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Franciscan conference exceeds expectations, positive outlook for renewed interest

Nov 2, 2018

On Friday, Oct. 26 the Colloquium on Culture and Religion in La Florida began with a Tibesar Lecture from Dr. John Worth of the University of West Florida. His presentation was titled, “Exploring the Franciscan Legacy in Spanish Florida: Historical and Archaeological Evidence.”

Franciscan missions map


This was the first of many sessions offered during the weekend conference which saw a higher than expected turnout with registration closing early due to capacity reached.

The conference itself was the third in a series that Franciscan scholars hope becomes a regular meeting for information on the topic to converge. Archaeologists, anthropologists, historians, linguists and theologians focused primarily on St. Augustine and northeast Florida.

The timing of the conference proved to be serendipitous as the archaeological site at Nombre de Dios was just recently reopened by Dr. Kathleen Deagan and a team of experts including: Flagler College Craig and Audrey Thorn Distinguished Professor of Religion Dr. Tim Johnson, Florida Public Archaeology Network Northeast and multiple Flagler College students and volunteers.

Conference attendees were able to visit the archaeological site which Johnson hopes “signals a renewed interest in the history of St. Augustine and promises to promote further interdisciplinary dialogue among scholars interested in the Franciscan imprint on La Florida.”

Students involved with the archaeological dig or the conference planning are hopeful as well, as one student saw the opportunity to participate as insightful from a unique perspective – she’s thinking of going into the Religious after graduation.

Student Hannah Simmons has not only been assisting Johnson with the study of the sacraments in the Catholic religion as part of her independent study, but after a study abroad experience to the Yucatan with Johnson and students from Flagler and a summer trip to Assisi, is thinking about joining a convent. This conference has introduced her to key scholars in the field of religious studies and key figures in the Catholic Church including Franciscan friars and the Diocese of St. Augustine Bishop Felipe J. Estévez.

“I have really enjoyed myself and (through this experience) have developed an understanding of Franciscan theology,” Simmons said.

Other students were able to have a hands-on experience with the conference as well. In addition, they are working with Johnson on translations of Spanish documents and the chronology of “The Aviles Accounts” and other documents pertaining to Franciscans in the Spanish Colonial Period.

As is the case with papers presented at prior conferences, the proceedings of this latest conference will be published.

For more information about the sessions offered, please visit

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