Philip Nielsen, OFM
1920 – 2013
Fr. Philip Nielsen, OFM, was born April 15, 1920 in Montreal, Canada, to U.S. citizens Edward and Helen. He received his early education in that city. Following his father’s death in 1932, Fr. Philip’s mother moved back to her home town of Somerville, Mass., where he completed elementary school education at St. Joseph’s parochial school and attended Somerville High School for two years.
Discerning a religious vocation, he entered St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., in 1937, where he completed high school and the first two years of college. He entered the Order in 1942 at St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J., and professed temporary vows there one year later. Fr. Phil made his solemn profession in 1946 and was ordained in 1948.
During his years of initial formation, Fr. Phil completed a master’s degree in English at St. Bonaventure University, Allegany, N.Y. His first assignment in 1949 was to the faculty of Bishop Timon High School, Buffalo, N.Y. He taught English and religion there until 1953, when he was asked to be assistant to the editor of the newly created Friar magazine. Fr. Phil, who had a gift for popular writing, would remain connected with the magazine until it ceased publication in 1979.
The Friar staff first resided in an old mansion in Rochelle Park, N.J., which provided both living quarters and offices. They moved to St. Anthony Friary, Butler, N.J., in 1961. Besides doing writing, Fr. Phil served as subscription manager in the magazine’s early years and, in the later years, treasurer. He also was guardian of St. Anthony Friary from 1966 to 1973.
In addition to his dedicated work on Friar, Fr. Phil directed a Third Order Fraternity at St. Francis Hospital in Jersey City, N.J., from 1956 to 1970. In 1963, he became a regular confessor for the novices at St. Raphael’s Friary in Lafayette, N.J. He also began a part-time ministry as a retreat master, first at St. Bonaventure’s Friary in Paterson from 1975 to 1980, and then at St. Anthony’s in Butler from 1978 to 1989. This became his fulltime ministry when Friar ceased operations.
Although conservative in his theological approach, Fr. Phil was open to considering new developments and took advantage of opportunities for ongoing education. He participated in The Word of God Institute and was awarded an M.Div. degree by Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, N.J., in 1981.
In 1979, Fr. Philip began an association with the Franciscan Sisters of St. Elizabeth in Parsippany, N.J., hearing confessions, offering conferences and retreats, and giving classes on various subjects. When their chaplain was transferred in 1988, the sisters asked the Province if Fr. Phil could assume that responsibility. In 1989, he moved to the chaplain’s residence in Parsippany, remaining in that position for almost two decades before he moved to Holy Name Friary, Ringwood, N.J., in 2008.
He died there on July 21, 2013. Fr. Phil was 93 years old, a professed Franciscan friar for 69 years and a priest for 65 years.