Founding & Start
FRANCISCAN FRIARS of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY
During the late summer of 1987, Richard Johnson was visiting the Church of the Fourteen Saints, in the valley about an hour away from Nuremberg, Germany. While praying at the Altar dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi, he went into a trance, according to what friends told him. He was in this trance for about 30 minutes. Richard told his friends later that while praying he heard the voice of a woman telling him:
“I WISH FOR YOU TO START A RELIGIOUS ORDER OF MEN
DEDICATED TO ME IN THE SIMPLICITY OF
SAINT FRANCIS of ASSISI”
Richard told only two of his friends about it. They told him that they knew something was happening because they could not get him to respond to them. Richard told no one else about what happened. He thought and prayed about it for some time.
On a second trip to the valley, about four months later, Richard went back to the Church of the Fourteen Saints. He went inside and knelt before the Crucifix at the main Altar and prayed for some time asking God for guidance and reassurance as to what was happening there. He went back to the Altar of St. Francis. He started praying and again went into a trance like state. He was by himself and did not know how long he was in the trance. Again he heard the same woman’s voice. She told him:
“I WISH FOR YOU TO START A RELIGIOUS ORDER. AS IT GROWS, IT IS MY WISH THAT YOU EVANGELIZE AND SPREAD THE GOSPELS; SEARCH FOR AND RETURN TO THE FAITH THE SOULS THAT HAVE STRAYED OR GOTTEN LOST. IT IS ALSO MY WISH FOR THE ORDER TO WORK WITH THE SICK; THE POOR; THE HOMELESS; THE ORPHANS AND THE TERMINALLY ILL.
I WILL GUIDE YOU AND SEND YOU VOCATIONS”
Richard came to his senses and realized he was crying. At that point he said he knew that it was the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. He prayed on the situation daily, but told no one about what happened the second time, until now. He returned to the U.S. in October of 1988.
In the early 1990’s Richard became very upset after a bitter argument with a priest he thought was a very good friend. He did not listen to his heart or the Holy Spirit only the “crazy” thoughts in his head. He left the Roman Church. After about 3 month he talked with another priest friend about everything. He was accepted back into the Church. Sometime later, Richard saw the first priest coming out of the Church. He yelled hello and asked if they could talk. He said the priest threw his hands in the air, kind of waved him off, turned and went back into the Church. Richard said he went home and never went back to the Church, which turned out to be his Cross to bear.
Richard had a friend in the Civil Air Patrol with him who was a priest, not Roman Catholic. They talked for a long time. Richard said he started helping his friend at Mass. Even though he was not Catholic, his friend and the Church he belonged to followed most of the Roman rites, beliefs and traditions. In May 1995, Richard was Ordained a Deacon by his friend who was now a Bishop. He was appointed Chancellor for the Diocese.
At this time Richard states he started thinking about the Order again he was asked to start by Our Blessed Mother so long ago. Privately, Deacon Richard Professed the three Traditional Vows. On October 4, 1997, the Order was given the name of THE FRANCISCAN FRIARS of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY. From that point Deacon Richard used the letters FFBVM after his name. He told the Bishop what he had done.
One year later, on October 4, 1998, the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi, the FRANCISCAN FRIARS of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY Religious Order of men, in response to the Blessed Mothers request was approved by The Most Reverend Gregory A. Francisco, I PhD D.D., Archbishop, Province of the Holy Spirit, in Martinez, Georgia. Richard K. Johnson, FFBVM was appointed Superior. Richard changed his name to Br. Francis Mary of Our Lady of the Rosary, FFBVM.
On October 17, 1998, the Feast of St Ignatius of Antioch, Br Francis Mary FFBVM was Ordained to the Sacred Order of the Priesthood. Fr Francis Mary, shortly thereafter, Professed Solemn Perpetual Vows of Poverty, Chastity, Obedience. Again health problems held him back. Medical problems were worsening. It was determined that Father had been exposed to agent orange during his short stay in Vietnam in 1969. Father felt that a lot of it was the devil trying to stop him from carrying out the Blessed Mother’s request. He prayed to Our Lord and the Blessed Mother to help him fight off the devil. Father Francis Mary, FFBVM did most of his ministry in several of the local nursing homes, offering Mass, confessions, preaching the Word and occasionally administering the Sacrament of the Sick. As time went by, residents at the various nursing homes either went to be with the Lord or mentally deteriorated to where they didn’t even know Father was there. So he semi-retired.
In 2015, Father’s health problems put him in the hospital several times. The most critical was July. He spent 15 days in the hospital, in and out of ICU. During his stay he threw a couple of blood clots to his right lung. He was placed on a third blood thinner. Two days later Father suffered a major hemorrhage, internally. Was given lots of blood. Then he suffered severe respiratory problems and quit breathing for about 5 minutes. But the Lord was not ready for him. Father said he still had too much to do for Jesus and the Blessed Mother. He could not get a priest, so he prayed for a long time that night. He told Jesus, “you take care of the Health Dear Lord and I will work on the things Our Lady has asked me to do.”
After a couple of weeks rest, Fr Francis Mary started working on organizing the Order and typing a lot of paper work in order to put information on the computer. And to eventually take all information to the Roman Catholic Bishop of Savannah, Georgia to ask for approval of the Order. Also, for approval for Father to return to Full Communion with the Roman Church.
On November 2, 2015, Father received a “Friend Request” from a Fr. Victor Perez. Father confirmed the request and Fr. Perez’s Timeline came up on the computer. His cover picture was the Head of Christ. Fr. Francis Mary brought the entire picture up on the screen, it was the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Father said a short prayer and then he said he asked Jesus: “WHAT WILL THEE HAVE ME DO”. Father said Jesus answered immediately saying:
“DO WHAT MY MOTHER HAS ASKED YOU TO DO”
Fr. Francis Mary said, that after he wiped the tears he knew he must get busier and finish organizing the Order and start accepting candidates. He stated that he also knew at that moment that it had been the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY who had asked him to start the Religious Order.
So, Father Francis Mary is waiting to see the Vicar General, Fr Daniel Firmin about the FRANCISCAN FRIARS of the BLESSED VIRGIN MARY with in the Roman Catholic Church and in the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia USA. Also about Fr Francis Mary returning to Full Communion in the Roman Catholic Church.
On November 23, 2015, Father met with Fr. Daniel F. Firmin, Vicar General, in Savannah. They met for well over an hour. The meeting was very friendly and informal. Fr. Firmin told Fr. Francis Mary that his local priest, Fr. Mark Van Alstine could accept him back into the RCC at which time Father would be a layman because his Orders of Ordination are not accepted by the RCC. Friar Francis Mary is waiting for time to see Fr. Mark. I have been given permission to start accepting candidates, living the Rule and Prayer Life. And follow the Constitution of the Order.
You have probably realized I mentioned crying on three occasions above. It is because it is emotional to me because I am very humbled by the situation and consider myself a most unworthy sinner to have been asked by Our Blessed Mother to do this. I have thanked the Blessed Mother for her trust and belief in me and I will give this endeavor all that I’ve got to give and then some. I love Our Blessed Mother more than anything in this world and will do what ever She asks of me.
Continuation: There was a short delay in Friar Francis returning to the RCC. On December 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Friar Francis Mary attended Mass that morning. That afternoon, I met with Fr Mark, made confession. Then, using the Code of Canon Law book, I made my Profession of Faith saying the entire version in Canon Law. Immediately I felt complete relief, my cross was finally lifted. I experienced a joy that is beyond explanation. I’m back home thanks to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. She will be very special and the Feast Day will be very special to me for the rest of my life and beyond.