Stephen Lynch, OFM
1926 – 2014
Fr. Stephen Lynch, OFM, was born March 21, 1926 in New Britain, Conn. He attended the local parish’s grade school and graduated from New Britain Senior High School in 1944. Fr. Stephen then enlisted in the Army Air Force, serving in the transport command. He was discharged with the rank of corporal in 1946.
Fr. Steve knew about the Franciscans through his aunt, Sr. Victor, OSF, a Franciscan Sister of Allegany, N.Y. When he began thinking about a religious vocation, he headed to St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary, Callicoon, N.Y., in 1946, studying there for three years. He was received into the Order in 1949 at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., and given the name Juniper Michael. Fr. Steve professed temporary vows one year later, made his solemn profession in 1953 and was ordained in 1955.
After completing his theological education in 1956, Fr. Steve’s first assignment was as parochial vicar at St. Anthony’s Parish in Butler, N.J. One year later, he was sent to Japan as a missionary, where he served enthusiastically for two decades. After three years of linguistic and cultural formation at the Franciscan Language School in Tokyo, he served during the 1960s in the Province’s Gunma Ken mission at Isesaki, Shibukawa (where he was chaplain of a leper colony), Takasaki and Fujioka.
In 1970, Fr. Steve became assistant director of the Franciscan Chapel Center in downtown Tokyo, where he engaged in a wide variety of ministerial activities. It was there that he resumed the use of his baptismal name.
He returned to the United States in 1977 to update his theological education. He spent one year at the Franciscan School of Theology in Berkeley, Calif., where he said he felt “like Rip Van Winkle” upon his arrival, as he hadn’t yet experienced the tumultuous social movements that had transformed the U.S. since the 1950s. While in Berkeley, Fr. Steve gained new perspectives and a desire to work with young people. After receiving his master’s in theological studies, he became director of the Catholic Center at the University of South Carolina from 1978 to 1985.
In 1985, Fr. Stephen was appointed guardian and rector of St. Anthony Shrine in Boston. During his five years there, he launched a number of innovative programs and was deeply invested in adult faith formation, both as a teacher and as a writer of popular essays on a variety of topics. He was also active in the larger Church, serving as a member of the Presbyteral Council and Archdiocesan Synod.
He served for three years as guardian at St. Bernardine of Siena Friary in Loudonville, N.Y., before being appointed director of evangelization at St. Francis Chapel in Providence, R.I. There, Fr. Steve employed many of the same techniques he had developed in Boston, including writing a regular column in the Providence Journal. He also served as vicar of the friar community from 2002 to 2009. After returning to Boston for a month, Fr. Steve retired to St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., where he continued his writing activities. He transferred to Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J., in 2013.
When Fr. Steve passed away, many friars commented on his kindness, joy and compassion toward all. His enthusiasm for spreading the Gospel message was boundless.
He died on Jan. 3, 2014, the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus — fitting for a friar who was totally dedicated to the Province. Fr. Steven was 87 years old, a professed Franciscan friar for 63 years and a priest for 58 years.