The Conventual followers of Francis chose to minister in the heart of the city rather than in more remote hermitages; they banded together in concentrated communities rather than wandering as itinerant preachers.
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The official title of our branch of the Franciscan Order is Friars Minor Conventual. We are known as Greyfriars in Britain, the Commonwealth and Ireland, Cordeliers (cord bearers) in French-speaking countries, Minoriten (minors) in countries where German is spoken, or simply as Franciscans in most other parts of the world.
The friars harmonized in choir and fashioned splendid pipe organs for the cathedrals of Europe. We collaborated with Palestrina, commissioned Vivaldi, improved the fingering technique of Mozart. We scanned the stars with Galileo, tutored Dante and Lorenzo de Medici, developed mathematical theorems with Leonardo da Vinci. We shared responsibility with Bramante in the construction of Saint Peter’s Basilica, reformed the Roman Curia, and instituted the Swiss Guard.
In more recent years, the Conventual friars have established the International Franciscan Centre for Inter-Religious Dialogue in Assisi, restructured the primary educational system of Switzerland, created halfway homes for troubled youth and rehabilitation centers for the chemically dependent in the United States and Italy. We have built low-income housing for the poor in India, apartment complexes for the handicapped in Canada. We have constructed hydro-electric plants and improved education, health care, and agricultural productivity in many countries of Africa. The friars in Asia have built orphanages and day-care centers for children, nursing homes for the elderly, retreat houses for the spiritually needy, and tailoring schools for the jobless. We have pioneered the behavioral science of handwriting analysis, and established centers for peace and justice at the United Nations and in many countries.