Declan Bailey, OFM
1913 – 2005
Fr. Declan Bailey, OFM, was born in Lee, Mass., on Dec. 14, 1913. In 1934, he entered St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., graduating in 1938.
That year, he was received into the Franciscan Order at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., and professed first vows in 1939. Fr. Declan made his solemn profession in 1942 at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C. In 1944, he was ordained a priest in the Church of Mount Sepulchre in Washington.
Fr. Declan’s first assignment was to the vocation counseling center at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. A year later, he became secretary to the Provincial Minister, and held that position until 1952, when he was appointed as the assistant pastor and vicar at Holy Cross Church in the Bronx. He also served as procurator and professor of homiletics at Holy Name College from 1955 to 1958.
Returning to New York in 1958, Fr. Declan became the director of the Pious Union and of three Secular Franciscan groups in the Philadelphia area. Two years later, he became the commissary for the Secular Franciscan fraternities south of Washington, and subsequently, he became the commissary for all the Province’s fraternities, working out of St. Francis Friary in New York.
Throughout those years, Fr. Declan was also very active in the Cana conferences for married couples, directing more than 100 in many parts of the Eastern United States. In 1966, he was asked to conduct Cana conferences for the U.S. Air Force families in England and Germany.
At the request of the General Minister, Fr. Declan was appointed Economo General of the Order at the General Curia in Rome in 1967. Following his service in Rome, he served as an assistant at Sacred Heart Parish, Rochelle Park, N.J., and as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in West Milford, N.J. He also served as guardian of the retreat house in Paterson, N.J., and as chaplain to the Franciscan Sisters of the Poor in Warwick, N.Y.
After spending 10 years on a personal assignment in Stuart, Fla., Fr. Declan moved to St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he continued his involvement with the Secular Franciscans, a ministry he enjoyed for nearly 40 years.
Many of older friars of the Province recall Fr. Declan’s nickname, “Tricksy,” for his bag of tricks with which he entertained both friars and many lay groups. He was a born showman who dabbled in magic tricks for the enjoyment of all. He often combined his love for public speaking and the slight of hand of the magician. Fr. Declan had spent his entire life sharing his Franciscan love for the Word, the Eucharist and the spirit of prayer and devotion.
In January 1999, he was transferred to Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J.
He died March 1, 2005, at Holy Name Friary. Fr. Declan was 91 years old, a professed friar for 65 years and a priest for 60 years.