From 26 to 30 May, the Minister General, Br Massimo Fusarelli, and the Definitor General of the area, Br Albert Schmucki, visited the Province of St Stephen King of Hungary in Transylvania (Romania).
The visit coincided with the most significant event for the Province and its shrine of Csíksomlyo, the largest Marian shrine in Central and Eastern Europe: the Minister General and the General Definitor took part in the celebration of the Pilgrimage Feast of Csíksomlyo, during which they were able to pray with hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.
On Sunday, 28 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost, Br Massimo, presided at the Eucharistic celebration in the shrine, after which he met the large Franciscan family, spending moments of fraternity with many young people from this region. Br Massimo and Br Albert also met the friars of the Province: always an opportunity for listening and fraternity.
Before returning to the General Curia, they made a brief stop in Cluj-Napoca, the largest city in Transylvania, with a great historical tradition and a vibrant university life.
"For us, every visit is a celebration," said the friars of the province. "The legacy of Communism can make us a little closed, and perhaps the language barrier makes it difficult for us to make contacts, to cross borders. But every visit is very important for us because it makes us feel that we belong to a big family that transcends national borders. Moreover, the visit of the successor of St Francis has given us an opportunity for spiritual renewal, and we hope that it will help us to mark the anniversaries that lie ahead for the members of the Order and all those who live here and are in solidarity with St Francis".
The Franciscan presence in Transylvania dates back to the 13th century. The independent custody was founded in 1640 under the patronage of Saint Stephen King of Hungary and became a province in 1729. Several storms in history (the Reformation, Josephinism and, more recently, Communism) have threatened this presence, but it has always managed to recover.
In the first half of the 20th century, the only visit by a Minister General was commemorated with a commemorative plaque in the minor basilica of Csíksomlyó; during the decades of Communism, no activities by the Order were possible, but after the change of regime, things changed. In 2017, the then Minister General, Br Michael Perry, participated in the votive pilgrimage to the shrine, and Br Massimo already made a short stop in the province last spring.
The Order currently has 34 friars serving in nine friaries. One of the most important ministries is at the Shrine of Mary in Csíksomlyó, where hundreds of thousands of pilgrims attend the votive pilgrimage on the Saturday before Pentecost. In addition, three friaries also have adjoining parishes. An important activity is youth work: in addition to various programmes and activities with groups, they run two colleges in university centres and a college for high school boys. In the social field, the friars also carry out important activities (e.g. caring for orphans and abandoned children) and try to provide pastoral care for Hungarian Catholics who have emigrated to the United States.
Special thanks to Br Urbán Erik OFM for the photos and texts.