Mourning the Deaths of Franciscans

HNP Communications Franciscan World

In recent weeks, friars from two provinces of the Order’s English-speaking Conference – Sacred Heart Province and the Province of Ireland – as well as several Franciscan sisters of communities connected to HNP have died.

Bernard Jones, OFM, 70, a member of the Province of Ireland, died in Cork on May 27. The Cork city native had been manager of the Woolworths store in Belfast before joining the Franciscans. He made his first profession of vows in Killarney in 1984, and was ordained a priest in 1990. Throughout his religious life, he was assigned to friaries in Waterford, Multyfarnham, Dublin, Cork and Rossnowlagh, where he often served as guardian. He also was director of the Franciscan Missionary Union in Dublin and at the time of his death, Bernard was director of the National Franciscan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land.

Séan Gildea, OFM, another member of the Province of Ireland’s Rossnowlagh community, died on June 11 in the town of Sligo at the age of 97. A native of County Roscommon and the eldest of nine children, he became an officer in the Irish Army, but left behind a 10-year military career to join the Franciscans. He entered the novitiate in Killarney in 1952, professed his first vows a year later, studied in Galway, Leuven and Rome, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1959. Drawn to the missionary life, Séan went to Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, in 1960 as one of the pioneers of the Franciscan mission in that region. He went on to serve the people of Zimbabwe with dedication and enthusiasm for more than four decades. Along with his pastoral ministry, he held roles in formation and leadership among the friars in that country. His mission work came to an end in 2003, when he returned to Ireland for health reasons.

Michael Luke Ubben, OFM, a member of Sacred Heart Province, died on June 12 in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. He was 72 years old. After entering Franciscan formation at Our Lady of Angels Seminary in Quincy, Illinois, he applied for admission to the novitiate of Sacred Heart Province and professed his first vows in 1988 in Franklin, Indiana. After professing his solemn vows in 1993 at St. John’s Church in Joliet, Illinois, his ministry took him to Petoskey and Harbor Springs, Michigan, St. Paul, Minnesota, and Chicago, Illinois. Upon priestly ordination in May 2005, he served as a confessor at St. Peter’s Church in Chicago, and also did supply ministry for the dioceses of Crowley in Texas and in Chicago and Quincy. In his final active ministry before retirement, which came in 2016 due to health reasons, he served as chaplain to the Poor Clare Sisters in St. Louis, Missouri.

Franciscan Sisters
Sr. Agnes Borkowski, OSF, 93, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, died on May 25 in her birthplace of Baltimore, Maryland. A professed member for 72 years, she entered the congregation in 1946 and made her first profession of vows in 1949. She earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Neumann University in Aston, Pennsylvania, and ministered primarily in child care, elementary education, and health care. During her religious life, the Franciscan sister lived in Hopewell, New Jersey, Easton and Orwigsburg, Pennsylvania, New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Baltimore.

Sr. Frances Marie Vallone, 96, died on May 28 in Lackawanna, New York. A native of Buffalo, New York, she entered the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of the Divine Child – an order that was founded in the Diocese of Buffalo in 1927 to provide religious instruction to the children of Italian immigrants. As a member of the order for 60 years, she provided religious education to Catholic children who attended public schools. After the order united with two other religious women communities, she spent 15 years as a Sister of St. Francis of the Neumann Communities. Sr. Frances took higher education courses at several institutions, including St. Bonaventure University in Western New York, The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Texas, and Boston University in Massachusetts. Sr. Francis lived and worked throughout Western New York – such as St. Mary of the Lake in Hamburg from 1981 to 1990, and St. Joseph’s in Niagara Falls from 1990 to 2005.

— 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