Biopic of Friars Minor [OFM] in Great Britain

1.The Order was founded in 1209. There was no division into provinces until 1217.

2. Provinces became necessary with the rapid expansion of the Order. They became first Geographical and then later Canonical entities.

3. The first Provincial Minister in England was Blessed Agnellus of Pisa, previously Custos in Paris. He arrived at Dover accompanied by 8 Friars in 1224 [De Adventu Fratrum Eccleston].

4. It can be verified historically that there has never been any period since 1224 when there has not been Franciscans in England; even during penal times.

5. From the second expulsion from Greenwich 12th June1560 until 27th May 1625 there was no canonical Province, nor could there be since the Catholic faith was outlawed. Yet there were many Friars ministering and in communication with superiors. John Jones, martyred at Tyburn 1598, refers to himself as primus a dissolutione Provinciae Anglicanae Commisarius, passed on the seal of the province to William Stanny, Douai 1649.

6. The English friary of St. Bonaventure was established in Douai, 30th October 1649.

7. 1st February 1693 France declared war on England. Friars given 24 hours to get out of France. Went to Tongres [Belgium] for a year and when France invaded Belgium the friars left for England.

6th August 1629 the General Minister issued a Decree making England a Province. This province continued for 50 years. Catholic Emancipation [1829] brought no relief - since the ministry of priesthood in the Catholic Church remained outlawed. At the provincial Chapter 5th October 1838, the Province was reduced to 9 Friars - the number that first arrived in Dover.

At the Chapter of 1845, attended by 5 Friars a decision was taken to link with the Province of Belgium. In 1858 the first Belgian Friars arrived in Sclerder - they attracted vocations and educated young men from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales until a Custody of England was established in 1887.

The friaries now allocated to this Custody were in Manchester [1862], Glasgow [1868], Stratford [1873] and Killarney, which had been established by the Belgians in 1860. England returned as a Province on 12th February 1891. Killarney was named as the Novitiate, and Forest Gate as the house for post novitiate formation.

In 1224 8 Friars arrived in Dover. The high peak of Franciscan presence was in 1350 when there were 1,702 friars in 7 Custodies.