Conrad Harkins, Educator, Dies in New York

Jocelyn Thomas Friar News

DOBBS FERRY, N.Y. — Conrad Harkins, OFM, 85, a professed Franciscan friar for 65 years and a priest for 59, died on Aug. 31 at St. Cabrini Nursing Home, where he had lived since last year.

He spent most of his religious life in academia and was widely known for his efforts to obtain sainthood for five Franciscans killed in Georgia in the 16th century.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated by Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, on Sept. 4 at St. Anthony Church in Butler, New Jersey.  Julian Davies, OFM, of Siena College in Loudonville, New York, will preach. Burial will take place in Allegany, New York, at a later date.

Early Years
Conrad was born on Feb. 13, 1935 in Havertown, Pennsylvania, to James and Helen Harkins, and was baptized James. He attended elementary and high schools in Havertown, as well as St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, New York.

On Aug. 12, 1954, Conrad was received into the Franciscan Order at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, New Jersey, where he professed his first vows as a Franciscan a year and a day later. He then pursued studies in philosophy at St. Francis College in Rye Beach, New Hampshire, for two years, through which he received a bachelor’s degree in 1957 from St. Bonaventure University, and then proceeded to study theology in Washington, D.C. Conrad professed his final vows as a Franciscan before Celsus Wheeler, OFM, on Aug. 20, 1958 at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, New York, and was ordained to the priesthood on Feb. 25, 1961 by Archbishop Egidio Vagnozzi at Mount St. Sepulchre at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C.  He earned a master’s degree from St. Bonaventure, writing his thesis on John Henry Newman.

Ministry Focused on Academics
After ordination, Conrad was assigned to St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Massachusetts, for a year of pastoral theology study.  He then taught for three years at Archbishop Walsh High School in Olean, New York, and in 1969, after four years of study at the Pontifical  Institute of Medieval Studies a the University of Toronto, where he received his Ph.D., Conrad was assigned to St. Bonaventure University, where he served as director of the Franciscan Institute.

Conrad spent 26 years at SBU, from 1969 to 1995, with a pause from 1989 to 1990 to study at St. Isidore’s College in Rome. He spent most of those years serving as director of the Institute. Conrad moved to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, in 1996 and from 2005 until 2012, where he served as associate professor of theology and history, as well as chaplain to the students, celebrating Mass and the sacrament of reconciliations.

He devoted many years to working to obtain sainthood status for the five Spanish missionaries killed by Native Americans on the Georgia coast. The cause for canonization was formally opened in the Diocese of Savannah, Georgia, in 1983 and was later forwarded to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome for consideration. In 2007, Conrad accompanied Bishop J. Kevin Boland to Savannah on a pilgrimage to St. Catherine’s Island where the missionaries lost their lives in 1597. From 2012 to 2013, while stationed at St. Bonaventure University, Conrad served as postulator for the cause. From 2001 until 2002, he lived in Savannah.

Among his many projects, Conrad edited the English translation of Chronicle of the Twenty-four Generals.

In April 2013, he retired to St. Anthony Friary in St. Petersburg. In 2016, because of declining health, Conrad was transferred to the Province’s skilled nursing home in Ringwood, New Jersey, where he lived until March 2019 before moving to St. Cabrini.

Conrad is survived by a sister, Joan Cuff of Norwood, Massachusetts, a niece, Susan Herron of Virginia Beach, Virginia, and two nephews – John Cuff of Torrance, California, and Kevin Cuff of Andover, Massachusetts.

Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars – Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001-3202.

Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.