Gregory O’Donnell, OFM
1913 – 1997
Fr. Gregory O’Donnell, OFM, was born on March 30, 1913, in Rahway, N.J. He quit high school in during the Great Depression after a neighbor got him a job with AT&T, whose New York City headquarters on 7th Avenue was next door to the Province’s St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street; that proximity set the stage for his introduction to the Franciscans and the subsequent development of his religious vocation.
Fr. Gregory graduated from St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., and received into the Order in 1933 at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., and professed temporary vows the following year. In 1937, he professed solemn vows and was ordained a priest in 1941.
Fr. Gregory’s first assignment was back in New York at St. Francis Church. After one year there, he, along with several other friars, served in the Archdiocese of Newark, N.J., to alleviate the wartime shortage of parish priests. He helped the next three years at St. John’s Church in Jersey City.
In 1946, his desire to be a missionary was granted when we was assigned to the Province’s Brazilian mission, spending 12 years in the country serving as a parochial vicar, pastor and professor. He returned briefly to St. Francis Church before going back to Brazil for a final three years.
He is remembered as a friar with limitless patience for others, whose observations and off-hand comments about the human condition were both a delight to the ear and a joy to the spirit. Fr. Gregory was blessed with a quiet, sincere way of seeking out and encouraging friars who might be hurting.
Fr. Gregory began his 27th year of ministry in 1963 at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, where he remained until 1991 except for a one-year break as chaplain of St. Mary’s Hospital in Hoboken, N.J.
Upon his retirement from active ministry, he moved to Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J., where he died Aug. 5, 1997. Fr. Gregory was 84 years old, a professed friar for almost 63 years and a priest for 56 years.