Before the revolution in Cuba, there were 104 friars in seventeen communities spread in various parts of the country. Today, there are six friars: four from other countries (Mexico, USA, Guatemala and Ireland) and two Cubans; one who made his solemn profession in 2020 and was ordained a deacon at the end of January 2021, and an 80-year-old who returned to Cuba in 1960 as a priest, just after the Revolutionaries came to power. There are three simply professed Cuban friars studying in the Dominican Republic, and there are a number of young men interested in the Franciscan way of life. The friars live in two fraternities in the capital of Havana.
The Cuban presence is a semi-autonomous delegation of the Arántzazu Province (Spain) since June 2020 and also part of the Custody of Our Lady of Hope (with two other countries: the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico).
Cuba is not the easiest of missionary locations, as attested to by the experience of numerous congregations who have found it difficult to find suitable candidates willing to come and stay for a reasonable period of time. Yet, there is always hope that friars from different entities will feel called to the challenge of this mission. For now, our vocation is one of presence and accompaniment of the people (many of whom have suffered decades of religious intolerance and whose trust need to be regained). Besides parish ministry, we want to get to know the needs of the local church to offer popular missions in the different parts of the country. One specific dream is to open another presence outside Havana and eventually take back a historically significant presence which still belongs to the Order, where friars over the centuries moved out on missions around the country.
The future of the Franciscan OFM presence in Cuba depends mainly on an increase in local vocations, but there will also be a continued push to promote Cuba as a missionary destination. Anyone reading this article is invited to consider coming to Cuba. Those interested could request the orientation document aimed to help friars discern this particular vocation by emailing Br. Francisco Gearóid Ó Conaire at firstname.lastname@example.org.