Thomas McGowan, OFM
1933 – 2011
Br. Thomas McGowan, OFM, was born May 21, 1933 in Lawrence, Mass. He attended St. Rita and St. Mary elementary schools, Central Junior High and Searls High School, both in Methuen, Mass., and graduated in 1951 from Lawrence, Mass., High School. After graduation, Br. Tom studied at Fannie Farmer’s School of Cooking in Boston and worked as an apprentice cook in a hospital until deciding on a religious vocation.
He reported to St. Stephen Friary in Croghan, N.Y., as a lay brother candidate in 1953 and was received as a tertiary brother that October. After a year and a half of training in Croghan, Br. Tom was received into the Order in 1956 at St. Raphael’s Novitiate in Lafayette, N.J. He professed first vows there one year later and made his solemn profession in 1960.
Following his profession, Br. Tom’s first assignment was to assist his classmate, Br. Romuald Chinetsky, OFM, in the kitchen at St. Joseph Friary in Callicoon, N.Y. He eventually took over as baker. In 1964, Br. Tom was assigned as porter at St. Patrick Friary in Buffalo, N.Y., and then in 1965 as cook at St. Raphael’s Novitiate.
In 1967, Br. Tom’s work shifted from the kitchen to the church when he became sacristan at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City. He served there for five years before working in the same capacity at St. Anthony Shrine in Boston from 1972 to 1979. Br. Tom was appointed vicar there in 1979 and guardian in 1981 at St. Anthony Residence across the street. In 1985, he returned to St. Anthony Shrine as sacristan.
His longtime service at Arch Street was interrupted for several years when he was asked to serve in 1994 as locum tenens at St. Francis Friary in Brookline, Mass., overseeing the property and finances of that house as it was placed for sale and then fulfilling the same role at St. Francis Friary in Rye Beach, N.H., from 1995 to 1996. Br. Tom returned to St. Anthony Shrine in 1996, serving until his retirement to St. Anthony Residence in 2011.
His life was marked by his love and devotion to his two families ¬— the Franciscan family and his natural family — and his fidelity to duty. Br. Tom was the first in the chapel for community morning prayers, his booming bass voice intoning the names of the friars whose anniversary of death were being recalled. He was always on the early shift as sacristan for Masses at the Shrine — there to greet the people, many of whom would stop and chat with him.
He died on May 21, 2011 at Tufts Medical Center in Boston. Br. Tom was 78 years old, a professed Franciscan friar for 54 years.