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Fr. Mathias Faust, OFM


Fr. Mathias Faust, OFM, was born in Oberbimbach, near Fulda, Germany, on Dec. 30, 1879. Drawn to serve in the Franciscans’ American mission, he came to the United States in November 1896 and entered the novitiate a month later, on Dec. 24, at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, NJ.

He professed temporary vows in 1897 and made his profession of solemn vows in 1901. Following theological studies in Washington, Fr. Mathias was ordained a priest in 1906 in Paterson.

Fr. Mathias continued to serve at the Paterson friary in various capacities following his ordination. Between 1906 and 1909, Fr. Mathias was assistant novice master, assistant pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish, and pastor of its mission parish, Our Lady of the Angels in Little Falls, N.J. Then, from 1909 to 1919, he was master of novices.

First elected to the Provincial Council in 1916, Fr. Mathias served as Provincial Minister of Holy Name Province from 1919-1925. During those years, Fr. Mathias purchased the site for Holy Name College in Washington, D.C., accepted the pastoral care of Holy Cross Parish in the Bronx, sent out the first missionaries to China, opened the Butler house of philosophical studies, and initiated the Province’s development efforts by founding the Franciscan Missionary Union and St. Anthony’s Guild.

From 1925 to 1931, Fr. Mathias served as vicar provincial and guardian of St. Francis of Assisi Friary on 31st Street in New York City; as pastor from 1929-31, he transformed its lower church into the National Shrine of St. Anthony. From 1931 to 1937, he again was elected Provincial Minister and continued the expansion of the Province. He accepted the care of St, Stephen of Hungary Parish in New York City, initiated the Province’s ministry in North Carolina, built the new Holy Cross Friary in the Bronx, accepted the mission vicariate of Shashi in China, and purchased the site for Siena College in Loudonville, NY.

Fr. Mathias’s accomplishments appear incredible, and his practical wisdom and sound judgment touched every corner and every level of Holy Name Province. He presided over a period of remarkable growth: when he was first elected in 1919, the Province numbered 168 friars; when he left office in 1937, there were 550. For 50 years, he was a transforming spiritual leader of local, provincial and worldwide Franciscan life and activities.

He served as General Visitator for many Provinces of North and South America as well as in Germany and Ireland. During World War II, he served as Delegate General for North and South America; then from 1947 until 1950, Fr. Mathias was the General Procurator in Rome. In 1952, he was appointed General Delegate for the American Commissariats.

Fr. Mathias died in St. Clare’s Hospital in New York City on July 27, 1956. He was 76 years old, a professed friar for 58 years and a priest for 50 years, most of them in positions of leadership in the Province and the Order.