Capuchin Franciscans Western America Province

About Us » History


The History of Our Order and Province

We Capuchins trace our heritage back 800 years to the little poor man of Assisi, whom history knows as perhaps the most clear imitator of Christ. St. Francis of Assisi followed Jesus' footsteps so closely and loved humanity and all creation so deeply that he is known as "the universal saint." He began the Order of Friars Minor, or "lesser brothers" as he called them, in 1209 and later gave them a Rule of Life. He also, with St. Clare of Assisi, co founded the Poor Clares, and he established the Secular Franciscan Order.
The Capuchin Franciscans (O.F.M.Cap.) began in 1528 as a renewal of the Order of Friars Minor. The Capuchin Franciscan friars desired more contemplative prayer and stricter poverty, but they were also fervent preachers of the Gospel and compassionate servants of the sick and suffering of their day. Attracting followers through their preaching, prayer, austerity, and ministry among the poor, the new community grew rapidly and soon spread throughout all of Europe. Today there are about 11,000 Capuchins worldwide and over 1,000 in North America.
We came to America in the last century to serve poor immigrants looking for a new life. Since then, Capuchin Franciscans have ministered to German, Irish, Italian, and Asian immigrants, Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans. Our strength is derived from our rich heritage of contemplative prayer, preaching the Word of God, and caring for those in need.

The Birth of a Province

In the seventeenth century, a few adventurous friars with powerful missionary zeal began a new and important work of service in Ireland, a work that took many of them far from their homelands. It was from these Irish Capuchin Franciscan friars of St. Patrick that the Bishop of Baker City, Oregon, sought help to pastor and serve poor immigrants looking for a new life in the American west in the early 1900's.
After almost 70 years of pioneering, growth, and service, the Capuchins of the west were finally strong enough to stand on their own.
On April 18, 1979, the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the western United States officially become the Province of Our Lady of Angels of the Portiuncula - the Western American Province. The province was formed to serve six western states-California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Nevada, and Arizona-as well as much of northern Mexico in the states of Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, and Sonora.
Over the years, the worldwide Order of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars has ministered to German, Irish, Italian, and Asian immigrants, Hispanics, Native Americans and African Americans. Today, the Capuchins serve throughout the world and are one of the largest religious Orders of men in the Church, with about 12,000 members.
As members of the Capuchin community, we are inspired by St. Francis of Assisi. Francis was a unique and dynamic individual who lived life with a passion for peace, honesty, and charity. While society was turning away from Christian values, Francis embraced the message of Christ and lived simply, serving the poor. He sought to be a living example of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As we face the ongoing challenge of a society disenchanted with religion, we, too, are committed to be witnesses to the gospel through lives of brotherhood, prayer, and the communal life of poverty and simplicity.