About Us

Who are we?

Order of Friars Minors Capuchin (OFM Cap) is one of the First Orders of the Franciscan family; the other orders are being Order of Friars Minors (OFM) and Order of Friars Minors Conventuals (OFM Conv). All belong to the same Order of Friars Minor founded by Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226). The Rule of 1223 (Regula Bullata) approved by the Holy See has been the guiding principle of the Friars Minors. As the opening phrase of the Rule states the life of a Friar Minor is to ‘Live the Gospel of Christ.’ Besides the First Order, the women followers of Saints Francis and Clare are called Second Order (Poor Clares) and the Lay and Married members of Franciscan movement belong to the Third Order (Secular Franciscan Order).

Saint Francis wanted his life to be modelled after the life of Christ imitating as closely as possible in His poverty and humility. Followers of Saint Francis were also admonished to imitate the poor, humble and crucified Christ. The radical movement of the Franciscan Order shaped the life of the Church and reformed it by returning to the roots of the Gospel way of Christian living. Saint Francis insisted on the ‘Minority and Fraternity’ as the hallmark identity of the Friars. Following those Gospel principles of radical poverty and universal brotherhood, the Order flourished from the twelfth century onwards.

Historically after the death of Saint Francis, the difference of opinions among the Friars in giving emphasis on certain aspects of the Gospel way of living gave rise to various factions. Eventually, many groups were formed which later were recognized by the Church as different Orders of Observants and Conventuals, etc. History of the Capuchins goes back to 1528. A reform movement within the Observants initiated by Friars Matteo, Raphael and Ludovico, was recognised with a new constitution.

The friars of the Reform were called Capuchins due to the service they rendered to the poor, sick and homeless during the great plague that affected thousands of people in Italy in the fifteenth century. The ‘street servants’ were named ‘Capuchins’ as fondly called by children associating the ‘coffee-brown’ or ‘chest-nut brown’ colour habits of the friars and also by the simplified ‘capus,’ the hood attached to their habit at the back. The charism of the Capuchin Order is ‘Live the Gospel of Christ in Fraternity and Minority.’ The coupling of the active and contemplative aspects of the Franciscan movement was the highlight of the Capuchin Reform. Living in dependence on ‘table of the Lord’ is an expression of being an authentic mendicant, seeking help and sustenance from others when needed. Saint Felice of Cantalice, a lay brother was the first Capuchin saint who has been a model of such charismatic Capuchin, begging from door to door and bringing food to the friars. Living in brotherhood is another aspect of the charism where individualism and egoistic tendency are curtailed. Saint Francis exhorted his friars to take care of the other friar as a mother would do to her child.

The fast expansion of the Capuchin Order took place from the beginning of the fifteenth century. In 1632, the French Capuchin Friars came as chaplains to French army personnel in Pondicherry and later they moved to Madras. Many churches and parishes in present-day Pondicherry-Cuddalore and Madras-Mylapore dioceses bear witness to the missionary and pastoral work of French Capuchins. After a few decades of service, their mission ended abruptly. Later in the late 19th Century, with Canadian, American, Italian Capuchin working in Central and North India, Capuchin presence was revived in India. With the founding of the Novitiate in Mussoriee and Sardhana, later shifted to Mangalore in 1922, the number of native Indian vocations to Capuchin Order gradually increased. By 1963, Indian Province of Immaculate Conception of Mary was formed. In 1972, around 400 friars were there and the Indian Province was divided into four jurisdictions, namely St.Francis Province of Kerala, St.Joseph’s Province of Kerala, Holy Trinity of Karnataka, Maharastra and Goa, and Amala Annai Province of Tamil Nadu. As of now in 2018, there are 12 provinces in India, 2 custodies and 4 mission delegations, with around 1670 friars. Many provinces have sent their friars to mission countries. There is a Conference of Capuchin Major Superiors of India (CCMSI) which takes of the animation of the provinces.

The General Curia is situated in Rome. The General Minister and his 9 councillors animate the entire order present in all five continents, with around 10,600 friars. There is a general councillor specially designated for India who conducts canonical visitations of the provinces and animates them. The General Curia has a number of offices, like formation, economy, mission animation, communication, secular Franciscan order animation, postulation, procura, Justice-Peace, etc.

Capuchin History

The Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans), in its attempt to remain faithful to the intentions of the founder, St. Francis of Assisi, went through many difficulties in the course of its history, which led to disagreements and divisions. The three major branches of the First Order for Religious men, the Franciscan Friars Minor, the Conventual Friars Minor and the Capuchin Friars Minor have their own organization and legal structure, but share Francis as their Father and Founder. The Capuchins are the youngest branch, going back to 1525, when some Friars Minor in the Marches wanted to live a stricter life of prayer and poverty to be closer to the original intentions of St. Francis. Thanks to the support of the Papal Court the new branch received early recognition and grew fast, first in Italy, and since 1574 all over Europe.

