Maurice Swartout, OFM
1924 – 2013
Br. Maurice Swartout, OFM, was born Sept. 18, 1924 in Boonville, N.Y. He attended public schools there, graduating in 1942 from Boonville High School. Br. Moe first met the Franciscans after attending a parish mission that two friars preached while he was in high school. Impressed by their warm, down-to-earth approach, he applied to the Province after graduation as a candidate for the brotherhood.
He arrived in 1943 at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J. After two years of training, he was received into the novitiate there in 1945, professing first vows one year later. Br. Moe remained in Paterson after profession, serving as sacristan, bookbinder and cabinetmaker.
During this time, the Province opened its mission in Brazil, and Br. Moe was quickly attracted to the idea of serving there. After professing solemn vows in 1949, he requested to go to Brazil. In 1950, his wish was fulfilled and Br. Moe arrived in Anápolis, Goiâs, where for 15 years he directed a cabinetmaking shop, making thousands of school desks, as well as other furniture for the churches and friaries of the mission.
His outstanding dedication to work, prayer and community life clearly recommended him for a ministry in initial formation. After his return to the U.S. in 1965, Br. Moe was appointed assistant director of the brothers’ training school at St. Stephen’s Friary in Croghan, N.Y., which was moved to St. Francis Friary in Rye Beach, N.H., in 1967.
Later that year, he was appointed vicar of the friar community there, the first brother in the history of the Province to be named to such a leadership position. In 1971, when St. Francis Friary in Brookline, Mass., became the novitiate house, Br. Moe was named to the formation team and vicar of the community.
In the early 1970s, documents like “The Vocation of the Order Today” were urging friars to seek new, creative ways of expressing Franciscan life and ministry. In 1974, Br. Moe, along with several other friars, received permission to begin an intentional community in East Boston, Mass., where they could focus on their fraternal life while responding to the needs of the people.
During his 15 years there, Br. Moe worked at the New England Aquarium to bring in a salary, opened a large neighborhood thrift store, began a “drop-in” center for local residents and gathered a Secular Franciscan fraternity. In 1987, he was appointed regional spiritual assistant for the New England Secular Franciscans.
In 1989, Br. Moe sensed that it was time for a change and moved to St. Patrick Friary in Buffalo, N.Y., as a pastoral associate. Over the years, he became a mainstay of the ministries of Saints Rita and Patrick Parish, which merged in 2007 into the new St. Clare’s Parish. He was especially attentive to senior citizens and the Secular Franciscans. He also served as vicar of the friar community and guardian from 2005 to 2008. Although he official retired in 2011, Br. Moe continued to be very active, and his death was a sudden blow to the Buffalo community.
He died on July 15, 2013 at Mercy Hospital in Buffalo. Br. Moe was 88 years old, a professed Franciscan friar for 67 years.