Switzerland: Capuchins Close Olten Convent Founded in 1646

Source: FSSPX News

The Swiss Capuchin Hilarin Felder, on pontifical mission to the Teutonic order

The Capuchins permanently closed their convent in Olten, after 378 years of presence in the old town, on June 10, 2024. The building was handed over to the canton of Solothurn, which is the new tenant.

The departure was inevitable. The last six capuchins still present in the convent were all over 80 years old. They left for other Swiss Capuchin communities: Wil (Saint-Gall), Schwyz, Lucerne, and Delémont (Jura).

The Swiss province still has ten monasteries, notes cath.ch. While it brought together 820 brothers in 1962 (including novices) and was for some time the largest in the Capuchin order, in 2006 it only had 234 members divided into 24 establishments. There are less than a hundred of them today.

The Capuchin Order in Switzerland

The Capuchin order was approved in 1528 by Pope Clement VII. Its aim was to rediscover the Franciscan ideal: respect for the rule, real poverty, and eremitism, at least in the beginning. It soon spread to Switzerland where the Capuchins wanted to revive the Franciscan spirit, severely tested by the Reformation. The first convent was founded near Lugano in 1535.

After Ticino, the Capuchins spread throughout Switzerland. They actively participated in the Counter-Reformation and first expanded into the cantons of German-speaking Switzerland, but very quickly in French-speaking Switzerland, they founded St. Maruice Convent in 1610, and that of Sion in 1631.

The entry in the Historical Dictionary of Switzerland recalls that “the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, Mediation [imposed by Napoleon. Ed.] (reception of novices prohibited), the Sonderbund [war between Catholic cantons and Protestant cantons. Ed.] and the Kulturkampf caused some closures of convents and a reduction in numbers (252 members in 1857).”

But the trend ended up being reversed at the end of the 19th century, with new foundations or re-foundations. The Capuchins were very active in internal missions and were even entrusted with foreign missions. In 1921, the Holy See entrusted them with the mission of Tanzania and the Seychelles. The Olten Convent was a mission base for Africa, Indonesia, and South America.

As for the future of the Olten Convent, which remains the property of the order, the city of Olten and the canton of Solothurn have signed a rental contract until the end of 2026. As cath.ch explains: “The city can use the premises or sublet them and it must manage the buildings and gardens. Rental is done ‘free of charge’” according to the canton.

What the persecutions had failed to achieve was unfortunately achieved by the crisis generated by the Second Vatican Council. Even if we cannot say that it is the only cause of the loss of vocations and the secularization of society, it is certain that it has contributed significantly to it.