Fr. Peter Fiore, OFM, 94, a professed Franciscan friar with Holy Name Province for 71 years, 67 of them as an ordained priest, died peacefully on the morning of Easter Sunday, April 17, at St. Anthony Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. He had been living in St. Petersburg at St. Anthony Friary, a Province retirement house, since January 2020 after retiring at the age of 92 from his last ministry role as English professor emeritus and scholar-in-residence at Siena College in Loudonville, New York. He spent over five decades as a beloved professor and administrator at Siena, during which he kept a running list of students that he taught – which he once said numbered just short of 5,000 – hundreds with which he stayed in contact and exchanged letters and Christmas cards through the years.
A wake was held for Peter on April 24 at St. Mary of the Angels Chapel on the campus of Siena College. A Mass of Resurrection was held the following day, also at the campus chapel, immediately followed by military honors. Interment will take place at a later date in South Glens Falls, NY.
The youngest of three children of Italian immigrant parents Peter and Virginia (née Arienzo) Fiore, a retail businessman and a homemaker, respectively, Peter was born on Sept. 8, 1927 in Glens Falls, where he attended the Josephite sisters-run St. Mary’s Academy grammar and high schools, and served as an altar boy at the family’s parish of St. Mary’s – to which he returned in 1988 for two years in pastoral ministry, joyfully reconnecting with old friends, parishioners who had attended his first Mass after ordination, and some of the sisters that taught him in grade school.
Peter’s rich and full life in religious vocation and academia spanned seven decades, first and foremost as a professed Franciscan friar, and as a scholar, professor, administrator and author. In his last interview in 2020 for a feature article on his 70th year of profession published in the Holy Name Province newsletter, Peter said attending Siena College under the G.I. Bill, after returning from World War II as a member of the United States Army, was the best decision he had ever made because it introduced him to the Franciscan friars, many of whom were professors at the college, and inspired his own areas of teaching expertise, which included 17th century English Literature and honors seminars on the Great Books, Dante, Shakespeare, and theological issues in Western literature.
After graduating from Siena College in 1949 with a bachelor’s degree in English, he spent a year working in his father’s retail businesses before joining Holy Name Province, which received him into the Order at St. Bonaventure Church in Paterson, New Jersey, on Aug. 12, 1950. He professed his first vows at the novitiate in Paterson one year later and made his solemn profession as a member of the Order of Friars Minor in 1954 at St. Bonaventure Church in Allegany, NY. He was ordained on June 9, 1955 at the Franciscan Monastery Church in Washington, D.C.
In 1955, Peter also earned a master’s degree in English at Catholic University of America – and in 1961, he earned a Ph.D. in English Renaissance Literature from the University of London in England with a concentration on the theological aspects of redemption and salvation in Milton’s Paradise Lost, which was the focus of his thesis and the subject of one of six books written by this accomplished author. In addition to writing Milton and Augustine: Patterns of Augustinian Thought in Milton’s Paradise Lost, a detailed investigative study of the principal dogmatic concepts in Paradise Lost against the backdrop of Augustinian theology, and The Gospels Are Now, which examines the influence of timeless biblical motifs on life, literature and the arts, Peter published dozens of articles in scholarly journals. He maintained his connection to the University of London by returning for 18 consecutive summers to lecture on literature and the arts, as well as conduct research for his published works.
Peter’s more than 50 years of service at Siena College included professor of English, chair of the English Department, and dean of the School of Liberal Arts. During part of his tenure, he headed Siena’s distinguished Greyfriar Living Literature Series, bringing to campus the most celebrated writers of the time as guest lecturers – including Basil Rathbone, Hal Holbrook, and Brooks Atkinson. In 2013, Siena alumnus William McGoldrick and his wife established the Peter Fiore, OFM, Excellence in English Endowment to support faculty and student enrichment in literature and the arts.
In addition to serving in parish ministry at his boyhood parish in Glens Falls, Peter served at St. Mary’s Parish in Ballston Spa, NY, and from 1990 to 1996 as HNP director of communications at the provincial headquarters on West 31st Street in Manhattan, where he also enjoyed the culture and art opportunities – particularly the Opera and Broadway – that New York City offered. A fan of reading books – especially the lesser-known works of the great writers – good Italian cuisine (eating, and cooking for others), and the New York Yankees, Peter was a member of several literary and professional organizations, among them the Modern Language Association, Metropolitan Opera Guild, Irish Repertory Theater of New York, and the Milton Seminar. But he always said that his most precious membership and fraternity was with his brother friars of Holy Name Province.
In addition to his Franciscan confreres, Peter is survived by nine nieces and nephews – who were like his children – including Virginia Kavanaugh, Susan Fiore, Peter Patrick Fiore (Patrice), Joan Flanagan (Robert), Ellen Fiore, Christine Shear (Fred), William Luciano (Joanne), Peter Luciano (Gail), and Mary Ann Roemer (Guy), as well as many great nieces and nephews, several great-great nieces and nephews, two great-great-great nieces, and many cousins.
Rest in peace, Peter, our dear brother.