St. Bonaventure University

History of the Franciscan Institute


The need for a scholarly research center of Franciscan studies in North America had often been expressed at the annual meetings of the Franciscan Educational Conference. In 1940, the Very Reverend Thomas Plassmann, O.F.M., President of St. Bonaventure's College, made these aspirations a reality with the appointment of the eminent German medievalist, Philotheus Boehner, O.F.M., as the first director of the Franciscan Institute.

Under his influence, the campus of St. Bonaventure became internationally known as a center for the study of William of Ockham, a 14th century Franciscan philosopher and theologian who vastly influenced European thought at the close of the Middle Ages.

As early at 1942, The Franciscan Institute undertook the preparation and publication of the critical edition of thePhilosophical and Theological Works of William of Ockham. The project would complement the publication of political and polemical works of Ockham, which had already been undertaken by the University of Manchester, England.

Although an enormous amount of research was done in the following years, the ambitious teaching and publications programs of the Institute delayed the immediate realization of this goal.

Eventually, however, the years of research bore fruit as publication of the 17 projected volumes began in 1967. Gedeon Gál, O.F.M., serving as general editor since 1966, labored indefatigably and provided inspiration and direction for his collaborators in this work, which provides for the first time an accurate text for one of history's greatest philosophers.

The edition represents the achievements, not only of the editors of the Institute and their off-campus associates, but Philotheus Boehner, O.F.M.; Eligius Buytaert, O.F.M.; Innocent Dahm, O.F.M.; Gaudens Mohan, O.F.M.; and Ernest A. Moody, eminent scholars whose research contributed to the edition.

An international colloquium held at St. Bonaventure in 1985 marked the seventh centennial of Ockham's birth and the completion of the edition. Meanwhile, in 1984, the teams of scholars began a successor project, editions of the philosophical works of John Duns Scotus and Adam de Wodeham, also prominent 14th century philosopher-theologians. This work currently continues at Catholic University of America.

In addition to the Ockham project, the Institute has published more than 80 volumes of studies and texts currently in print in the various series of "Franciscan Institute Publications."

With the elevation of St. Bonaventure to university status during the presidency of the Very Reverend Juvenal Lalor, O.F.M., the Institute acquired a double status as a distinct unit of the School of Graduate Studies, conferring the degrees of Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy, and at the same time, a Studium Generale or international college of the Franciscan Order in North America. In this latter capacity, the Institute brought to the St. Bonaventure campus European scholars of considerable renown.

In 1961, a re-evaluation of Institute goals resulted in the decision to discontinue the Studium and to curtail for a time the teaching program, in favor of research and publication. The Institute retained its reputation as an important resource for graduate students and scholars working in fields allied to its research.

In 1971, in response to the call of the Second Vatical Council for religious communities to return to the sources of their charism, a new degree program, leading to an M.A. in Franciscan Studies was established under the leadership of then Director, Conrad L. Harkins, O.F.M. The Institute conducted a year-round program leading to a Master of Arts degree or an advanced certificate in Franciscan Studies.

The program welcomed those who chose to enroll for a period of continuing education or for a study sabbatical. Graduates included sisters, friars and lay persons from every continent. Many graduates would go on to hold positions of leadership in other Franciscan formation and spiritual centers, national and international conferences, and in the various branches of the Order.

In the 1990s, the teaching programs of the Institute were formalized within the academic realm of the University, creating the School of Franciscan Studies. The extraordinary library collection of the Institute — housed in the Friedsam Memorial Library on the St. Bonaventure campus — attracts many visiting scholars.

The School of Franciscan Studies at St. Bonaventure would eventually be dissolved, replaced by a new Department of Theology and Franciscan Studies in the School of Arts and Sciences.

The Master of Arts and advanced certificate in Franciscan Studies programs are no longer available. The Institute offers noncredit-bearing master classes, workshops and seminars as part of its mission of research and publications.

In addition to the critical editions produced by the research teams throughout the Institute's history, the Institute serves the English-speaking world with a series of publishing initiatives. Franciscan Studies and Franciscan Connection are journals published by the Institute along with several important scholarly series and a broad variety of other published works that are available because of the Institute's labors.

Our extensive catalog is available at www.franciscanpublications.com.