Franciscans of Primitive Observance

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The Franciscans of Primitive Observance (FPO) are a Roman Catholic community of men, founded in 1995, that lives a strict observance of the Rule of St. Francis. In church law they are established as a Lay Association of the Faithful under the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston.



In 1994, six members of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal in New York (Pio Mandato, David Engo, Francis Kelly, John Sweeney, Peter Giroux, Patrick Magee) sought to found a new community under the name of Capuchin Recollects in order to pursue an authentic observance of the life and rule of St. Francis. They reached out to the bishop of Fall River, Massachusetts, the Capuchin Franciscan friar Seán Patrick O'Malley, for support. O'Malley agreed to host the new group, and assisted them in writing their rule and constitutions. On April 21, 1995, the six founders professed perpetual vows before Bishop O'Malley[1] and established their friary in New Bedford, Massachusetts.[2][3]

Later developments[edit]

Subsequent houses of the community were opened in Stamford, Vermont (a novitiate);[4] Emmitsburg, Maryland; and Nicaragua. In the early 2000s the community changed its name to the "Franciscans of Primitive Observance".

After O'Malley was appointed to the Archdiocese of Boston in 2003, the FPOs requested to be incardinated in the Archdiocese; with the Archbishop's agreement, the friars relocated to Lawrence, Massachusetts, closing the friary in New Bedford. Between 2010 and 2012 the community relocated to East Boston and then to the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston.[5]

The membership of the friars has fluctuated over time, peaking at about fifteen brothers including novices and postulants.

Form of Life[edit]

The Franciscans of Primitive Observance live a strict observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Practical aspects of their daily life reflect their spiritual themes:

  • Poverty: They do not carry money, and rely on the donations of individuals to pay for their needs.[6] FPO brothers called "questors" seek food door-to-door in the neighborhoods in which they live.[5]
  • Consecration to the Virgin Mary
  • Minority (littleness)
  • Fraternity
  • Manual labor: In their houses they avoid using modern appliances (televisions, radios, refrigerators, washing machines).[5]
  • Penance
  • Fidelity to the Pope and his authoritative teaching
  • The friars engage in activism against same-sex marriage.[7][8]
  • Joy

The FPOs live a mixed contemplative and active life, spending considerable time in prayer each day in the chapel, as well as time in the community.


In 2004 the friars were criticized in the press because of their public opposition to same-sex marriage.[7]

Women's community[edit]

Along with the founding of the friars' community out of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, six women left the corresponding women's community, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal, in 1994, to form the Capuchin Recollect Sisters in New Bedford, Massachusetts.[9][3] In 1998, they changed their community's name to Capuchin Sisters of Nazareth. After 2003 they moved to Tunkhannock, Pennsylvania in the Diocese of Scranton.


  1. ^ "Biography of our Minister General". South Bend, IN: Franciscan Brothers Minor. Retrieved June 30, 2016. 
  2. ^ Bill McNamara (March 31, 1997). "Capuchins came from all walks of life". The Standard-Times. New Bedford, Massachusetts. Retrieved June 30, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Benedict Groeschel and Grazyna Marczuk (2005). A Drama of Reform. San Francisco: Ignatius Press. p. 46. Retrieved June 30, 2016. 
  4. ^ "John Sweeney gladly left fast-track to millions to embrace poverty". North Adams, Massachusetts: (Boxcar Media). January 17, 2001. Retrieved June 30, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Brooklynne Kelly Peters (April 30, 2010). "Standing Out: Eastie friars stay traditional". Emerson College. Retrieved June 30, 2016. 
  6. ^ Justin Bell (August 7, 2013). "The Long Road to Rio: Two Franciscans’ Journey to World Youth Day". National Catholic Register. 
  7. ^ a b Dan Kennedy (February 12, 2004). "What a freak show: debating democracy and religion at the State House". The Boston Phoenix. Retrieved June 30, 2016. 
  8. ^ Andrew Harnik (June 19, 2014). "(untitled)". The Washington Times. Retrieved June 30, 2016. 
  9. ^ Bill McNamara (March 31, 1997). "For nuns, a joyful intimate connection to God and each other". The Standard-Times. New Bedford, Massachusetts. 

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