Editor’s note: Our regional director in Addis Ababa, Argaw Fantu shared with us some joyful news about the Capuchin Friars in Ethiopia, whose vice-province last week was raised to the status of province:
The presence of Capuchin Franciscan missionaries in Ethiopia goes back to 17th century, when the first two French Capuchin missionaries, Father Agathange and Father Cassien, planted the seed of faith, and nourished it by shedding their blood and giving their lives within two days of arrival in Gondar from Egypt in 1638.
Later, the legendary Italian Capuchin, Cardinal Guglielmo Massaja (1846-1880), helped create the Oromo Vicariate in the western part of Ethiopia and expanded Catholicism in the country. In the later days, a group of French Capuchin Missionaries followed. The growth of the Catholic church and Catholic faithful is due to the presence of these missionaries who devotedly paid with their lives. These true evangelizers reached out to the remotest corners of the country — erecting churches, establishing schools, providing health services and witnessing to the faith with their simple way of life.
After decades of devoted work and growth, on 10 February the Capuchin Friars Minor Vice-Province of Mary Kidane Meheret in Ethiopia was raised to the status of Province.
The celebration took place at Gulele St. Francis Parish Church, with a Mass presided over by Cardinal Berhaneyesus D. Sourapheal, Metropolitan Archbishop of Addis Ababa, attended by Msgr. Luigi Bianco, Apostolic Nuncio to Ethiopia and Djibouti, the entire local Capuchin Franciscan friars, along with other invited religious congregations.
At this stage the new Capuchin province is blessed to have 101 local ordained friars serving in the country. The order, despite some challenges, is blessed by increasing vocations. Currently, there are 21 candidates attending Philosophy and Theology at the St. Francis Institute, which is fully administered and run by same order. There are also seven postulants and 10 pre-postulants in Nazareth/Adama. The last Custos, Rev. Br. Yohannes Wossen put it well: “Simplicity and brotherhood attracts many to join us.”
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In Ethiopia, the Capuchin Franciscans serve in eight church jurisdictions (three Eastern rite Eparchies and five Latin Rite dioceses) in 20 community houses. Besides the focus on evangelization, the Capuchins run five highly respected Catholic secondary schools in Baher Dar-Dessie Eparchy and in Soddo vicariate, along with the Abune Andreas Girls’ Home in Dire Dawa. They also run many junior and primary schools; a boarding facility for boys in Dessie; and they also support a university chaplaincy programs. One of the secondary schools — Abba Pascal Catholic Girls’ School (named after Father Pascal, a French Capuchin missionary) in southern Ethiopia in Soddo vicariate — was established for educating rural girls. Most of these services were initially located in the most remote parts of the country.
CNEWA partners with Capuchins in Ethiopia, supporting five of these remotely located schools and the Girls’ Home in Dire Dawa, thanks to our generous donors who sincerely value the services of these missionaries, who continue to witness to the faith through simple lives of evangelization.
The Capuchins continue to be moved by the charism of St. Francis, eager to share their “joy, humility and simplicity.” We’re also reminded of the words of Msgr. Angelo Pagano, Vicar Apostolic of Harar and Capuchin who said at this celebration: “Wonderful pages were written by our predecessors in evangelizing the faith in Ethiopia. They left their foot prints. But now is the time for us to write new pages for the journey before us.”
By supporting these zealous missionaries for the good of the local church in Ethiopia, let us be part of that journey before them — accompanying the local church through the efforts of the Capuchins!
Below, you can see a brief video of some of the friars joyfully singing a hymn of thanksgiving during the Mass.