THE PROVINCE OF THE MOST HOLY REDEEMER
The Province of the Most Holy Redeemer was established in 1735 upon disintegration of the Province of Bosnia Srebrna. At the time of separation the former Province comprised nine monasteries in: Zaostrog, Živogošće, Makarska, Omiš , Sinj, Šibenik, Knin, Visovac, Karin ) and three hospices (Sućuraj, Sumartin and Split). Split was proclaimed monastery in 1836, and Sumartin and Imotski in 1838. The Monastery of Our lady of Lourdes in Zagreb and that of St. Gabriel in Munich also got their monastery status in 1931.
Parishes, headed mostly by Franciscans were founded around those monasteries. Presently, Franciscans of the Province of the Most Holy Saviour serve the parishes in (arch)dioceses of: Zagreb (1); Zadar (1), Split (34), Šibenik (39), Gospić-Senj (7) Hvar (1). Dedicated friars have conducted their missionary activities worldwide: in Canada, USA, Slovenia, Germany, and until recently in Latin America and Africa. Upon the request of some German bishops a great number of Franciscans went to minister in German parishes and they still do so today.
The Province’s seat was St. Lawrence Monastery in Šibenik until 1888, when it moved to Split and is still there. In early 18th century the Province broadened the scope of its ministries but still focusing on its pastoral work as a primary one. Franciscan friars not only conducted their pastoral activities in their province boundaries but also took the responsibility of chaplains in Croatian formations of Venetian army. They were also courageous missionaries in Turkish territories where some of them became Provincials of Albanian Province, and the other even bishops. Many friars were formally entitled preachers.
They successfully found their way to spread the Gospel among the faithful. They developed the most intensive literary activity in Croatian and Latin language. They also zealously endeavored to preserve the roots of faith through church singing, prayer books and handbooks. Creating the works of different religious and spiritual matters they were actually shaping Croatian Franciscan literature in historical territories where written and literary culture just started to emerge. It is worth to single out some of the most distinguished Franciscans such as fra.T.Babić, fra. L.Šitović, fra. P. Knežević and unrivalled Andrija Kačić Miošić and others. Upon the liberation of Turks Franciscans took care of spiritual, religious and cultural revival playing a significant role in preserving cultural integration of Croatian national territory.
An interaction of their pastoral and socio-caritative work was obvious but rather less talked about. It included various forms of intercession for man whose dignity was endangered. The strength of Franciscan spirit proved especially benefit in periods of infectious diseases when medical staff in villages and lazarets was assisted by clergy mainly in consolation of the sick. In years of famine, during the World War II, but also in Homeland war, friars helped the poor.
Due to Franciscans, the faithful in Croatia have maintained and become specific of some typically Franciscans devotions such as: the Way of the Cross, Christ’s Passion, Nativity Scene and Christmas songs. They have especially promoted St. Franciscan’s piety to Our lady and traditional Marian devotions among Croats. Our Lady of Sinj Herald was launched between two World Wars and Mary Herald after the WWII which is still published, spreading Marian glory among the faithful. The Province encompasses three well known Marian shrine of: Sinj, Visovac, Dobri in Split, and until recently it also comprised the Pontifical International Marian Academy (PAMI). Due to the strength of their spiritual life, Franciscans survived those hard times. When some of them felt exhausted or preoccupied with their secular activities there were still others who could impress their fellow friars with their tireless work and proper life and encourage them to follow the way of the Gospel. Croatian people can recall the outstanding holy figures of: fra J. Glunčević, fra. J. Ivelić (+1874) fra P. Bačić, fra V. Bilušić (+1939) and fra M. Ivandić (+1942). Fra Rafo Kalinić (+1943) and God’s servant fra Ante Antić (+1965) showed their heroic spirit. The Province started to publish Good Father Antić Messanger which coincided with the proceedings of his beatification and also the leaflet of fra Rafo Kalinić.
Many Franciscans dealt with archeology and paleontology but also collected folk songs and national heritage. Recently, the monasteries of Sinj, Visovac, Šibenik, Zaostrog, Imotski and Sumartin set their valuable collections. Malachological collection is exposed in Makarska.
World War II had deep and painful impact on Franciscan community as communists, in their struggle for power, also fought against those serving at the communion table. Many Franciscans died, most of them as parish priests during and in the aftermath of war (44 killed, 48 imprisoned and many of them emigrated). Parish churches and houses were either damaged or set on fire, monasteries were devastated, properties dispossessed and accrediting schools were abolished.
After the WWII, in unfavorable social and political circumstances Franciscans faced their unpleasant reality preaching crucified Christ. Scarifying their solitary life, parish priests stayed and protected not only depopulated villages but also ancient holy objects and values. The number of friars increased despite those circumstances. Many of them moved abroad to serve Croatian immigrants settling in large numbers worldwide. They were disserved for the reconstruction and construction of many monasteries and churches.
In newly founded socialist state national antagonism flourished and had had significant impact in Croatia, upon the fall of Soviet communism. After first democratic elections in Croatia in 1990, regimes in Serbia and Montenegro, supported by the Serbianized Yugoslav Army and police and additionally helped by rebel Serbs in Croatia, started the aggression on the Republic of Croatia. Forced by aggressors, Croats and members of various national minorities had to leave their homes in large number.
They lived in target territories marked in Serbian expansionistic maps and therefore had to find their refugies elsewhere in Croatia or abroad. Almost the third part of the Province was occupied by Serbs in Homeland War (1991-1995). Numerous churches and parish houses were damaged or ruined. Franciscans had to share sad refugees’ destiny, encouraging those needed either spiritual or material support. Upon liberation in 1995, friars came back with the people helping them revive their sites of fire.
Although Province became independent in turbulent times, in 1735, its first capitulum conventuale discussed about schooling of the young. The experience of monasteries schools from Bosnia Srebrena proved benefit as pupils could get elementary knowledge and then complete higher education because from Neretva until Zrmanja, from the sea and Turkish border there was no any primary school. Beside reading, writing, spelling and grammar as school subjects children were thought other subjects needed for the life. Such education resulted in writing of various alphabets, catechisms and book for higher education. Lecturers of philosophy and theology also made mimeographed notes and books for students.
Those monastery schools were platform for establishing Franciscan classical grammar school in 1838 which affiliated in Sinj, in 1854 and became first accredited grammar school in Croatian language in Dalmatia.
Preserving its rich philosophical and theological heritage the Province established such colleges in Šibenik and Makarska. The former became central college of the first level and was empowered to prepare lecturers, that is professors, recognized in Franciscan Order. School reform resulted in establishing of Franciscan Faculty of Theology in Makarska, in 1936 as a branch faculty of Catholic Faculty of Theology of Zagreb University and affiliated with Faculty of Theology in Split was to become one of the founders of the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Split University.
Founding of schools led to the emergence of a great number of Franciscan intellectual circles, educated in language and socio-historical sciences. In order to trace and asses different relevant historical and philosophical and theological issues, the Province started to publish magazines such as New Review and liturgical and pastoral one God^s service but also scientific journal Kačić.
Province members were not only lecturers in provincial schools as many of them delivered a lecture outside the Province, in monastic and diocesan colleges.
Parish priests made efforts to preserve Christian community in hard times when villages started to depopulate because people either settled in towns or moved abroad. Holding their position and continuing their Franciscan mission in that part of Homeland they could preserve faith and national feelings, promote spiritual revival and strength endangered in Homeland war.
In their almost three centuries long history, friars have ministered in the service of God’s people spearing not their lifes. Testimony of their efforts and sacrifice is presented in this Schematism.