Roch Coogan, OFM
1928 – 2013
Fr. Roch Coogan, OFM, was born Nov. 18, 1928 in Haverhill, Mass. He was raised in Norwich, Conn., where he finished elementary school and attended Norwich Free Academy for a year. In 1943, he entered St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary, Callicoon, N.Y., where he completed high school and the first years of college.
He was received into the novitiate in 1948 at St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J., and professed simple vows there one year later. He made his solemn profession in 1952 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1954.
His first assignment after completing theology in 1955 was parochial vicar at Holy Name Parish in Garfield, N.J., where he served two years. He then spent a year on the pastoral staff of St. Francis Chapel in Providence, R.I., from 1957 to 1958. In November 1958, Fr. Roch began a six-year stint as an active-duty chaplain in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at various bases in the U.S. and abroad. He attained the rank of colonel, and for his exceptional service, he received the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
After leaving active duty in 1964, Fr. Roch remained in the Air Force Ready Reserve until 1988. He returned to parish work as parochial vicar at St. Anne’s Parish in Fair Lawn, N.J., for three years, and then served as pastor of St. Leo’s Parish in Elmwood Park, N.J., from 1967 to 1973. There, he vigorously implemented the Vatican II renewal, renovating the church for the new liturgy and organizing a parish council, as well as making a number of substantial renovations to the parish plant. That same year, he earned a master’s degree in counseling from Iona College, New Rochelle, N.Y.
In 1973, at the invitation of Sr. Gladys Sharkey, OSF, Fr. Roch moved to the South to found the Pastoral Care Department at St. Anthony’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. Professional pastoral care was a relatively new concept in hospital administration at the time, and Fr. Roch excelled at this position. He quickly adapted to the more relaxed Southern style of life and remained deeply committed to the Province’s ministries in Florida and Georgia for the next 40 years.
In 1981, Fr. Roch left St. Anthony’s to take a sabbatical at the North American College in Rome. Afterward, he was named to special duty for the U.S. Air Force, serving until July 198. He was then appointed pastor of St. Mary Parish in Americus, Ga., until 1985, when he became campus minister at Georgia State University in Atlanta. Two years later, he was appointed pastor of Our Divine Savior Parish in Tifton, Ga., where he served for six years.
Fr. Roch was appointed guardian of St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg, Fla., in 1993. Besides his attentive care of the senior friars, Fr. Roch created a cloister garden and a green area at the back of the parking lot for the enjoyment of the friars and integrity of creation. In 1999, Fr. Roch joined the Province’s Southern Ministry of the Word team, residing at St. James Friary in Belleair Bluffs, Fla. He returned to St. Anthony Friary in 2004 as senior associate.
The following year, he joined the team of friars who took over the ministry of Sacred Heart Parish in Tampa, Fla. However, declining health forced him to move back to St. Petersburg in 2006. He continued to keep up ministerial activity, serving as part-time chaplain at the Bay Pines Veterans Administration Medical Center until 2009 and at the House of Prayer of the Marian Servants of Divine Providence.
He died on Aug. 1, 2013 at St. Anthony’s Hospital. Fr. Roch was 84 years old, a professed Franciscan friar for 63 years and a priest for 58 years.