Capistran Petrie, OFM
1901 – 1978
Fr. Capistran Petrie, OFM, was born May 25, 1901 in Attica, N.Y. After graduating from Canisius High School in Buffalo, N.Y., he entered St. Bonaventure College in Allegany, N.Y., intending to become a diocesan priest. Impressed by the friars at Bona’s, he entered the novitiate at St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J., in 1921, professing temporary vows one year later. He made his solemn profession in 1925 and was ordained in 1926.
His entire life was characterized by energy, ingenuity, and enthusiasm. Fr. Capistran possessed the “grace of working.” His first assignment took him to St. Bonaventure College where, besides teaching 28 hours a week, he held down the posts of athletic director, dormitory prefect, and pastor of the nearby parish in Knapp Creek. He also played a role in planning and constructing the St. Bonaventure golf course, and still found time to conduct 40 Hour Devotions in 20 parishes each year.
In 1932, Fr. Capistran became a member of the Province’s Mission Band, and spent three years preaching the Word of God in Western New York and Northwestern Pennsylvania. In 1935, he was appointed pastor and guardian of St. Joseph Parish in East Rutherford, N.J., and in 1937, he was appointed to the same positions at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City. While there, he initiated the novena to Our Lady of Sorrows with 23 services each day, attracting as many as 30,000 people. He also renovated the loft building at St. Francis Friary and expanded the parlor facilities.
From 1943 to 1946, Fr. Cappie served as guardian and pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Buffalo, N.Y. He was appointed Provincial Commissary of the Commissariat of St. John Capistran, and guided the commissariat through a difficult era of its history. Fr. Capistran returned to the Province in 1950 and served in the Bronx until he was appointed pastor and superior in Fair Lawn, N.J. There, he constructed a new church with a seating capacity of 1,600 and a convent for 37 sisters.
After seven years in Fair Lawn, Fr. Cappie ventured into his own type of parish mission ministry, which included taking a complete census in each parish. Through his census-taking, he contacted the lax, the alienated, and the troubled, and assisted thousands in their return to the Church. After his 65th birthday, he ministered as hospital chaplain in the Bronx, N.Y., and in Miami Beach, Fla. His final years of ministry were spent at Our Lady’s Chapel in New Bedford, Mass., where he worked full-time.
Even as a reluctant retiree in Allegany, N.Y., Fr. Cappie desired to work. In the hopes of keeping him occupied for an extended period of time, he was asked to commit his recollections to writing. In less than three weeks, he submitted a 250-page manuscript, which later appeared in the Provincial Annals.
He died on Nov. 8, 1978 at St. Francis Hospital in Olean, N.Y. Fr. Capistran was 77 years old, a professed friar for 56 years and a priest for 52 years.