Thaddeus M Sapio, OFM
1938 – 2009
Fr. Thaddeus Sapio, OFM, was born on Aug. 7, 1938 in Haddonfield, N.J., and was baptized Raymond Nicholas. After completing eighth grade at the parish elementary school run by the Allegany Franciscan Sisters, he enrolled at St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y., in 1952, where he studied for six years.
In 1958, he was received into the Order at St. Raphael’s Novitiate in Lafayette, N.J., taking the name Thaddeus Michael. He professed first vows there one year later and professed solemn vows in 1962 at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, N.Y. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1965 at Mount St. Sepulchre, the Franciscan Monastery Church, in Washington.
He devoted almost his entire priestly life to parish ministry. Fr. Thaddeus’s first assignment following his ordination was parochial vicar at St. Francis Parish on Long Beach Island, N.J. He and his classmate, Fr. Owen McNally, OFM, led the process by which the parish became a team ministry in 1970.
After 17 happy and fruitful years on Long Beach Island, Fr. Thaddeus felt called to minister to the growing number of Latinos in the United States. This led him to be named to the Province’s first committee on Hispanic ministry in 1979. He spent a year of study preparing for this work at the Mexican-American Cultural Center in San Antonio. After completing that program, he went to St. Francis Retreat Center in Rye Beach as a member of the team.
When the Province was asked to accept the pastoral care of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Camden, N.J., in 1985, Fr. Thaddeus was assigned coordinator of the team ministry there. He did much to create a vibrant Franciscan presence in Camden. In 1992, he began planning a change of assignment to St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, but was asked to become pastor of St. Anthony Parish in Yulan, N.Y., following the death of Fr. Timothy Gritmon, OFM.
One year later, he was assigned as parochial vicar at Holy Cross Parish in the Bronx, N.Y., where he plunged into work with his customary intensity. He became responsible for the Secular Franciscans in 1994 and was named vicar of the community in 1996. During these years, Fr. Thaddeus had a great impact on the affiliates, or postulants, in the formation program. In addition to modeling the life of a true lesser brother, his listening ear provided a safe space for them to share their concerns and personal problems.
After 14 years of dedicated service in the Bronx, Fr. Thaddeus moved to St. Mary of the Angels Parish in Anderson, S.C., to assist with a rapidly growing Latino population. Though he was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, he continued to minister to the community there.
He died on Sept. 17, 2009 at the Hospice of the Upstate in Anderson. He was 71 years old, a professed friar for 50 years and a priest for 44 years.