Francis Koch, OFM
1843 – 1920
Fr. Francis Koch, OFM, was born Jan. 15, 1843 in Sargenzell, Germany. He received the Franciscan habit in Fulda in 1861, professing temporary vows one year later. He made his solemn profession in 1865 and was ordained in 1866.
Nine years later in 1875, he left Germany during the Kulturkampf and came to America with five Fulda friars. He was a pioneer friar in Croghan, N.Y., where he developed six missions and established four missions out of Mohawk Hill. While organizing the foundations of St. Anthony Parish in Butler, N.J., he built churches in nearby Little Falls and West Milford, and cared for missions in Hawthorne, Midvale and Pompton Lakes, N.J.
Fr. Francis was the pioneer friar in Denver, where he established more than 20 Catholic parishes. St. Elizabeth Church in Denver was built because of his determination and fundraising. In 1901, he was chosen to be one of the first Provincial Councilors of the newly established Holy Name Province, and he became rector of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City. After one year of semi-retirement in Fulda, he returned to New Jersey at age 63 and undertook the work of Church extension in North Jersey.
St. Mary’s Church in Pompton Lakes was the first of 23 churches which Fr. Francis built during the final 14 years of his life, not including the many small mission churches he preserved, rebuilt or provided with the necessities of pastoral life. He was responsible for the establishment of ministries in Pompton Lakes, Greenwood Lake, Wanaque, Fair Lawn, Wyckoff, Elmwood Park, Lincoln Park, Ringwood and Rochelle Park, N.J., to name but a few.
In 1914, he built St. Anthony Friary in Butler, where he died on Feb. 5, 1920. Fr. Francis was 77 years old, a professed friar for 57 years and a priest for 53 years. He was known as the “Beloved Mendicant,” and the “Beggar for Christ.”