Ralph Reilly, OFM
1900 – 1970
Fr. Ralph Reilly, OFM, was born in Fort Wayne, Ind., on Dec. 23, 1900. He entered the Province’s novitiate at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., Aug. 20, 1923, and professed temporary vows Aug. 21, 1924. Fr. Ralph made his profession of solemn vows Aug. 21, 1927, and was ordained a priest at St. Bonaventure College in Allegany, N.Y., Oct. 4, 1927.
With the exception of one year spent at St. Francis of Assisi Church on 31st Street in New York City, Fr. Ralph dedicated his entire Franciscan ministry to the Far East where he labored in China, Japan and Taiwan. He was one of the great missionaries of Holy Name Province.
He was the founding father of the Shasi Mission with Fr. Leo Ferrary, OFM, and he labored there from 1930 until 1952. He worked to develop the Shasi Mission during the invasions of the Japanese and the communist takeover, which eventually ousted all the friars from China.
After the Japanese war was over, Fr. Ralph found his 19 missions in shambles, but rebuilt each one of them. For 15 years, he served as superior regular in Shasi.
Fr. Ralph was a thin friar with a bundle of energy who ate like a horse, worked like two horses and was always wound up. His last two years in China were spent under house arrest. He then moved on to the new Holy Name Mission in Japan and built Holy Trinity Church in Shibukawa in Gumma Prefecture.
In 1959, Fr. Ralph was appointed delegate general for the Far East, encompassing Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and Macao. He envisioned a native Franciscan Province and built the Minor Seminary, novitiate and clericate in Taiwan. On July 15, 1970, Fr. Ralph arrived in Kao-shiung to substitute for the chaplain at St. Joseph Hospital.
He died there on July 17, 1970. Fr. Ralph was 69 years of age, a professed friar for 45 years and a priest for 42 years.