Mourning the Deaths of Franciscans – May 2020 Update

HNP Communications Franciscan World

The Provincial Office staff has recently learned of the passing of members of three English-speaking Conference provinces as well as three Franciscan sisters.

Joachim Swarick, OFM, a member of Assumption BVM Province, died on March 26. He was 95 years old. A professed friar for 75 years – 67 as a priest – the native of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, spent his friar life in multiple ministries in Michigan, Pennsylvania and his home state. Joachim provided ministerial services at several parishes and served as rector of a school for Franciscan brothers, guardian of a monastery and friaries, director of simply professed friars, and chaplain at a sanitarium and hospital. He also spent two years at San Damiano Friary in Milwaukee, where he broke new ground by teaming up with a Notre Dame Sister at a local not-for-profit and visiting poor and marginalized families.

Barry Brunsman, OFM, 91, of St. Barbara Province, died on April 1 in Oakland, California. The Phoenix, Arizona, native spent his Franciscan life serving in roles that included associate pastor, guardian, author, librarian, and teacher. Ordained for 63 years, Barry was well known for his work at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale, where he served as retreat master and director of counseling for nearly a decade. He also served for 10 years as director of San Damiano Retreat Center in Danville, California. His compassion for the poor, elderly, single and divorced parents, and people laboring in minimum wage jobs was witnessed in his generosity – giving money and gifts that he received to anyone in need.

Warren Rouse, OFM, also of St. Barbara Province, died on April 25 at Serra Retreat in Malibu, California. He was 89 years old. During his 69 years as a professed friar, he served in parish, retreat, and teaching ministries – and was known for his writing and musical acumen, as well as an ability and energy to restore, both physically and spiritually, the buildings where he was stationed. After arriving in his hometown of Phoenix at St. Mary’s Parish, where he spent 11 years as pastor and rector, Warren restored the church and subsequently obtained declaration of basilica status from Pope John Paul II. He helped hundreds of individuals on their road to sobriety, taught music and Greek to seminarians, and for 12 years he served as director of the Serra Retreat. He was editor of St. Barbara Province’s WestFriars newsletter and his scriptural reflections, which regularly appeared in other publications, were compiled into a three-volume set called Words of Wisdom: A Collection of Inspirational Messages.

Pierre Bisaillon, OFM, 92, a member of Holy Spirit Province in Canada, died on April 14 in Montreal. During 73 years of religious life – 66 as a priest – he was known for his work as a philosopher, teacher and college administrator. He taught philosophy for 22 years at a college in Quebec. In 1985, Pierre co-founded the Non-Violence Resource Center in Montreal to promote the principles and practices of non-violence as a way of thinking and living. He organized and participated in peaceful protests, and for most of his life as a friar lived among the poor and worked on promoted environmental issues.

Herbert Rempe OFM, of Sacred Heart Province, died on April 14 at the age of 84 at Felician Village in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Solemnly professed for nearly 60 years, he was part of the construction team that built St. Paschal Friary and School for Brothers in Oak Brook, Illinois. In later years, the native of Lawrence, Nebraska, served in many roles mostly in Chicago – among them director of maintenance, member of the formation team, provincial treasurer, provincial councilor, director of outreach ministries, and guardian.

Sr. Regina Miriam McWilliams, FSP, 92, died on April 1 at St. Cabrini Nursing Home in Dobbs Ferry, New York. After receiving a bachelor of arts degree in English from Ladycliff College in the upstate New York town of Highland Falls, she earned a master of arts degree in education administration from Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey. The New York City native entered the Franciscan Sisters community in Peekskill, Westchester County, and spent 56 years in the field of elementary education, both as a teacher and principal, in New York and New Jersey. She was one of 112 founding members of the Franciscan Sisters of Peace, which was established in 1986.

Sr. Marie Angelita Ortiz, OSF, a member of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, died on April 10 at the age of 88 at Assisi House in Aston, Pennsylvania. A professed member of the community for 66 years, Sr. Angelita – or Lucia Esther Ortiz, her birth name – was born in Barranquitas, Puerto Rico, where she ministered for 37 years primarily in academic and catechetical education with high school students, and in pastoral work as a formation director. During a combined 21 years in Pennsylvania, in the Diocese of Allentown and Archdiocese of Philadelphia, she continued her teaching and parish ministries, which included work with the Hispanic population.

Sr. Natalie Hayes, OSC, a member of the Poor Clares of Chesterfield, New Jersey, died on April 22 at the Monastery of St. Clare in Chesterfield. She was 102 years old. Born in Utica, New York, Sr. Natalie graduated from Potsdam State Teachers College in Potsdam, N.Y. In 1945, she entered the Sisters of St. Francis of Allegany, N.Y., and in 1961, transferred to the Order of St. Clare, Monastery of St. Clare, Bordentown, New Jersey. During her 75 years in religious life, Sr. Natalie was a music teacher and a monastery abbess, among other positions she held.

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