The consequences of the development of the “Africa Project” form part of the contemporary chronicle which is probably already known by our readers. I will limit myself to some of the more important or significant moments. Br. Giacomo Bini, already in the final months of his mandate, was elected Minister General during the General Chapter (May 1997). Inspired by his personal experience, he wished to open an international fraternity in Brussels in 2000 for the preparation of new missionaries, especially for those to Africa, but also for the projects of the Order in Asia. Meanwhile, in the Vice-Province they were trying to reconstruct the Franciscan presence in Rwanda and to orient and encourage the Friars to follow a possible common line. This task had a significant moment during the reflection of the Provincial Chapter of 1997, where the assembly made the effort to take on once again the spirit of the Africa Project.
In the same Chapter, Br. Jacques St-Yves (1997-2004), a Canadian and long-time missionary in Peru, was elected Minister Provincial. He had joined the Vice-Province of the Island of Mauritius in 1998. From then on it was called “The Vice-Province of St. Francis in Africa, Madagascar and the Island of Mauritius”, comprising nine countries, and it became a “Province” with the new General Statutes of 2004.
It is important to add that during this first period of the “Africa Project” the Franciscan Family also developed. In every country of the Vice-Province there were Poor Clare Sisters (the final group arrived in Kenya), who had good relations and exchanges of services with the Friars. Br. Joseph Massana was the animator of the French-speaking Poor Clares for many years.
By 1989 there were also 36 communities of Franciscan Brothers and Sisters of the Third Order Regular, some of African foundation, to which the Friars gave spiritual assistance. In addition, wherever the Friars worked, groups of Franciscan Tertiaries were born. A special mention is reserved for the great development of the Secular Franciscan Order in Tanzania, thanks to the tireless work of Br. Valerio Berloffa, and also in Malawi, through the work of Br. André Comtois.
Thanks to the support of the Friars, the Secular Institute of the Missionaries of the Royalty of Christ, founded in Italy by Br. A. Gemelli, spread throughout Africa, especially in Malawi, Burundi and Rwanda. But the great animator of the Franciscan Family was Br. Heinrich Gockel, who developed bonds and formation between the various Franciscan Congregations in Kenya and in the whole of English-speaking Africa and in 2001 he could inaugurate, in Nairobi, a Centre for the Franciscan Family called “Porziuncola”.