The Friars Minor arrived in Madagascar in 1961, coming from France, to which the large island had been linked from the time of colonialism, opening a mission of the Province of Lyon. At the beginning of the “Africa Project”, the Friars who were in Madagascar asked the Definitory of Lyon to be bearers at the General Curia of their desire to be integrated into the “Africa Project of the Order, though recognising that Madagascar constituted a special reality in respect to the African continent. The Definitory in Lyon favourably accepted the request because the French Province had difficulties in sending new missionaries and because there were already six novices and some postulants in Madagascar and the establishment of the Franciscan Order was desired.
The Council of the Vicariate accepted the request of the Friars in Madagascar in March 1984, but requested a period of exchange, reflection and also of trial. At the beginning of 1985 the superior of the Friars in Madagascar, Br. Augustin Paré, was permitted to participate in the Council of the Vicariate as an observer. At that time the mission in Madagascar had 8 solemnly professed, of whom 7 were foreigners and one from Madagascar (Br. Jules Razakasoa), one temporary professed (Br. Jean-Désiré Rasolofoarimanana) and 6 novices. Through a decree of the 6th June 1985, the Minister General, during the General Chapter of Assisi, officially decided on the entry of Madagascar into the “Africa Project” through an agreement between the Vicariate of St. Francis in Africa and the Province of St. Bernadine. The latter continued to help the Friars in Madagascar by sending some Friars, as far as was possible, with material help and through spiritual solidarity.
When the mission of Madagascar entered the Vicariate it already had three fraternities, in Andraikiba and Soavantanina in the city of Antsirabe and in the capital, Antananarivo. The union added 10 solemnly professed, 4 temporary professed and 8 novices . The Chapter of 1986 decided to add the new mission to the name of the Vicariate which then became known as “The Vicariate of St. Francis in Africa and Madagascar”.
The first French missionaries arrived to carry out evangelisation in the “brousse” and to establish the Church. The Friars still had a pastoral “department” in the countryside and a parish on the periphery of Antsirabe in 1986. But their energies were already reserved for the formation of young men from Madagascar to the Franciscan Order. In 1988, in the house of Soavantanina, there were 2 temporary professed, 3 postulants and 8 aspirants. Another 5 aspirants lived in the filial house of “San Damiano” a short distance away. The Novitiate, with 6 novices, was in Andraikiba. 6 temporary professed students of philosophy or of technical-professional subjects were living in Antananarivo.
To facilitate accompaniment of the young Friars, the fraternities which were in Madagascar were set up as a Foundation of the Vice-Province, with a certain autonomy in ordinary administration and with the presence of all stages of initial formation.