CALDWELL, N.J. — Charles Finnegan, OFM, 88, a professed Franciscan friar for 67 years and a priest for 62, died on June 9 at St. Catherine of Siena Nursing Home where he had lived since last year.
Several friars from St. Anthony Friary in Butler, New Jersey, as well as Charles’s family members will celebrate the Rite of Committal with Final Commendation at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Butler, New Jersey, on June 12. The Province will celebrate a Memorial Mass at a later date for Charles, who had served for more than 50 years in roles including administration, mission, and pastoral work in locations ranging from the Northeast to South America.
“Fr. Charlie was a humble, gentle, and caring friar,” said Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM. “Long before I heard the term “servant-leadership, ” I knew what the phrase meant by watching his example. His telling of the “Franciscan story” was not done in words, but in deeds. All of us will miss him and all of us are grateful to him for his example.”
Charles was born July 9, 1931, in New York City to Thomas and Frances (née Rogers) and was baptized Thomas. He attended Holy Name of Jesus School on the Upper West Side of New York City before entering St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, New York, in 1945, where he attended high school and college.
He was received into the Order of Friars Minor at the Province’s novitiate in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1951 and on Aug. 12, 1952, professed his first vows as a Franciscan. Charles studied philosophy and theology in Butler and in Washington, D.C.
Charles professed his final vows as a Franciscan on Aug. 16, 1955, at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, New York, before Donald Hoag, OFM. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Amleto Cicognani on April 25, 1958, at the Franciscan Monastery of the Holy Land in Washington, D.C.
After ordination, Charles was assigned to St. Anthony Shrine in Boston, Massachusetts, and then to Bishop Timon High School in Buffalo, New York, where he served on the faculty for a year.
In 1960, Charles began a decade of service to the Province’s Brazilian mission. Returning to the United States in 1970, he served as assistant pastor at Holy Cross Church in the Bronx, New York, and was elected to the Provincial Council in 1973.
On June 3, 1976, Charles was elected Provincial Minister, a role in which he served until 1980. During his administration, the Province deepened its engagement in social justice ministries, founding St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia.
From 1980 until 2013, when Charles retired, he lived in a variety of places in the Northeast. He did retreat ministry at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, New Jersey, and at the Province’s House of Prayer in Warwick, New York. He also served as an associate pastor at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Wanaque, New Jersey, St. Camillus Church in Silver Spring, Maryland, and St. Francis Chapel in Providence, Rhode Island. He spent six years at St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia, where he returned in 2001 to serve as director of the San Damiano Spirituality Center as a member of the Province’s Ministry of the Word.
In 2006, Charles received an honorary degree from Neumann College (now University), a ministry of the Franciscan Sisters of Philadelphia in Aston, Pennsylvania.
In the following years, Charles served on the Province’s novitiate team when it was based in Wilmington, Delaware, and from 2009 until 2013, as a pastoral associate and confessor at St. Anthony Shrine.
In 2013, Charles retired to St. Anthony Friary in Butler and a few months later was transferred to Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, New Jersey, the Province’s skilled nursing facility. In March 2019, when Holy Name Friary was closed, he was transferred to St. Catherine of Siena Nursing Home on the campus of Caldwell University.
Charles is survived by his sister, Eleanor Colgan of Howell, New Jersey, and a brother, Richard Finnegan of Amity Harbor, New York, as well as a number of nieces and nephews.
Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars – Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001-3202.
— Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas
- “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
- “Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School Launches Franciscan Fund” – Jan. 2, 2013, HNP Today