a mission partners in the laity. The apostolate of the laity is a sharing in the integral evangelization and salvific mission of the Church. They have the special vocation to make the Church present and fruitful in those places and circumstances where it is only through them that she can become the salt of the earth (Lumen Gentium 33). The friars continue to promote the Franciscan vocation of brotherhood and gospel way of living among the laity. They assist the Secular Franciscan Order, the lay counterpart in the Franciscan movement in their formation and spiritual needs. The Marian Movement of the Militia Immaculata (M.I.) and the Youth Militia Immaculate (YMI) is rich ground for apostolate. A more incisive and consistent promotion of this movement is needed. With these two apostolic movements of Franciscan and Marian in character, the laity who is inspired to respond to the spirit call to these movements will realize their role in the church for the integral evangelization of the people.

"There is no peace without justice and creation would take good care of you if you take good care of creation." The friars are involved also in the promotion of Peace, Justice and Safeguarding of creation. There is an Inter-Franciscan movement on JPIC here in the Philippines in which we, Conventuals, are also involved. This is actually a call to every Franciscan to be peacemakers and defender of ecology.

There is no peace without justice and creation would take good care of you if you take good care of creation. The friars are involved also in the promotion of Peace, Justice and Safeguarding of creation. There is an Inter-Franciscan movement on JPIC here in the Philippines in which we, Conventuals, are also involved. This is actually a call to every Franciscan to be peacemakers and defender of ecology.

Formation Directory

The Extraordinary Custodial Chapter of 1998 approved ad experimentum the Formation Directory made by the Commission of Formation. It was approved by the Chapter and was in line with the documents of the Order. It has touched well the culture of the Filipino Friars in order to be Men of God, of fraternal life and of mission. The Directory of Formation is guided by the vision-mission statement of the Filipino Custody formulated in the Ordinary Chapter of 1997. It had girded the friars and the students to a balanced and well-rounded Conventual Franciscan Filipino formation. Since it was very much focused only to the formation a revision has been carried out with an intent to include the expanding reality of the Order in the various sphere of our Conventual Franciscan life: formation, fraternal life, apostolate and economy.

Envisioning the Order
Common Vision-Mission

In 2003, a group of friars were commissioned by the Custody to facilitate the making of the vision-mission of the Custody. They went to every community of the Custody in facilitating the vision-mission making. The idea was to involve the whole Custody in making such a statement; thus, there will be a great owning of the vision-mission. In the December 2003 retreat of all the Solemnly Professed of the Custody in Baguio City, the vision-mission of the Custody was formulated and celebrated. Thus, the Custody was given direction and reference for all the friars.

Seal of the Philippine Custody

Vision-Mission Statement of the Philippine Custody


Empowered by the Holy Spirit, under the guidance of Mary Immaculate and Blessed Bonaventure of Potenza, we, the Conventual Franciscans (OFMConv.) in the Philippines, envision ourselves as giving witness to fraternal life; fostering communion and renewal in the local Church, in the families, specially in the poor and marginalized; advocating justice, peace, solidarity with and care of creation.

Therefore, we strive to follow Christ more closely in the spirit and example of St. Francis of Assisi in the Conventual Franciscan tradition according to the signs of the times and Filipino culture by living the Gospel in common and promoting holistic healing using the available means and resources.


Looking Toward the Future

We, Franciscan Conventuals, are community of disciples and lesser brothers in Christ, thus, we are not simply the “sum of individuals” who composed it, a new and diverse reality. One’s choice of God (and then his prayer, his charity, his poverty, etc.) united, shared, enriched with that of the others is something new and diverse in respect from his individual choice.

With clarity and determination, we believe this fundamental option: to bear witness together that God is the first and the center. This option is decisive, precedes and inspires each of our activities, whether it is apostolic or, charitable, social, educative character, or some other sort. We bear witness together in living the vision-mission in communion with each one. And the Gospel would tell us: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).

We have anchored our 25th Anniversary Celebration theme: “A Christocentric and Marian Fraternity Journeying Together for the Renewal of the Church and Communion with Everyone” to the very vision-mission of the Custody. And with this clarion call for every member of the Custody we move forward hopeful, renewed and focused to be witnesses of God’s creative and saving love for all!

List of Missionaries Who Had Sown the Seed

First Period: Foundation
Transition Period
Second Period: The Rebirth and Growth

Written by

Fra John Vianney M. Acosta, OFMConv.
24 August 2004

Edited by

Fra Stephen M. Bejo, OFMConv.
& Fra Christian M. Ornum, OFMConv.