Seraphin Priestley, OFM
1906 – 1992
Fr. Seraphin Preistly, OFM, was born in Newark, N.J., on March 3, 1906. After graduating from high school, he attended Columbia University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in science. He continued his graduate studies at New York University and worked in the business world until the age 32, when he decided to become a Franciscan.
He studied at St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., as a belated vocation, entered the novitiate at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, N.J., on Aug. 12, 1939, and professed temporary vows Aug. 13, 1940. Fr. Seraphin made his profession of solemn vows Sept. 17, 1943, and was ordained a priest June 17, 1945.
Fr. Seraphin always wanted to be a missionary in China, and he spent his entire life in the Far East. He arrived in Peking in December 1946, and after a few months of language studies, he was assigned to work in the Procuration Office of the Order, which assisted all Franciscans working in China. He combined his training and experience in the world of finance with his Franciscan zeal and personal ingenuity to serve the Order and the Church for over forty years.
When expelled by the Communists, Fr. Seraphin went to Hong Kong, where he served as director of the Franciscan General Procuration and superior of the friary. He made daily trips to the Chinese border where he would meet and care for exiled missionaries. He spared neither time and money, nor energy and care for the exiled religious of many nations and varied religious groups.
Fr. Seraphin spent little time within the confines of Holy Name Province, but he loved his Province with a passion and was generous to it.
He was a joy-filled friar whose life of simplicity and charity was a legend among Franciscans throughout the Far East. Fr. Seraphin died in Hong Kong at St. Mary’s Home for the Aged in Aberdeen on May 17, 1992. He was 86 years old, a professed friar for 51 years and a priest for 46 years.