Mozambican national, Friar Evódio João, OFM. Mozambican national, Friar Evódio João, OFM. 

Franciscans in Mozambique: 125 years, walking with the people, with the Church.

The Order of Friar Minors (OFM) celebrate 125 years of presence and mission in Mozambique this year. Friar Evódio João, a Mozambican Franciscan and Director of Communications for the congregation lives in Rome. Recently, he spoke with Vatican News about the milestone.

Bernardo Suate - Vatican City.

We look to the past with gratitude and give thanks to the Lord for all that he has done for us, says Friar Evódio when he takes stock of the presence of the Friars Minor in Mozambique over the last 125 years, a presence that began in Beira in August 1898 and has since spread throughout much of the country, including to the Diocese of Pretoria in South Africa.

Accompanied the growth of Beira

Since their arrival, explains Friar Evódio, the Friars Minor have accompanied the Church in Beira, with pastoral work or evangelization, but also in education and taking on the construction of Churches and schools - “it was a presence of walking with the people and with that poor Church, at different times in the country’s history,” he said.

The Custody of St. Clare of Assisi 

For many years, the Franciscan mission in Mozambique has grown and flourished, even numerically, observes the Mozambican priest. Today, the Franciscan mission in Mozambique is well rooted. Almost all the Friars are Mozambican (about 86 Friars), says Evódio, for whom this is a momentous achievement.

Friars Minor, Autonomous Province of Mozambique.
Friars Minor, Autonomous Province of Mozambique.

The civil war and learning to be poor 

However, over the years, there was no shortage of challenging moments, especially during the civil war and nationalization from 1977 to 1992. During that period, the numbers of Friars also dwindled, and some Friars even lost their lives, “what we had built with a lot of dreams and a lot of effort, we lost,” he observed. He continued, “But we didn’t lose our charism, we didn’t lose our way, we also learned to be poor again, and learned to improvise because we had nothing anymore,” explained Friar Evódio.

Today, there is the risk of settling, of complacency and the temptation to build castles out of our parishes without genuinely serving people experiencing poverty," warns Friar Evodio. These are the risks to guard against, he admonished.

As Franciscans, “the challenge we have today is to discover new paths where the Lord is sending us,” he said.

Seeking peace in a wounded Mozambique

Another challenge for the Friars, said Evodio, is the concern for peace because “we live in a wounded Mozambique, and the issue of northern Mozambique (Cabo Delgado Province) hurts us all,” he said.

The new role of Franciscans who are living with people suffering and hurting, he says, is to make pastoral presence felt in healing these wounds, especially today when so many are abandoned and where older persons no longer count,” said the Friar.

Friars Minor, Custody of St. Clare of Assisi of Mozambique
Friars Minor, Custody of St. Clare of Assisi of Mozambique

"The Franciscan of today and tomorrow is one who is with the people, who promotes their aspirations, well-being and their human dignity. In my view, this is what it means to walk with the people particularly when we look to the future after 125 years of service to the Church of Mozambique,” said the Mozambican Friar.

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31 August 2023, 17:20