I've recently learned of an impressive new order of Franciscans by the name "Franciscans of the Immaculate."
A special thanks to Fr. Joseph Michael Mary, FI for explaining to me the mission and charism of the Franciscans of the Immaculate.
Their founder, Fr. Stefano Manelli was a spiritual son of Saint Padre Pio. While still in his mother's womb Saint Pio blessed him. Manelli also received his first confession and first Holy Communion from Saint Pio as a young boy. When he was twelve years old he told St. Pio that he wanted to join him in the Capuchin Franciscans. However, Saint Pio told him not to do so. Instead, he was to become a Conventual Franciscan as it was there that our Lady had his sufferings waiting for him.
During his years as a Conventual Francsican, Father Stefano learned about Saint Maximilian Kolbe and the great Marian renewal that he led within the Franciscan Order. Inspired inspired by this, Father Stefano wanted to begin a renewal based on the example of Saint Maximilian Kolbe.
Father Stefano, with the permission of Saint Pio and his Conventual superior, instituted a separate observance within the Conventuals in 1970. Around 1989 the superiors of the Conventuals no longer desired this separate observance, and asked the friars to abandon their particular pattern of piety modeled on that of Saint Maximilian Koble for the common observance of the Conventuals.
At that time, Pope John Paul II of blessed memory learned about this state of affairs and asked that the documents of the separate observance be brought to him for his consideration. After reading the document called the Traccia, which is the Marian plan of Franciscan life lived by the Franciscans of the Immaculate, the Pope said that "this way of life is too precious for the Church to loose. Since they do not want you, I will separate you." In 1990, the friars became a Diocesan Institute and then in 1998 John Paul II elevated the Franciscans of the Immaculate to a religious institute of Pontifical Rite, which means the friars are directly under the Holy See.
The main aspect of their religious life is best understood by the Marian Vow. The friars make a canonical vow called the Marian Vow by which they give themselves totally to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Her property and possession. With that, in the spirit of Saint Maximilian Kolbe and Saint Francis of Assis, they seek to make her known and loved that she may bring souls to Jesus in the quickest way possible.
Here are some other links on the FI which you may have already seen:
- Franciscans of the Immaculate in America
- Franciscans of the Immaculate in Australia
- Mary Victrix