Mathias Will, OFM
1905 – 1998
Br. Mathias Will, OFM, was born April 1, 1905, in Fulda, Germany, the seat of the Thuringian St. Elizabeth Province, the parent foundation of Holy Name Province. He was 21 when he arrived on the New York City dock and was met by Fr. Mathias Faust, OFM, and Br. Bentivolius Lotz, OFM, who had been alerted by Fr. Mathias’ father of his arrival.
Fr. Mathias arranged for Br. Mathias lodging and got him his first job. At one point, he worked for four years at the Jesuit house of studies at St.-Andrews-on-the-Hudson. But the job that put him on track toward the religious life was at the old Governor Clinton Hotel, across the street from St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City. Br. Gabriel Mehler, OFM, knew Br. Mathias’ parents from Fulda. At some point Br. Gabriel questioned him about his future and suggested giving the Order a try.
On Aug. 4, 1933, Fr. Gerard McGlynn, OFM, enrolled Br. Mathias as a 28-year-old Tertiary Brother at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J. On Aug. 12, 1935, he was received into the novitiate by fourth-term Provincial Minister Fr. Mathias, who later received his temporary vows on Aug. 13, 1936. Fr. Jerome Dawson, OFM, the next Provincial Minister, witnessed his solemn vows at Holy Name College, Washington, D.C., on Sept. 17, 1939.
Br. Mathias was a good example of the jack-of-all-trades capacities of the German brothers whose roots were in Fulda. A trained butcher, he also served the friars as cook, maintenance man, tailor, porter and sacristan in six different friaries (St. Bonaventure’s in Paterson, St. Stephen’s in Croghan, N.Y., St. Bonaventure College in Allegany, N.Y., St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., St. Raphael in Lafayette, N.J., and St. Stephen of Hungary in New York City).
His last active assignment was also his longest — 24 years (1973 to 1997) as sacristan at St. Stephen of Hungary Church. In 1997, he retired to St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Fla., until April 1998, when he moved to Holy Name Friary, Ringwood, N.J.
Br. Mathias died May 16, 1998, at Holy Name Friary. He was 93 years old and a professed Franciscan for 63 years.