ALBANY, N.Y. — Capistran Heim, OFM, 86, a professed Franciscan friar for 60 years and a priest for 54, died on Sept. 24 at Teresian House, where he had lived since early last year. He spent his entire religious life in missionary work, serving for more than 20 years as a bishop in Brazil. Capistran was considered an alumnus of Holy Name Province because, while ministering in Brazil, he transferred to Holy Name’s daughter province there in the 1980s.
The Reception of the Body is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Sept. 26 at St. Mary of the Angels Chapel on the campus of Siena College in Loudonville, New York, with a wake immediately following. A Mass of the Resurrection is scheduled for 10:45 a.m. on Sept. 26 at St. Mary of the Angels Chapel. Capistran will be buried at the friars’ plot at St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands, New York. Due to COVID-19 social distancing policies, registration for the wake and Mass is required. Registration information can be found on Siena’s website.
Capistran was born on Jan. 21, 1934 in Catskill, New York, to Joseph and Anna (née McEntee) and was baptized William Charles. He attended St. Patrick’s Academy in Catskill.
Before entering religious life, Capistran was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1954, serving three years as the Korean War was winding down. After his service, Capistran enrolled in Siena College near Albany, where he studied biology, planning to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. However, he then decided to pursue a religious vocation, entering the Franciscans’ seminary in Callicoon, New York.
He was received into the Order of Friars Minor at St. Raphael’s Novitiate in Lafayette, New Jersey, on July 14, 1959 and a year and a day later – on July 15, 1960, the feast of St. Bonaventure – he professed his first vows as a Franciscan. Like most student friars of that era, he studied at St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, as well as at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, New Hampshire, and Holy Name College in Washington, D.C. Capistran made his solemn profession before Donald Hoag, OFM, on Aug. 22, 1963 at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, New York. On Dec. 18, 1965, Capistran was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Dominic Coscia, OFM, at St. Francis of Assisi Church in New York City.
Capistran’s last two years of theological studies were done with the Franciscans in Petrópolis, Brazil, where he learned the Portuguese language and prepared to work in the Province’s mission in the state of Goiás, Brazil.
In 1967, Capistran was assigned to São Miguel do Araguaia, in Goiás, where he served until 1969 as a substitute and then assistant pastor. This began his 47 years of ministry in Brazil, where he held a variety of leadership roles.
From 1970 to 1975, Capistran served as executive secretary and vice custos of Holy Name Custody in Anápolis, Goiás, of which he became a member. The following year, from 1976 to 1977, he served as director of Rádio São Francisco, a Catholic radio station. He spent the next 10 years, from 1978 to 1988, serving as pastor at parishes in Catalão and Quirinópolis – named Our Lady Mother of God Church and Our Lady of the Abby respectively – each of which served roughly 20 chapels. In 1985, he spent a sabbatical year studying in Jerusalem.
In 1988, Capistran was ordained a bishop for the Prelacy of Itaituba in northern Brazil. He described the mission diocese, in an article published in The Anthonian magazine, as “a vast area the size of all of New York State plus all of New England with no paved roads, only eight priests, one brother and 12 sisters, all deeply committed to the missions.”
He served as bishop until 2011, when his resignation was accepted by the Vatican at age 77.
Capistran returned to the United States in April 2011 and lived at St. Bernardine of Siena Friary until 2014. From 2014 until 2016, he resided at St. Anthony Friary in Catskill, his hometown. For the next three years, Capistran lived at Holy Name Friary, the Province’s skilled nursing facility in Ringwood, New Jersey, and when it closed in March 2019, he moved to Teresian House.
Capistran is survived by a sister, Anne Heim of Leeds, New York, a brother, Joseph Heim of Catskill, and a nephew, Daniel.
Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars – Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001-3202.
— Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas
- “Visitor ban takes toll on NY nursing home residents, loved ones” – July 4, 2020, Albany Times Union
- “After 30 Years of Operation, Ringwood Skilled Nursing Facility Will Close” – Jan. 9, 2019, HNP Today
- “Friars Participate in Brazil Anniversary Celebration” – Aug. 8, 2018, HNP Today
- “Profile: Capistran Heim Marks 50 Years as a Friar” – July 7, 2010, HNP Today