Mourning the Deaths of Franciscans — November 2020

HNP Communications Franciscan World

The Provincial Office staff has learned of the passing of four members of English-speaking Conference provinces – including a former provincial minister – as well as several Franciscan sisters.

Roderick Crispo, OFM, a former provincial minister of Immaculate Conception Province, died on Sept. 30 at Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. He was 92 years old. After his ordination to the priesthood in 1955, he spent decades in pastoral ministry, serving as pastor or assistant pastor at many parishes – including St. Leonard’s in Boston’s North End, and Our Lady of Peace and St. Anthony of Padua in the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively. The native of Watervliet, New York, north of Albany, also served as chaplain for the incarcerated in the New York State prison system. Between his pastoral ministries, he served for six years as his province’s provincial minister. Rod’s commitment to Franciscan life, gentle soul, and sense of humor were known to have left a lasting presence on many.

Anthony Gancarz, OFM, of Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary Province, died on Oct. 24 at Milwaukee Catholic Home in Wisconsin at the age of 97. The native of Detroit, Michigan, was a professed friar for 68 years. Prior to beginning a religious vocation, he worked at the original Chrysler Corporation until 1946, when he was drafted by the U.S. Navy. While stationed in Corpus Christi, Texas, he contacted Assumption BVM about joining the Franciscan community in Pulaski, Wisconsin – which became a reality in 1948 after his honorable discharge from the Navy. He filled a number of diverse roles during his lengthy religious life – among them chef, typographer, and handyman/domestic engineer extraordinaire. His culinary acumen began as a novice when he was charged with cooking daily for more than 20 friars. Administrative work in the province mission office sparked an interest in the missions, taking him to the Philippines for 10 years. Upon returning in 1970, he was assigned to the linotype department of Franciscan publishers and printers, where for 22 years he prepared typeset for countless books, pamphlets, and magazines.

Anthony Walter, OFM, 88, a member of St. John the Baptist Province, died on Oct. 26 in Sharonville, Ohio. The Oct. 29 funeral Mass for the Kentucky native, who spent a lifetime of service in parish ministry and hospital chaplaincy, was live-streamed on Facebook due to COVID-related gathering restrictions. His kindness and pastoral care were appreciated at the many parishes he served in Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Louisiana. His assignment at St. Mary of the Angles in New Orleans produced the most harrowing chapter of his ministerial life – an airlift-rescue from the rooftop of the parish school, where floodwaters had trapped him, the other friars, and 100 neighbors during Hurricane Katrina. He retired to Cincinnati in 2009, but not before helping the parish recover and rebuild. He used his training in clinical pastoral education – and his compassion for the sick and suffering – to serve 24 years as a hospital chaplain in medical centers in Kansas City, Missouri, Louisville, Kentucky, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. His affinity for physical exercise continued until a few weeks before he died.

Stephen Joseph Gillis, OFM, a member of St. Barbara Province, died on Oct. 30 at the age of 68. He spent most of his religious life in maintenance and construction ministry with assignments throughout the province – including St. George’s Parish in Seattle, Washington, where he also worked with a local construction company, St. Mary’s Parish in Arizona, and several locations in California, including Old Mission Santa Barbara, St. Boniface in San Francisco, and retreat houses in Malibu, San Juan Bautista, and Danville. He also served at St. Anthony’s Foundation, in San Francisco, and San Luis Rey in Oceanside. His interest in the Franciscan way of life developed when his family moved to Davis, California, while he was working as a painting contractor. The eldest of six children, he was born into a career military family at the U.S. Army installation in Regensburg, Germany, and was raised and educated in several parts of the world, including Germany, Japan, and Honduras.

Two members of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany, New York, died on the same day last month – Oct. 5 – at the order’s St. Elizabeth Motherhouse:

Sr. Anna Theresa Sheridan, OSF, was 102 years old when she died. The Massachusetts native, who entered the order in 1952 and professed her final vows in 1959, spent nearly 30 of her 65 years of profession in education ministry. After earning a bachelor’s degree in education at St. Elizabeth Teacher College in Allegany (now part of St. Bonaventure University) and a master’s degree in reading from Western Connecticut State College in Danbury, Connecticut, she taught in congregational schools in Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Mississippi, New Jersey, Connecticut, and New York. In 1981, she returned to Allegany to serve in an administrative capacity, ministering in the treasury at the motherhouse, and in the libraries at St. John School and Archbishop Walsh High School in Olean, New York.

Sr. Ângela Teresinha Gonçalves, OSF, died at the age of 90. Born in Ipameri, a municipality in Goiás state in south-central Brazil, she always felt destined to fulfill a great mission – which finally became clear when she met a Franciscan friar who invited her to be part of a group of teachers in Ceres, another city in Goiás. While teaching there, she met three Franciscan sisters, an encounter she once described as follows: “I was enchanted with the way of life of those sisters… I felt that God was inviting me and, with a happy heart, I answered yes to this invitation.” She made her first profession with the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany in 1958 and professed her final vows in 1964.

Two members of the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia died recently – both on Oct. 14. They were living at Assisi House, the congregation’s retirement residence in Aston, Pennsylvania:

Sr. Margaret St. John Brocato, OSF, was 92 years old at the time of her death. A professed member of the congregation for 71 years, the Maryland native ministered primarily in Catholic elementary school education as a teacher and principal – with 32 years at schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and 12 years each in the Diocese of Wilmington in Delaware and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. She also volunteered at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, Maryland, and at Assisi House in her later years. She had served in prayer and hospitality ministry at the retirement house since 2016. She professed her first vows in 1949 and later earned a bachelor’s degree in education from Mt. St. Mary’s University in Emmitsburg, Maryland, and a master’s degree in administration from The Catholic University of America.

Sr. Emily Anne Herbes, OSF, died at the age of 84. The native of Portland, Oregon, ministered in education and social services. She was also the congregation’s historian and is credited with finalizing the written historical account of the Sisters of St. Francis. For 29 years, she taught in schools in the Archdiocese of Seattle, Washington. During 19 years of service in the Archdiocese of Portland, she taught at elementary schools, worked in parish ministry, held the position of provincial secretary, and worked in social services at the Northwest Pilot Project and Volunteers of America. In addition, she taught at schools in the Diocese of Oakland and Archdiocese of Spokane, where she also served at the former St. Joseph Family Center and volunteered at a convent in the care of retired sisters.

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