The name Capuchins refers to the peculiar shape of the long hood. Originally, a popular nickname, it has become the official name of the Order, which now exists in 104 countries all over the world, with around 18,000 brothers living in more than 1,800 communities (fraternities, friaries). Simplicity, closeness to the people, a fraternal spirit in our houses and our apostolate are visible signs that mark our lifestyle, while the emphasis on penance and prayer in the life of the first Capuchins needs to be revived. Besides the Capuchin Order for Religious men, there exist many contemplative monasteries of Capuchin nuns and a multitude of religious congregations for women with the Capuchin spirit, often founded with the assistance of a Capuchin friar. The Secular Franciscan Order for lay people is an independent organization encompassing the whole Franciscan spectrum. Franciscans, Conventuals, Capuchins and other members of the Franciscan Family give spiritual assistance to the Secular Franciscan Order. All these groups of professed religious and secular Franciscans form the Franciscan Family.

Indian Capuchin History

The Arrival and Early Attempts at Establishing the Capuchin Order in India

The Capuchin Franciscan Order first arrived in India in 1632 when a group of foreign Capuchin missionaries landed in Pondicherry. Their initial intention was to extend their missionary work to Tibet and Nepal, but they ultimately continued their apostolate in the Vicariates of Agra and Patna. After nearly two and a half centuries of missionary activity, the idea of implanting the Order in India was considered. In 1880, a novitiate house was opened in Mussoorie, but it was closed ten years later due to a lack of vocations.

A second attempt at establishing the Order in India was made on 26 February 1922 at the behest of the then Minister General, Br. Joseph Anthony of Persiceto. He personally inaugurated the novitiate at Sardhana, which served as the cradle of the Capuchin Order in India for many years. Two Indian novices were invested on this occasion in the novitiate named after St. Fidelis of Sigmaringen. The Superiors Regular of Agra, Ajmer, Allahabad and Lahore jointly supported this endeavor. Vocations to the Order came from various dioceses across India, with more coming from the South than the North. To address the initial challenges in formation, the novitiate was later placed under the care of the Superior Regular of Ajmer, and a study house was started at St. Francis Monastery, Mussoorie to continue post-novitiate formation. The early Capuchins were then sent to Europe to pursue further studies with the French friars at Breust, Tours and Nantes. The first batch of 12 clerics, led by Br. Marie Egide Uhlennuth of Ajmer, left India on 22 June 1927.

Shift to the South and Rapid Growth

The lack of a strong, vibrant and populous Christian community in North India, coupled with the extreme weather conditions, necessitated the transfer of the novitiate from the North to a more favorable location in the South. The Province of Paris was called upon to undertake this venture. The Capuchins were offered a small hill at Farangipet, called Monte Mariano, in the Diocese of Mangalore, and the decision to shift the novitiate was carried out in May 1930. Monte Mariano thus became the second cradle of the Capuchins in India. From then on, the growth of the Capuchins was rapid, and by 1932, a study house was set up in Quilon, and most of the students who had not yet finished their studies abroad were brought back to continue their studies there.

The appointment of Br. Guido Le Floch as the General Commissary in 1933 marked the next phase of the Order's growth in India. The influx of candidates was unabated, and the Order grew from strength to strength. From 1948 to 1954, Br. Richard Brunner from the Calvary Province of the USA was put in charge of the Indian Capuchin Mission and was made Commissary Provincial in 1951. However, by 1954, the leadership changed, and Br. Cyril Andrade became the first Indian to head the unit as Commissary Provincial. In 1956, the Agra Archdiocese was entrusted to the Order, and Br. Dominic Athaide was consecrated as the first Indian Capuchin Bishop of Agra. In 1957, Br. Cassian Timmins, a Canadian Missionary from Gorakhpur, was appointed to guide the destiny of the Commissariat, and he did so for the next 6 years. The number of Capuchins had grown from 41 in 1933 to almost two hundred by 1960.

Formation of an Autonomous Indian Province

Br. Clement of Milwaukee, the Minister General, who had witnessed the growth of the Capuchin jurisdiction in India during his first visit, paid a second visit in 1962 during his second term as Minister General, expressly for the purpose of constituting the Indian unit into a full-fledged Capuchin Province. Br. John Berchmans Puthuparambil was appointed as its first Provincial Minister and was re-elected at the first elective Provincial Chapter held in 1966. In 1969, Br. Jacob Acharuparambil was elected as the Provincial Minister. He was also the last of the Provincial Ministers of the united Indian Province, as the jurisdiction had grown too large and stood in great need of division for the sake of efficient administration. Meanwhile, in December 1971, Br. Symphorian Keeprath was nominated Bishop of Jalandhar Diocese, and the entire state of Punjab was entrusted to the care of the Capuchins in India.

Division of the Indian Province

Since the novitiate was shifted to Monte Mariano, the Province had experienced steady and rapid growth. By 1967, just forty years after migrating to the South, it could count about 500 friars distributed among 40 houses in the five states of Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. They were also working as missionaries in many other states of northern India and even in some foreign countries like Indonesia, Philippines, and Tanzania as Formators. Some had reached as far as Malaysia with the aim of implanting the Order. In these circumstances, the need for creating smaller jurisdictions for greater efficiency and better implantation of the Order in various regions of India became not only apparent but also urgent. The first discussion to this effect took place during the Provincial Chapter of 1969. The Minister General and his Definitory, having taken note of the situation, sent Br. Aloysius Ward to conduct an on-the-spot and thorough study of the state of affairs prevailing in the Province during the visitation from November 1971 to February 1972. This was followed up by the then Minister General, Br. Paschal Rywalski, himself. As a result, at the end of March 1972, the Minister General and his Definitory took the important but necessary decision to dismember the Province into four units: the Province of St. Joseph, Kerala; the Province of Holy Trinity, Karnataka-Goa-Maharashtra (KGM); the Province of Amala Annai, Tamil Nadu; and the Vice Province of St. Francis, Kerala.

The decree to this effect, signed on 9 May 1972, was promulgated at St. Joseph's Friary, Kotagiri, on 17 May by Br. Aloysius Ward, along with the names of the new Provincial Superiors and their Definitory. 

Tamil Nadu Capuchins History

The Capuchin history of Amala Annai Province goes back far earlier than 1972. Tamil Nadu enjoys a special privilege in the history of Christian tradition and Capuchin presence in India.

Tamil Nadu is a land of exceptional culture and tradition dating back to 5000 years of civilization, and its language “Tamil” is one of the living languages of antiquity like Greek, Latin and Sanskrit. The Christian tradition holds that 51. Thomas, one of the Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, preached the Good News and was martyred at Mylapore, Madras, now known as Chennai in AD 72.

To sum up the elaborate history of the Capuchin in India, Fr. John of Monte Corvino, the first Franciscan missionary to India ministered at Mylapore from 1291 to 1292, Later, the feet of the first Six French Capuchin missionaries touched the land of Pondicherry in 1632 leading to the foundation of the first Capuchin Mission, it was officially erected in the year 1674. During this time, Fr. Ephraim de Nevers, a French Capuchin missionary, founded also the first Christian mission in Madras in the new township of the British on July 8, 1642. This efficient and effective Capuchin missionary erected the first church in Madras and founded the first English medium school in India. These Capuchins served from1632 to 1834 (202 years) in the Tamil region and became the pioneer missionaries to the dioceses of Pondicherry, Madras and Chingleput, establishing new Christian Catholic Communities, erecting churches and responding to the social concerns of the People. The first French missionaries continued their evangelization mission in South India until 1834. The mission ended due to lack of personnel caused by the French Revolution in 1789. However, the Lord’s grace ended the 109 years of Capuchin absence in Tamil Nadu, with the establishment of the Indian Commissariat in 1921 and the subsequent re-entry into Tamil Nadu in Amalashram, Srirangam, Trichy on June 13, 1943. Amalashram became one of the man cradles of the re-establishment of the Capuchins throughout India and more particularly in Tamil Nadu, with the establishment of Tamil Nadu Province in 1972.

Amala Annai Province (meaning Immaculate Conception), Tamil Nadu was established within the territorial jurisdiction of Tamil Nadu, India during the bifurcation of the united Province of India on May 9, 1972. Br. Jonathan Nathan was appointed the first Provincial with Coimbatore continuing to be the Provincial curia of the new Province. At that time there were fifty friars and seven friaries. With a steady inflow of Tamil vocations, the province grew day after day, spreading into sixteen dioceses, establishing twenty-four friaries, of which fourteen are parishes and six are animation centres. The Capuchins are a force to be reckoned with, within the Church in Tamil Nadu, with their evangelical, spiritual, pastoral and social activities all over this region. The Lord has blessed the province abundantly with vocations.

