Philip A. Lavere, OFM
1920 – 2002
Fr. Philip Lavere, OFM, 81, a professed Franciscan for 60 years and a priest for 54, died May 7, 2002, at Holy Name Friary, Ringwood, N.J. The friar of considerable innovative impact on the ministry of the spoken word died of heart failure brought on by complications of throat cancer.
Fr. Philip was born in Oswego, N.Y., on Sept. 23, 1920, to Louis and Mary Lavere. Baptized James in St. Paul’s Church, he graduated from St. Paul’s Academy and Oswego High, and attended St. Michael’s College in Toronto, Ontario, before joining the Order.
He was received into the novitiate at St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J., Aug. 12, 1940, and a year later professed first vows there, both witnessed by Provincial Minister Fr. Jerome Dawson, OFM. He studied philosophy at St. Stephen’s, Croghan, N.Y., and St. Anthony’s, Butler, N.J., followed by theological studies at Holy Name College, Washington, D.C., where he professed solemn vows Sept. 17, 1944, before Provincial Minister Fr. Bertrand Campbell, OFM. He was ordained a priest in the in the church of the Franciscan Monastery, Mount St. Sepulchre, in Washington, D.C., on June 14, 1947, by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Amleto Cicognani, the apostolic delegate.
Fr. Philip’s first assignment was at Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y., as instructor in religion and aide in the library and bookstore from 1947 to 1953. From 1953 to 1956, he served as assistant at St. Anthony Shine in Boston, then moved to New Bedford, Mass., as one of the two founding friars of Our Lady’s Chapel in a store-front location. His preaching talents led nearly 25 years as a retreat minister, variously assigned to St. Raphael’s, Lafayette, N.J.; St. Francis Friary, New York; and Holy Name College.
In 1970, Fr. Philip moved back to St. Francis Friary, where he continued to give retreats but also assumed normal duties in the friary church. His last active assignment was to St. Anthony Shrine in 1984. In June 1999, he spent a month at Holy Name Friary, moved back to Boston, then returned permanently to Ringwood in July 2001, where he completed his earthly journey.
During his final stay in New York, Fr. Philip established a telephone apostolate known as The Good Word. Callers could hear him deliver a daily inspirational message designed to raise people’s hopes. Cancer of the larynx ended his vocal participation in the apostolate but did not dim his vision for The Good Word. Fr. Philip continued to write the daily messages, recruiting new friars to read and manage other details. The ministry is still active, responding to an average of 250 calls a day. Fr. Philip also began The Good Word ministry in Boston in 1984.
After a wake service at Ringwood, the body was transported to Boston, where Fr. Philip had requested to be buried. The final obsequies were held in the upper church of St. Anthony Shrine, where Fr. Raymond Mann, OFM, conducted another wake service and spoke a eulogy. Provincial Vicar Fr. Charles Miller, OFM, celebrated the Mass of Christian Burial, assisted by the homilist, Fr. Matthew Conlin, OFM, and Fr. John Ullrich, OFM.
Fr. Philip’s attractive voice marked his ministry and fraternal life. Even after many years of carrying the cross of laryngeal cancer, his native generosity of spirit was alien to any hint of discouragement or self-pity. As Fr. Raymond said at the wake, if you divide the world into spectators and participants, Fr. Philip would be counted as a full-time participant, one of those who sustain and encourage others along the way. Fr. Matthew added in the homily, “Phil’s example reminds us all that we must rise to the challenges which life tosses in our way and accept them with dignity, even with love.”
Fr. Philip is survived by his two brothers, Vincent and Walter, his sister, Geneva, and twelve nieces and nephews.