ROME – The Order’s General Definitorium, or General Council, last week appointed Br. Stephen O’Kane, OFM, of the Province of Ireland, to serve as General Visitor of Holy Name Province in anticipation of the Provincial Chapter taking place in June 2020. He will begin his work in early 2019.
As General Visitor, Br. Stephen’s responsibilities will include interviewing all HNP friars and assessing the current state of the Province in a report that will be submitted to the General Minister. He will preside at the 2020 Chapter, where he will present his report, give recommendations for action, and supervise the elections. Details of the visitation will be worked out over the next several months.
Previous general visitors to Holy Name Province include Fr. Melvin Jurisch, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, who served from 2012 to 2014, and Fr. Fred Link, OFM, of St. John the Baptist Province, who served from 2010 to 2011.
“I am delighted that Stephen has been appointed as General Visitor to the Province,” said Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM. “I have known him for a number of years. He lived at Gemelli House in Silver Spring, Md., while he was completing his studies, and he got to know many of the friars during his time there.”
Education and Formation
Br. Stephen, the eldest of nine children, was born on a farm in County Derry in Northern Ireland in 1958. He joined the Franciscan Order in 1977 immediately after completing secondary school, entering the novitiate in Killarney, County Kerry. After first profession in September 1978, he proceeded to University College in Galway, where he earned an honors degree in psychology with philosophy as a subsidiary. He then did a further year of philosophy in Galway and made solemn profession in 1982. After profession, Br. Stephen worked for a year in the Franciscan boarding school in County Meath.
He then completed a four-year degree in catechetics and history in Dublin, a qualification that equipped him to teach religious education and history in secondary school. From 1987 to 1989, Br. Stephen taught in a community secondary school in Bray, County Wicklow, and then volunteered to serve in the missions in Zimbabwe.
He was a member of the Custody of the Good Shepherd in Zimbabwe from 1989 until 2008. For much of that time, he was involved in formation work, serving in varied roles, but focused mainly on postulancy. He also served on the custodial council several times during those years.
While a member of the custody in Zimbabwe, Br. Stephen came the United States and lived with the friars of Holy Name Province in Silver Spring. from 1996 to 1998, while he pursued a master’s degree in pastoral counseling at Loyola College, Baltimore. Those two years were a happy and formative experience for Br. Stephen, according to Kevin, and he has fond memories of his time in the Province and the hospitality he received.
On completion of this counseling program, Br. Stephen returned to Zimbabwe and resumed his role as formator. From 2005 until 2008 he was dean of studies of a new inter-congregational theology college in Harare, Zimbabwe, called Holy Trinity College.
From 2008 until 2009, Br. Stephen took a sabbatical and then began in 2009 a license in Church history at the Gregorian University, Rome. Coming to the end of his time in Rome, he decided to return to serve in Ireland. However, since obtaining his license in 2012, he has returned twice to Zimbabwe to teach courses in Church history.
Since the Irish chapter of 2014, Br. Stephen has served as provincial bursar, director of the Franciscan Missionary Union, and chairman of a company running the former boarding campus at Gormanston. After the Irish chapter of 2017, he was elected to his provincial council and appointed secretary of formation. Like Holy Name Province, the Province of Ireland is a member of the Order’s English-speaking Conference.