Robert Lynch, OFM
1917 – 2013
Fr. Robert Lynch, OFM, was born June 15, 1917 in Philadelphia. He attended Transfiguration Elementary School and attended daily Mass with his mother as a child, where he felt the call to become a priest. After completing eighth grade, Fr. Bob wanted to join the Franciscans at St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., but his father felt that it was too far away. Instead, Fr. Bob was sent to St. Joseph Prep School in Philadelphia for a year before his father relented.
Fr. Bob enrolled at the Callicoon seminary in 1932 and was received into the Order in 1937 at St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J. He professed temporary vows there one year later, made his solemn profession in 1941 and was ordained in 1943.
He began his life of joyful service as a parochial vicar, first at St. Joseph Parish in Winsted, Conn., from 1944 to 1947 and then Holy Cross Parish in the Bronx, N.Y., from 1947 to 1949. After that, he put his talents to work as a member of the Province’s Mission Band, preaching parish missions and retreats. From 1949 to 1956, he continued living at Holy Cross Friary, except for one year he spent assisting the Western Mission Band, based at St. Elizabeth Friary in Denver.
In 1956, the Province sent Fr. David Fleming, OFM, Fr. Bob’s classmate, to open Our Lady’s Chapel in New Bedford, Mass. Fr. Bob also moved there, beginning a great ministerial association with Fr. David in New England that would continue for the next half-century. For eight years, Fr. Bob continued his preaching ministry, helping out at the chapel when free. Then, in 1964, he returned to St. Joseph Parish in Winsted as guardian and pastor.
Three years later, Fr. Bob was named guardian and rector of St. Anthony Shrine, Boston. He was asked “to revitalize the fraternity and the shrine service at Arch Street” and did his best to do so. Expanding the ministry, in 1969, he opened a chapel in the Prudential Center, where he served as director until 1973. When he finished his term as guardian of the Shrine later that year, he continued residing there as assistant director of the Prudential Center Chapel for the next decade.
His other major accomplishment in Boston was his attention to the growing number of the Province’s senior friars. Fr. Bob supervised the renovation of the original shrine at 103 Arch Street into St. Anthony Residence for retired friars, which opened in 1971. When the Province withdrew from the Prudential Chapel ministry in 1983, Fr. Bob moved into the retirement friary himself. He was named vicar that year and in 1988, was asked to assume the responsibility of guardian, continuing in that role until 1996.
In the mid 1980s, he and Fr. David were tasked with raising funds and finding property for an infirmary facility for older friars. The fruit of their efforts became the construction of Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J., that became Fr. Bob’s last home, when he moved from St. Anthony Residence in 2008. He was a friar who excelled at showing kindness to everyone, especially the sick.
He died on Aug. 13, 2013 at Holy Name Friary. Fr. Bob had been a professed Franciscan friar for 75 years to the day and a priest for 70 years.