The Capuchin Franciscans, a religious order that has produced an army of saints among whom is the famous Padre Pio, celebrated 25 years in the Philippines as a Province. But their roots in the country stretch much farther into the past, with a color and drama that kept in step with the history of the people it faithfully and bravely ministered.
The first Capuchins arrived in our shores in 1886 amid the intensity of the Philippine Revolution. Actually, they were missionaries meant for the Caroline and Palaos Islands and simply intended to make the Philippines a supply base. But because they came when other missionaries were already leaving because of the intensifying socio-political unrest, these hooded and bearded Capuchins, carrying only the Cross of Christ, by their attitude, tireless work, and patient charity, answered the needs of the Church and became instruments in preserving the Faith that was being threatened by anti-clericalism and insurgent nationalist fervor. True to their charism to serve where others refuse to serve, these Capuchin Franciscans eventually took up some abandoned parishes in Bicol, Batangas, Pangasinan and Quezon and helped nurture the one, true Faith back to life.
By 1957, the Capuchins in the Philippines became a Custody under the Navarra Province of Spain and embarked on a new mission: to open their doors for home-grown vocations. It was at this time that a seminary was built to cater to Filipino Capuchin aspirants. From humble beginnings at the ground floor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Tagaytay City, the Our Lady of Lourdes Seminary was eventually inaugurated in Lipa City in 1967 by Bishop Alejandro Olalia in order to welcome and mould the increasing number of young men from all over the Philippines who wished to follow St. Francis along the Capuchin way. And by June 17, 1970, the Philippines had already become a Vice-Province in the Capuchin Franciscan Order.
The Order continued to grow roots and bear fruit in the Philippines, establishing more friaries in Manila, Baguio, Cavite, Laguna, and Batangas. It shepherded parishes and ran schools, particularly the St. Anthony Parochial School in Singalong and the Lourdes Schools of Quezon City and Mandaluyong. Finally, on April 23, 1985, the “Kapatirang Capuchino ng Pilipinas” or the Philippine Province of the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor was established in the presence of then-Minister General Father Flavio Carraro, OFMCap and the Provincial Minister of Navarra, Fr. Eleuterio Ruiz, OFMCap. Fr. Troadio delos Santos, OFMCap became the first Filipino Capuchin Provincial Minister.
In the words of Fr. Ruiz, OFMCap, the establishment of the Philippine Province was without a doubt a historical date: a dream target for those who, already specifically assigned to the Philippines by obedience, have dedicated an important part of their lives to serve and cooperate in the evangelization of the young Filipino Church at the time. And even until today, two of those dedicated Spanish Capuchin missionaries continue to faithfully serve in the Philippines which they have come to consider home: Fr. Manuel Remirez, OFMCap and Fr. Mateo Goldaraz, OFMCap. A year later, 1986 not only marked the first anniversary of the erection of the Philippine Province but more notably it marked the Centenary of Capuchin Presence in the Philippines.
For more details and information about Order of Friars Minor Capuchins, you may visit their official page at http://filipinocapuchins.org/