Francis Medal Presented to Parents of Paul O’Keeffe

Maria Hayes Around the Province

Paul O'Keeffe

Paul O’Keeffe, left, with his parents, John and Angela, and Thomas Conway during the Francis Medal presentation at St. Anthony Shrine. (Photo courtesy of Paul)

BOSTON — For decades, John and Angela O’Keeffe have served their parish, St. Margaret’s in Burlington, Mass., with exceptional faith and commitment to Franciscan values.

They were recognized for their many years of ministry last month by Holy Name Province. Thomas Conway, OFM, executive director of St. Anthony Shrine, presented the O’Keeffes with the Province’s Francis Medal on Feb. 21 at St. Anthony Shrine after they shared evening prayer with the friars, including one of their sons, Paul O’Keeffe, OFM. Also present were Paul’s brother and sister, their spouses and children, and several cousins, one of whom was in the O’Keeffes’ wedding party. The award also commemorated the O’Keeffes’ 60th wedding anniversary, which is in June.

“John and Angela have always felt that their faith life was the most important part of their marriage and family life,” Thomas said during the presentation. “They have lived their faith by being active in their parish and supporting many people in their families who have been in need, both financially and spiritually. Their home has also been opened up to those in need, including poor and less fortunate members of their church and of the town of Burlington, where they have lived for 54 years.”

“Prior to meeting John, Angela said she prayed for a good husband, someone who had faith,” Tom noted. “During their marriage, they have experienced many trials that have tested their faith and throughout these trials, their faith has sustained them and helped them cope with loss and grief.”

In the early 1980s, the O’Keeffes attended a Cursillo weekend through a retreat center at Stonehill College, North Easton, Mass. That experience “made their already strong faith come alive,” explained Tom. “It was instrumental in causing them to become more active in their parish.”

John and Angela were founding members of the weekly prayer meeting at St. Margaret’s and are currently members of the parish’s bible study group. They are active in the Eucharistic adoration and holy hour hosted by the parish on the first Friday of each month. Angela has taught CCD for 25 years and John has given talks at Cursillo and become part of the maintenance team at the parish. Both have sung in the choir for more than 30 years.

Since 1990, they have traveled to Washington, D.C., every January to participate in the March for Life. John has organized several parish trips to Europe and Angela continues to cook meals for the priests once a month.

“Every priest who has come through St. Margaret’s for the past 35 years has been a guest at the O’Keeffes’ table, along with countless fellow parishioners,” said Tom. “Many of them had nowhere to go at holidays or just needed a good home-cooked meal and someone to listen to them.”

As young adults, Paul and his siblings were encouraged to teach religious education classes. Today, Paul’s sister is director of the CCD program at her parish, and Paul’s brother and his wife are active in their parish as well.

John and Angela still live in Burlington, a 30-minute drive from St. Anthony Shrine, where Paul is stationed.

“My parents and my brother and sister and their families are happy to have me close to home for the first time in more than 10 years,” said Paul. “They have always been supportive of my decision to join the friars.”

Following the presentation at St. Anthony Shrine, the family had hors d’oeuvres with the friars before going to the O’Keeffes’ favorite restaurant for a meal.

Holy Name Province’s Francis Medal was established in 1998 by then-Provincial Minister John Felice, OFM. Recipients are laypeople who have displayed an uncommon contribution to the advancement of the values and ideals of St. Francis.

Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.