The mission and ministry of this province are not confined within its walls. Following the itinerant nature of the Order, the ministry of this province has reached far and wide. Tamil Nadu province reached the shores of Africa in 1989 by undertaking the Zimbabwe mission. The zeal and the dedication of the Tamil missionaries gave birth to a custody in Zimbabwe in 1999. In the same year, the province was also entrusted with the mission of Burkina Faso (West Africa). Apart from the African missions, the province also assists other Capuchin provinces such as: the General Vice Province of Arabia since 1987, The Capuchins of Central Canada since 1995, and the Province of France since 2003. Thus province has also responded readily to any request of the Order for ministry and mission at the international level.

Amala Annai Province History

The steady and vibrant growth of the Order in Tamil Nadu during the past 40 years has now come to the moment of bearing further fruits. The idea of the province’s bifurcation was initiated and reflected upon extensively from 2005 in various forums of chapters and provincial meetings. In view of a possible bifurcation of the Province, the General Definitory approved a pastoral visitation of the Province by Br. Peter Rodgers, the General Definitor and Br. Francis Christi Vattakuzhy. After consulting extensively, with individuals and groups at diverse levels, the General Definitory of the Order decided to establish two new circumscriptions (Prot. N. 00953/ 10, dated April 05, 2011).

The new Province has the Amala Annai (Immaculate Conception) as its Patroness. The boundaries of the Province of Northern Tamil Nadu will consist of the Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore, the Archdiocese of Pondicherry & Cuddalore, and the Dioceses of Chingleput, Vellore, Dharmapuri, Salem, Kumbakonam, Tiruchirapalli and the Diocese of Tanjore, as it subsists at the moment of the promulgation of this decree. Udhayam polytechnic college, Thenkuda, in the Province of Southern Tamil Nadu is an extra territorial house belonging to the Province of Northern Tamil Nadu. Gnanalaya, Trichy, will be the proposed Provincialate.

The Province will be responsible for the Domus Praesentiae of Burkina Faso, and the collaboration with the Capuchin Province of Prance. It will also be available for service in the General Vice Province of Arabia.

Furthermore, it is established that an extraordinary provincial chapter s hall be held within one year at which all perpetually professed friars of the Province will participate (Const. I l l, §4). This Chapter shall discuss the life and the witness of the brothers, prepare a Statute of the new Province, and draw up capitular and electoral procedures for use In the elective chapter.

Burkina Faso

History of Our Mission in Burkina Faso Delegation

In 1998, the Amala Annai Province took on the challenge of establishing a mission in Burkina Faso. The first missionary, Br. Flaubert, arrived in December 1999. The early years, from 2000 to 2004, were marked by both growth and hardship. Six friars arrived in 2000 to lay the foundation for the mission, and two parishes were entrusted to their care. However, the mission also faced the loss of friars who left the mission and the tragic death of Br. Flobert. Despite these setbacks, Archbishop Jean-Marie Compaore recognized the importance of Br. Flobert’s sacrifice in solidifying the mission's presence.

A period of revival followed from 2003 to 2005. New missionaries arrived, dedicated to learning the local languages to better serve the community. The Archdiocese entrusted the St. Francis of Assisi parish entirely to the Capuchins in 2004. This marked a turning point as the mission became more established.

The next five years, from 2005 to 2010, focused on consolidation. The first Capuchin friary was built, and the mission became a legally registered society. They established a social work center and purchased land for the Order. Importantly, they began fostering local vocations, with Burkinabe boys joining the Capuchin Order.

From 2011 to the present, the mission has continued to experience growth. Burkinabe friars have made their professions, and the number of missionaries has increased, despite some departures. A significant milestone was reached in 2013 when the Burkina Faso mission officially became a "Provincial Delegation" within the Capuchin Order. Br. Antony Rozario was appointed as the First Delegate Provincial.

The Current Situation

The mission continues to grow with the arrival of Br. P. Arockiaraj from India, bringing our total to 20 friars. This includes 9 missionary brothers, 1 Burkinabé priest brother, and 10 Burkinabe student brothers in various stages of formation. Br. Julien is completing his final year of theology in Benin, while Brs. Narcisse and Corneille are in their second year at the Ouagadougou Archdiocese Seminary. Br. Florentin recently began his theological studies there as well. Brs. Packome and Charles are in their third year of philosophy studies in Benin, and Br. Franck is undergoing his novitiate in Nigeria due to the ongoing civil war in Cameroon.

We are excited to announce the establishment of a new friary in Bissiga on July 21, 2021. Two brothers are stationed there full-time, with a third residing in Ouaga Karpala. This brings the total number of friaries to three, with the others being Fraternité Saint-Pio in Bissiga (which also has a member residing in Tenkodogo) and Fraternité Saint-Joseph, which serves as our postulancy house.

By God’s grace, the mission has made significant progress on several projects. Here are some highlights: