Mourning the Deaths of Franciscans

HNP Communications Franciscan World

The Provincial Office staff has learned of the passing of friars from six English-speaking Conference provinces, as well as several Franciscan sisters of communities connected to HNP.

Friars Minor
Daniel Piasecki, OFM, 82, a member of Sacred Heart Province, died on Jan. 14 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The South Bend, Indiana, native joined the Franciscans after serving in the Military Police of both the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force. In 1977, at the age of 38, he was received into the novitiate, made his simple profession one year later, and professed his solemn vows in 1981. Over the next 30 years, he served in a variety of ministries: at St. Peter’s Church in Chicago, Illinois, as sacristan; Quincy College in Quincy, Illinois, in the book bindery; AIDS ministry in St. Louis, Missouri, Quincy, and Springfield, Illinois, and in fraternal service to senior friars in Springfield. After retiring in 2011, he lived in Alton, Il., and later at Blessed Giles Friary in Manitowoc.

Two members of Holy Spirit Province in Canada died last month three days apart:

Laurent Lachance, OFM, 88, died in Montreal, Quebec, on Jan. 11. Born in 1933 in St. Benoit-Labre, Quebec, his religious life spanned 65 years – including two-and-a-half decades working for Les Petits Frères des Pauvres (Little Brothers of the Poor), an international organization in nine countries around the world that serves the isolated elderly.

Jacques Saint-Yves, OFM, a former provincial minister of Holy Spirit Province, died on Jan. 14. He was 87 years old. Born in 1934 in Montreal, he was a friar for 67 years, including 59 as an ordained priest. He spent his entire Franciscan life as a missionary, serving poor populations – some in remote areas – in Peru, Madagascar and Africa.

Frank Geers, OFM, a member of St. John the Baptist Province, died on Jan. 21 in Sharonville, Ohio. He was 89 years old. He professed his first vows as a Franciscan friar in 1950 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1958, which began a 35-year path in pastoral ministry, serving as pastor, associate pastor and administrator of parishes in Louisiana – in Houma and New Orleans – Illinois – in Streator and Peoria – Southfield, Michigan, Batesville, Indiana, Chinle, Arizona, and at St. Francis Seraph Parish in Cincinnati, Ohio. In addition to brief assignments in fundraising and continuing education, the St. Bernard, Ohio, native served in formation ministry as director of postulants at St. Anthony Friary in Cincinnati. He was an outspoken apostle for the 12-step program and advised and supported many recovering from addiction. He always kept a sign on his wall that read: “Turn it over.” His explanation: “When facing disappointments and difficulties, turn it over to the Lord.” His Jan. 27 funeral was live-streamed from the Facebook page of St. Clement Church.

James Kendzierski, OFM, 79, a member of Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary Province, died on Jan. 31 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His ministries were as diverse as his talents. In between professing his solemn vows as a Franciscan in 1968 and ordination to the priesthood in 1981, he earned a license in practical nursing from St. Norbert’s College in DePere, Wisconsin, in 1978. One of his more widely known talents was his singing voice, which he put to use as part of a musical sextet of friars called The Cords. He spent several years serving as chaplain at the motherhouse of the Notre Dame Sisters in Milwaukee, 12 years working at St. Sebastian Parish in Sturtevant, and a nine-year assignment with the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in Mishawaka, Indiana.

Crispin Keating OFM, a member of the Province of Ireland, died on Feb. 1 in Tampa, Florida, where he had ministered since 1995 at St. Lawrence Parish. He was 93 years old. Born in Cork, he joined the Franciscans in 1951 and made his first profession of vows one year later. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1958, he served in various ministries within the Irish Province and as a missionary in El Salvador and Chile.

Javier Reyes, OFM, 57, a member of St. Barbara Province, died of COVID-19 on Feb. 3 in Oakland, California. He had been professed for 33 years. The Mexico native – one of 12 children — professed his solemn vows as a Franciscan in 1992 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1998. He served in many capacities but none more hallmarked this humble-spirited friar than did his parochial ministry, according to his brothers.  Fellow friars who lived and served with him remember him as one who loved the people, inviting all into the family of God.  Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in San Jose, where he ministered for six years, remembered his quiet manner and deep spiritual life at a large, special outdoor Mass of Remembrance shortly after his death.

Franciscan Sisters of Allegany
Two members of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, New York, died in January.

Sr. Dorothy Dwyer, OSF, 87, died on Jan. 1 at St. Elizabeth Motherhouse in Allegany. The Lake Charles, Louisiana, native received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of South Florida, and a master of business administration in accounting from the University of Tampa. Before entering religious life, she was a married mother of two children. After receiving a Church annulment, she answered the call to religious vocation with the Allegany Sisters whom she had known for several years. After professing her final vows in 1996, she began her ministry as a social worker assisting the homeless at St. Francis Inn, the Holy Name Province soup kitchen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition to serving in education, justice, and peace ministries, she worked at St. Anthony’s Hospital in Florida as a patient advocate. In 1997, she created Allegany Art, a collection of works by the Sisters used in congregational publications and ministries.

Sr. Ruth Barthle, OSF, died on Jan. 11 at St. Elizabeth Motherhouse in Allegany. She was 97 years old. She began her ministry with the Allegany Franciscans as a radiology technician in congregational hospitals in New Jersey, her native Florida, and Olean, N.Y. In 1963, feeling called to a more contemplative life, she joined the Poor Clares and lived at their monastery in Coroico, Bolivia, for 17 years. After rejoining the Allegany Sisters, she served in several ministerial roles, mostly in Florida, that included prison ministry in Tampa, teaching religion and working in the library at Corpus Christi School in Miami, and serving as director of Daystar Life Center in St. Petersburg, where she helped the poor and marginalized until her retirement in 1998. In 1999, Pope John Paul II bestowed her with the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Award in recognition of her singular dedication to the Church and community.

St. Francis of Philadelphia Sisters
Two members of the School Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia died recently, both at Assisi House in Aston, Pennsylvania.

Sr. Agnes Marie O’Brien, OSF, 94, died on Jan. 6. Born in Staten Island, New York, she was a professed member of the congregation for 66 years, joining in 1955 and making her first vows two years later. She earned a bachelor of science degree in administration from Loyola University in 1969, and an MBA in business administrative management, also from Loyola, in 1973. Throughout her professed life, she served in health care, pastoral, and congregational ministries. Her many roles included CEO of St. Joseph Hospital in Baltimore and St. Francis Medical Center in New Jersey; treasurer general for the Sisters of St. Francis and coordinator of Portiuncula Convent in Aston, and pastoral associate at Holy Ghost Parish in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Sr. Hildegard Grogan, OSF, 87, who died on Jan. 20, had been a professed member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia for 64 years. Born Mary Magdalen in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where she graduated from the Little Flower Catholic High School, she entered the congregation in 1954 and professed her first vows in 1957. She ministered primarily in health care and education after earning several degrees that included her R.N. from St. Joseph Hospital in Baltimore, BSN from Duquesne University, and her MSN in medical/surgical nursing from The Catholic University of America.

St. Bernardine Franciscan Sister
Sr. Anell Laboda, OSF, a member of the St. Bernardine Franciscan Sisters Third Order Regular of St. Francis, died on Jan. 24 in West Reading, Pennsylvania, at the age of 98. She was in her 83rd year of religious life.  The Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, native earned a bachelor of science degree in elementary education from Siena Heights College in Adrian, Michigan, and an associate degree in arts from De Lima Junior College in Oxford, Michigan. During her more than eight decades of religious vocation, she served in education and pastoral ministry as a teacher/teacher’s aide, tutor, and local minister in schools and parishes in California, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, and Texas.

– Compiled by Jocelyn Thomas

Editor’s note: Each month, HNP Today publishes news of the deaths of Franciscan brothers, priests, and sisters – those who most have a connection to the friars of Holy Name Province. Information should be emailed to the HNP Communications Office.