RINGWOOD, N.J. — Bede Fitzpatrick, OFM, 96, a professed Franciscan friar for 68 years and a priest for 63, died Sept. 12 at Holy Name Friary.
A wake is being held Sept. 14 at 4 p.m. at Holy Name Friary, 2 Morris Rd., Ringwood. A viewing will take place from 9 to 10:15 a.m. the following day, with a Mass of Christian Burial planned for 10:30 a.m. on Sept. 15 at St. Anthony Church, 65 Bartholdi Ave., Butler, N.J. Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, will celebrate the Mass.
Bede was born on July 13, 1922 in Ellicottville, N.Y., to William and Loretto (née Kelly) and baptized there later that month. He attended the local grammar and high schools, graduating in 1939, before attending the University of Notre Dame.
While he was in college, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. After receiving his bachelor’s degree in English literature in 1942, Bede enlisted in the U.S. Navy and commanded a flotilla of landing craft during the Battle of Iwo Jima. After nearly two and a half years, he was honorably discharged and returned home to work for Fitzpatrick & Weller Inc., his father’s shoe business.
Soon after, he requested admittance into the Order of Friars Minor and was received into the novitiate at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., on Aug. 12, 1950, professing his first vows one year later. Bede professed his final vows as a Franciscan on Aug. 13, 1954 at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, N.Y., and was ordained the following year on June 9, 1955 at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C.
Bede began his first assignment in 1956 as an assistant at St. Joseph Parish in Winsted, Conn. Called to minister to the Japanese, whom he had fought while serving in the Pacific Theater during World War II, Bede began studying Japanese in 1957 at the Berlitz School of Language in New York, while continuing his ministry in Winsted and at Our Lady of the Angels Parish in Little Falls, N.J., from 1957 to 1958.
On Sept. 4, 1958, Bede was dispatched as a missionary to Japan, where he would serve for the next 55 years. After three years of studying Japanese in Tokyo, he was appointed assistant pastor of St. Francis Parish in Tomioka from March to September 1961, followed by a brief stint as administrator. In 1962, he served as a secretary at the Vatican Embassy in Tokyo, filling in for Callistus Sweeney, OFM.
Bede then began a long stretch of pastoral ministry – first as assistant pastor at the mission in Maebashi, Gumma-ken, from 1962 to 1963, and then as pastor of St. Joseph the Worker Parish in Fujioka from 1963 to 1967, before working for nine years as the first pastor of the Franciscan Chapel Center in Tokyo. In 1976, Bede was appointed superior of the Gumma Mission, a position in which he served for nine years. During that time, he also worked from 1982 to 1987 as pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Kiryu.
Bede’s next assignment was to St. Clare Parish in Ota, where he served as pastor from 1987 to 2008. In 2008, he returned to the Franciscan Chapel Center, where he also ministered to the Filipino Catholic community. In 2013, at the age of 91, Bede returned to the United States and retired at St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J. Three years later, he was assigned to Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J., where he died.
He is survived by his brother, Dana Fitzpatrick of Ellicottville, N.Y., and sister, Kathleen Widger of Salamanca, N.Y.
Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars – Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001-3202.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.
- “Butler Friary’s New Residents Adapt to Life in North Jersey” – Nov. 20, 2013, HNP Today
- “Mission Accomplished: Iwo Jia Veteran Who Became a Franciscan Missionary Comes Home” – Aug, 5, 2013, National Catholic Register
- “Franciscan Chapel Center Marks Earthquake and Tsunami Anniversary” – April 25, 2012, HNP Today
- “Provincial Minister Visits American Friars in Japan” – March 17, 2010, HNP Today
- “Franciscan Chapel Center: Ministry to Refugees” – Aug. 4, 2010, HNP Today