Flagler to co-host Franciscan conference

Priscilla Proctor reported to Historic City News that Flagler College will co-host an international Franciscan Conference, “From La Florida to La California” from March 24th through March 26th.

The subject of the conference, entitled “The Genesis and Realization of Franciscan Evangelization in the Spanish Borderlands” is to highlight the history and the role the Franciscans played in bringing the Christian faith to the North American continent, specifically the southeastern region of the United States.

Scholars from the United States, Germany, England and Mexico will be in attendance.

Dr. Timothy Johnson, professor of religion at Flagler College, said that Franciscans played a vital role in the history of Christianity in the United States, but their role in the southeastern part of the U.S. isn’t well known.

“The first Franciscans came to Florida in 1573,” said Johnson. “The first school in the United States, already in existence in 1604, was a Franciscan school. Many times, Florida, in particular St. Augustine, is overlooked when studying American history. The focus of Franciscan history has mainly been on California and the western region. But the Franciscans were here [in Florida] in the 1500s, and did not move into California until the 1700s. With the 450th celebration of the founding of St. Augustine approaching, I thought that this would be a perfect time to hold this type of conference.”

Keynote speakers for the conference include Fr. Michael Cusato, one of the foremost historians of medieval Franciscan history working in the field today and author of numerous articles on Medieval Franciscan history; Dr. Gert Melville, an internationally known scholar whose institute at the University of Dresden studies religious life in the Middle Ages; and Dr. David Hurst Thomas, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and curator of the anthropology section for the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

Johnson said that Melville, his friend and peer, was overwhelmed when he saw the college’s Flagler Room during a visit to St. Augustine. The restored room was once the parlor of the Hotel Ponce de Leon, today a National Historic Landmark and the centerpiece of the college.

“He [Melville] walked into the Flagler Room and said, ‘this room is so beautiful, we have to have a conference in this room,'” Johnson said. “It was stunning to hear someone from Europe talk about the ‘magnificent beauty’ of the Flagler Room.”

Johnson will speak at the conference when he presents, “That They May Love the Faith: Roger Bacon on Culture, Language and Religion.”

Flagler alumna and adjunct faculty member Catherine Scine will be presenting, and Flagler graduate Nicholas Youmans, ’05, who is working on his Ph.D. at the University of Dresden, will also be in attendance.

“It is indeed a delight to be returning to Flagler for the conference,” said Youmans. “Not only is Flagler my alma mater, but there will be a great deal of internationally-renowned experts on the history of Franciscan missions in America in attendance. I’m looking forward to visiting with Dr. Johnson, and the opportunity to have the chance to sit on the sidelines of such a conference is mind-blowing.”

Co-sponsors for the conference are the Academy of American Franciscan History, the Franciscan Institute at Saint Bonaventure University, the Heidleberg Academy of Sciences and Humanity, the Historic St. Augustine Research Institute, the Research Centre for Comparative History of Religious Orders at the University of Dresden, the Saxon Academy of Science in Leipzig, the St. Augustine Historical Society and the Hilton Inn.

The Academy of American Franciscan History will publish the proceedings of the conference, which will be available in time for the 450th founding of St. Augustine celebration.

The conference registration fee is $100 and for graduate students, $50. Checks should be made payable to Flagler College. For more information on the conference, contact Dr. Timothy Johnson at (904) 819-6266 or visit www.flagler.edu/franconf.

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