ALLEGANY, N.Y. — After 48 years, John Lambert Rowan, OFM, is again among his brothers. On Aug. 3, his remains were moved from the small cemetery on the grounds of Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, New York — where they had lain since his death in 1972 — to the friars’ plot in St. Bonaventure Cemetery in Allegany.
Jim Vacco, OFM, pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish and part-time instructor at the seminary, oversaw the move. It took place because Christ the King Seminary ceased operations earlier this year, and the property may well be sold, especially in light of the fact that the Diocese of Buffalo has declared bankruptcy. Hence, the deceased persons who were buried at the seminary over the years have to be reinterred in other places.
The exhuming began at 8:30 a.m. that Monday and was completed by 11:30. The burial in Allegany – approximately 80 miles south — took place at 2:45 that Monday afternoon.
John Lambert Rowan, a native of Western New York, was born in 1911 and was received into the Order in Paterson in 1932. He was ordained on May 30, 1939, in Washington and was assigned to St. Bonaventure College. Twenty-six of his 33 years in the priesthood were spent in seminary administration. He became associated with Christ the King Seminary, then on the campus of St. Bonaventure’s, in 1944, serving successively as treasurer, director of students, and vice-rector in addition to teaching theology.
When Thomas Plassmann, OFM, was appointed Provincial Minister in 1949, John succeeded him as rector of the seminary and oversaw the construction of the new Christ the King Seminary building – now Francis Hall – on the east side of the campus. Thomas returned to Christ the King at the end of his term in 1952, and John Lambert again became vice-rector. In the late 50s, he traveled to Beirut, Lebanon, as secretary to Bishop Eustace Smith, OFM, bishop of Latin Rite Catholics in Lebanon.
In 1960, Bishop Joseph Burke of Buffalo decided to open his own seminary, although Christ the King had been educating many of the priests of the diocese for over a century. Despite the apparent slap at the friars, the vocation boom of the time seemed to augur success for the new venture, so the Province cooperated with it.
In May 1960, John Lambert was assigned as the first rector of the new seminary, under the patronage of St. John Vianney. As such, he oversaw the planning and construction of the 15-building campus. Another member of the Province, Cajetan Baumann, OFM, also played a major role as coordinating architect supervising the work of a team of other architects involved in the project. St. John Vianney Seminary opened in the fall of 1962 with 120 major seminarians. Besides John Lambert, several other friars were on the faculty.
John Lambert served as rector until 1970 and continued on the faculty until his death in 1972. St. John Vianney Seminary only survived him for two years. In 1974, its declining enrollment precipitated Bishop Edward Head to extend an offer to Christ the King Seminary to move its operations from Allegany to the East Aurora campus, thus absorbing the Buffalo seminary. The Province continued to administer Christ the King Seminary there until 1990, although several individual friars continued to serve on the faculty until the closing of the seminary this spring.
— Dominic Monti, OFM, who served as Provincial Vicar of the Province from 2005 to 2014, is a distinguished professor of Franciscan research at St. Bonaventure University in Western New York. The Bradford, Pennsylvania, native professed his first vows as a Franciscan in 1965.
- Deceased Friars page of HNP website
- “The Province’s First Pandemic” — June 11, 2020, HNP Today
- “End of an Era’: Christ the King Seminary Slated to Close in May” – Feb. 4, 2020, Buffalo News