Tempus fugit! It has been over a month since I completed the visitation of the Croatian Province (27 June to 11 July 2010). First, let me answer the obvious question: No, I do not speak Croatian. Fortunately, the Croatian brothers' linguistic abilities are better than mine—most of them speak either Italian or English; for those who did not, Br Ivica Vrbić, who was my driver for most of the visitation, also very capably handled the job of interpretation. Customarily, a general definitor does not conduct the visitation of his own province—that would be akin to asking a mother if she thought her baby was beautiful. Since Jure Šarčević, the general definitor for the area, is from the Croatian Province, he asked me to conduct the visitation there. I readily accepted because I had fond memories of my visit to Croatia in 1999.
The first permanent Capuchin presence in Croatia dates to 1611. Although it has historically had only around fifty members, the Province has already given the Order one saint, Leopold Mandić, whose image can be seen in almost every Catholic church in the country. The Province has recently begun to promote the cause of another of its members—Ante Tomičić, a lay brother who died in the odor of sanctity in 1981. The ministry of the brothers in Croatia consists mainly in caring for several shrines and parishes, although there is a variety of other ministries, as well. The Capuchins are noted and appreciated for the traditional ministries of preaching and confession.
Since Croatian won its independence from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugolavia in the early 1990's, it has re-asserted its Catholic character and has also experienced an improved economy. In 2004, it applied to join the European Union. As I see it, these changes, while in some ways good for society, will pose a challenge for the Province. Rising incomes generally lead to smaller families, which means fewer vocations. Increasing materialism will make it more difficult for the Church and the Capuchin Order to keep the attention of youth in Croatian society. Many of the brothers are aware of these challenges and are trying to address them, although it is never easy to know what the correct response is.