Friar Martin de Porres Maria Ward

Friar Martin de Porres Maria Ward

Friar Martin de Porres Maria Ward welcomed Sister Death on June 22, 1999. He was 81 years old and had lived 51 years as a Conventual Franciscan Friar – much of it in Andrelândia, Brazil.

Born into a bi-racial family in 1928 in Boston, Massachusetts, Friar Martin began his vocation journey toward Franciscan life with a touching letter to the vocation director revealing that he was “colored.”

The director replied, “In the past we have not had the occasion to consider this important point of accepting colored applicants, since none were received.” He also mentioned that recently “we have been working in fields that might promise an open door to colored applicants.” (June 8, 1945 – The Provincial Chapter of June 1945 voted to accept missions in Latin America, including Brazil.)

Friar Martin became the first African American Conventual Franciscan vocation in North America. Soon after his ordination to the priesthood on June 4, 1955, Friar Martin volunteered for the missions in Brazil. He was known as a cheerful, charitable, humble friar in his religious community, and by the people he served. He lived at the disposal of the people of Andrelândia, especially the poor. Often, he was asked to celebrate funerals, marriages, and to hear confessions.

As an important part of encounters with men desiring to become Franciscans, Friar Martin would tell the story of his calling. He would begin by talking about overcoming the difficulties of prejudice because of his African-American origin, and his struggle with infectious pulmonary disease. All these difficulties were overcome by faith in Divine Providence and devotion to the Immaculate Virgin, to whom he consecrated his vocation and turned to in times of trouble.

His witness of faith was evident in his living of the virtues of simplicity, joy, poverty, and humility, especially among the poor. He was a faithful Franciscan friar and priest with great devotion to the Eucharist.

Friar Martin’s Cause for Canonization is being promoted by friars in Brazil and the faithful of Andrelândia where he is buried.

On the last Sunday of each month, a special Mass is celebrated at the Conventual Franciscan hermitage known as the Casa da Perfeita Alegria, located at the former São Francisco Seminary in Andrelândia, Brazil. After Mass, there is a procession to the tomb of Friar Martin while reciting a prayer to invoke his intercession. The procession is followed by the sprinkling of holy water and the blessing of the faithful and any religious articles they may have brought.

A room has been set up in the friary in Andrelândia where Friar Martin lived. It displays a number of simple items that were part of Friar Martin’s daily life: his bed, nightstand, chair, washbasin, white alb, and his faded gray habit.

After his death, the Parish of Nossa Senhora do Porto da Eterna Salvação commemorated Friar Martin with a plaque in Portuguese which reads:

Peace and All Good!
Friar Martin always offered this prayer to his friends and the people with whom he spoke.
My God and My All!

Learn more about Fr. Martin at the website of the Province of Our Lady of the Angels.

Read an article by Friar Julian Zambanini, Vice-Postulator of the Cause, on the Order’s website.