Francis J. Matthews, OFM
1959 – 2008
Fr. Francis J. Matthews, OFM, was born on Oct. 4, 1959 in Syracuse, N.Y. He was educated in local Catholic schools, graduating in 1977 from St. John the Baptist Academy in Syracuse. He then enrolled at Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1981.
Having discerned a religious vocation during college, Fr. Francis entered the Province’s pre-novitiate program at St. Patrick Friary in Buffalo upon graduation. He was received into the Order June 17, 1982, at St. Francis Friary in Brookline, Mass., making his first profession of vows there on June 4, 1983. He then studied theology at the Washington Theological Union in Silver Spring, Md.
During his years of formation, Fr. Francis manifested his strong commitment to ministry among marginalized people and the work of justice and peace. On June 20, 1987, he made his solemn profession at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York. He received a master’s in theology from the WTU in 1988, and was ordained to the priesthood on September 10, 1988 at St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring.
Even before his ordination, Fr. Francis volunteered to minister in the Missionary Province of St. Anthony in Bolivia, where he worked from 1988 to 1992. In January 1992, he returned to the United States, serving briefly at St. Anthony Parish in Camden, N.J., before being assigned in June 1992 to St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City as parochial vicar and director of the St. Francis AIDS Ministry.
During these years, Fr. Francis achieved his long-standing desire to pursue legal studies, receiving his J.C.D. from Fordham University in 1999. He was admitted to the bar that year, with a certificate in International Humanitarian Law. However, later that same year, Fr. Francis was granted permission for a leave of absence for vocational discernment, working at various legal positions in New York and New Jersey during the following years.
Fr. Francis’s discernment process led him to return to church ministry in 2004, when he settled in his hometown of Syracuse to engage work with the diocesan legal aid office. In 2006, he returned as an active member of Holy Name Province, while continuing his work in Syracuse. He was anticipating an assignment to a ministry in the Province following the 2008 Chapter, but died suddenly in his apartment in Liverpool, N.Y., on May 29, 2008.
A zealous advocate for a new and better world in the spirit of the Gospel, Fr. Francis was a professed Franciscan for 25 years and a priest for 19 years. He was 48 years old.