Mourning the Deaths of Franciscans

HNP Communications Franciscan World

The Provincial Office staff has learned of the recent passing of members of two English-speaking Conference provinces, as well as several Franciscan sisters.

Lambert Leykam, OFM, 91, of Sacred Heart Province, died on Aug. 10 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.   He entered the novitiate on Independence Day in 1949 on his 20th birthday, and a year and a day later professed his first vows as a Franciscan.  He spent six of more than seven decades of his ministerial life serving in pastoral ministry in many parishes and chaplaincies in Illinois, Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas.  The Mount Vernon, Illinois, native was known for his love for the people he served, and for his family and fellow Franciscans. He had a passion for travel, fishing, and golf.

Joseph Zermeno, OFM, of St. Barbara Province, died on Aug. 13 in Tucson, Arizona.  He was 89 years old.  The El Paso, Texas, native served in pastoral ministry in parishes in Arizona, California, and New Mexico – among them Sacred Heart in Phoenix, St. Anthony’s in San Francisco, Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Paula, St. Francis in Tularosa, and Mission San Miguel Arcángel, the Spanish mission in San Miguel in San Luis Obispo County, California.  In 2013, while at Our Lady of the Assumption Parish in Los Angeles, he was summoned home to El Paso to help care for his ailing brother.  He was ordained for 52 of the 57 years as a professed friar.

Sr. Margaret St. Hugh Keenan, a professed member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia for 69 years, died on Aug. 13 at Assisi House, the Order’s retirement community in Aston, Pennsylvania.  She was 90 years old.  She spent nearly seven decades in education ministry, 30 of those years in the Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware, where she worked as a teacher at four schools.  She also taught in schools in Baltimore, Maryland, Naples, Florida, and Washington, D.C.  The Philadelphia native, who earned a bachelor of science degree in education from Mount St. Mary University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, also served at the Ministry of Caring, a network of social, health, and support services for the poverty-stricken and homeless in the greater Wilmington area.

Sr. Marie Cecilia Irwin,  OSF, died on Aug. 17 at Assisi House in Aston. The Trenton, New Jersey, native was 89 years old.  During 69 years as a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, she served in healthcare ministry in nursing and hospital administration.  With a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s degree in nursing education, she worked as a nurse at a Pennsylvania hospital and as an administrator at a New Jersey rehabilitation center before serving as president and CEO from 1975 to 1994 at what is now the University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center.  During her nearly 20-year tenure, the medical center became the first in the state to perform open-heart surgery.  She also shepherded other healthcare innovations.  She also worked in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and Diocese of Trenton.

Sr. Bernard Helene McGuire, OSF, 92, died at Assisi House on Aug. 26. A professed member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia for 72 years, her ministry focused mainly around secondary education and parish work.  She earned a bachelor’s degree in biology at Villanova University and a master’s degree in physical science from Catholic University.  For 47 years, she taught at three high schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland.  She also taught at high schools in Lancaster, Reading, and Philadelphia, Pa., and in Trenton, New Jersey.  The Baltimore native also worked in parish ministry, and as a volunteer and tutor in her hometown.  In 2013, she moved to Assisi House, serving in prayer and hospitality ministry.

Sr. Margaret Elaine Rovnak, OSF, 89, a member of the School Sisters of St. Francis, died on Aug. 20 at Vincentian Home in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  She was in her 70th year of religious life at the time of her death.  The Erie, Pa., native followed in the footsteps of her older sister, Sr. Rose Ann, when she joined the community in 1948.  By the time she professed her final vows in 1955, she was already a veteran of teaching ministry, serving in assignments in Tarentum, Charleroi, and Pittsburgh – all in Pennsylvania.  She went on to teach elementary grades and religious education/faith formation programs at a number of parishes in nine other towns across the state.  She served for five years as a school principal.  She also was passionate and faithful to her ministry of prayer.

Sr. Linda Bridget Tan⁠, OSF, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis community, died on Sept. 2 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  She was 74 years old. She was a staff member of the Franciscan Pilgrimage Programs office in Franklin, Wisconsin, where she helped facilitate pilgrimages for hundreds of people from dozens of countries.  On its Facebook Page, the FPP, which is affiliated with Assumption BVM Province, said that she “was always a wonderful presence to those she worked with.  Even though she retired almost three years ago, we were continuously asked about her and how she was doing.”   The Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, native held master’s degrees in administration of religious education and formative spirituality.   During her religious life, she served in a variety of roles, including teaching first and eighth grades and serving as a principal in Norfolk, Virginia.  She served as general superior for two four-year terms, executive director of the Franciscan Center in Baltimore, Maryland, and president of the Franciscan Federation. Those who knew her say that the combination of her Irish and Filipino heritage gave her a unique perspective on life.  Family was always important to her, which is why she maintained close family ties and made sure the sisters were included in family events and vice versa.  She used her love of travel as a vehicle to establish relationships with people she met along the way.

Editor’s note: Each month, HNP Today publishes news of the deaths of Franciscan brothers, priests, and sisters. Information should be emailed to the HNP Communications Office.

– Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas