Stephen Hartdegen, OFM
1907 – 1989
Fr. Stephen Hartdegen, OFM, was born on June 16, 1907 in Philadelphia. Five of his family members became Franciscan religious. His brother, Fr. Leander, entered the Order three years before Fr. Stephen, and three of his sisters became Glen Riddle Franciscans. At age 13, he attended St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y. He entered the novitiate at St. Bonaventure Friary, Paterson, N.J., in 1925, professing temporary vows one year later. He made his solemn profession in 1929 and was ordained in 1932.
After a brief stint at St. Anthony Friary, Butler, N.J., as master of clerics from 1933 to 1935, the Province sent Fr. Stephen abroad to pursue graduate studies in Scripture. He received his licentiate of sacred scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute in 1938, and then spent one year at the Franciscan Biblical Institute in Jerusalem, returning to Holy Name College in 1939. He remained there for the next 50 years.
Fr. Stephen taught primarily the New Testament at Holy Name College until 1968. Probably his greatest single work was that which resulted in the translation ad publication of the New American Bible. In 1944, he was appointed executive secretary of the board of editors, a position he held until 1970, when the completed translation was published after 25 years of work by 51 scholars. His photo appeared on page one of The New York Times, and he received the “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifce” medal from Pope Paul VI.
He served as chairman of the American Franciscan Liturgical Commission from 1964 to 1970. Fr. Stephen revised the common calendar of Franciscan saints and the calendar of the Order of Friars Minor. He also completed the revision of texts for the Missale and Breviarium for the Order. Fr. Stephen served as editor-in-chief of the American Interim Breviary, The Prayer of Christians, published in 1971.
He was also dedicated to the spread of Franciscan charism among the laity. Fr. Stephen founded an American branch of the Franciscan Secular Institute, the Missionaries of the Kingship of Christ, and, for 40 years, he provided inspiration and spiritual direction to its members. In the midst of all his activities, Fr. Stephen was always a quiet, unpretentious friar, totally dedicated to the ideals of the Gospel and the Rule and life of St. Francis of Assisi. His own understanding of minoritas was deeply rooted within him, and was the foundation of his life. He spent his entire Franciscan life announcing “spirit and life” to countless laypeople, religious, priests and friars.
He died on Dec. 19, 1989 at Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J. Fr. Stephen was 82 years old, a professed friar for 63 years and a priest for 57 years.