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Franciscan Father William Keenan Dies

For immediate release

Contact: Jocelyn Thomas
Jthomas@hnp.org

NEW YORK — Jan. 10, 2018 – Fr. William Keenan, OFM, 90, a professed Franciscan friar for 66 years and a priest for 62, died Dec. 18 in Bolivia, where he had lived for more than 30 years.

A memorial Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Jan. 20 at Holy Cross Church on Lake Avenue in Rochester, N.Y.

A wake was held Dec. 19 at San Francisco Church in Cochabamba, Bolivia, with a Mass of Christian Burial celebrated there the following day. Fr. Rene Bustamante, OFM, provincial minister of the province to which Fr. Keenan belonged, presided, along with Fr. Juan Carlos Calderon, OFM, guardian of San Francisco Friary, where Fr. Keenan had lived. His remains were interred in the Mausoleum of the Franciscan Family of Cochabamba in the General Public Cemetery.

Early Years
Fr. Keenan was born on July 27, 1927, in Rochester, N.Y., to Earl and Eleanor (née Merz) and was baptized on Aug. 7, 1927, at Holy Cross Church in Rochester. The third eldest in a family of six children, he attended the parochial grammar school and Aquinas Institute in Rochester, graduating from high school in 1945.

Immediately after graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, serving as an aviation cadet. Following the end of World War II, he was honorably discharged as a second-class seaman on July 31, 1946. Fr. Keenan then attended St. Bonaventure University, from which he graduated in 1950 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. While he was there, he received his commercial pilot license. He also completed the university’s ROTC program and was commissioned as a 2nd lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserve, from which he was honorably discharged in 1952.

Fr. Keenan was received into the Franciscan Order on Aug. 12, 1950, at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., and given the religious name Malcolm. He professed first vows there one year later and studied philosophy at St. Anthony Friary in Butler, N.J., and theology at Holy Name College in Washington, D.C. Fr. Keenan made his solemn profession on Aug. 13, 1954, at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, N.Y., and was ordained on June 9, 1955, at the Franciscan Monastery, Mount St. Sepulchre, in Washington, D.C.

Ministry
Following a year of pastoral education, Fr. Keenan’s first assignment was to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City, where he was an assistant from 1956 to 1975. Well-suited for missionary work, he was next sent to Puerto Rico, where he was stationed for 13 years. His first assignment there was as administrator of San Luis Rey Parish. Having received his commercial pilot license in 1946, he also joined the local chapter of the Civil Air Patrol as its chaplain, in order to minister to the young adults who were part of the group.

From 1962 to 1965, Fr. Keenan served as administrator of St. Francis Xavier Cabrini Chapel in Caparra Heights, San Juan. He then worked as pastor of St. Mary of the Angels Church in San Juan for the next five years. During this time, he reverted back to his baptismal name of William.

He returned to the United States in 1970 to serve as assistant chaplain at St. Clare’s Hospital in New York City for 12 years. After a brief stint as an associate at St. Francis Chapel in Providence, R.I., he served again as a chaplain for two years at St. Francis Hospital in Olean, N.Y.

In 1984, Fr. Keenan requested and was approved to serve in Bolivia. He was appointed pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish and director of the Colegio Fatima in Apolo, Bolivia. That same year, the Missionary Vicariate of St. Anthony was established, thus concluding Holy Name Province’s direct responsibility for its mission in Bolivia. Fr. Keenan joined the Bolivian vicariate at that time.

In 1993, he began teaching and serving as dean at the Seminario del Spiritu Santo in the Diocese of Corocio, where he served until 2016, when he transferred to the Convento de San Francisco in Cochabamba. His other roles included serving as spiritual director for seminarians and as a confessor for the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, who staff Juan XXIII High School in Sorata, Bolivia. 

He is survived by a sister, Mary Bowllan, two brothers — James and Thomas Keenan — as well as many nieces and nephews — Mark, Thomas, Paul, David, Michael, Daniel, and Katherine Bowllan, Stephen, Daniel, William, Timothy, Paul Keenan, Patrick, Sean Michael, David, Lawrence, Mark and John Keenan, Susan Norton, Ann Dewhirst, Nancy Fiedler, Janet Healey, Mary Frazier and Ellen Cullen.  He also had many great-nieces and nephews.

About Holy Name Province
Holy Name Province is the largest of seven entities in the United States belonging to the Order of Friars Minor. With ministries in 12 states along the East Coast, its nearly 300 Catholic priests and brothers serve in colleges, parishes, urban ministry centers and a wide variety of social justice ministries, as well as in overseas missions.

The Order, founded in 1209 by St. Francis of Assisi, commemorated its 800th anniversary in 2009. Today, St. Francis, whose feast day is Oct. 4, remains one of the most widely known saints, revered for his affection for nature and care for creation.

Information about Holy Name Province can be found on www.hnp.org. News about the friars and their ministries can be found on the Facebook page of the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province.

Interview and photo requests should be directed to Jocelyn Thomas, HNP director of communications, at 646-473-0265 ext. 321 or jthomas@hnp.org.