NEW YORK - The Rev. John Felice, O.F.M., a member of Holy Name Province and 1965 alumnus of St. Bonaventure University, is celebrating 50 years as a friar in June. The Patchogue, N.Y., native decided to join the Franciscans after meeting the friars who worked at St. Bonaventure, where he went to school. Fr. Felice was received into the Franciscan Order in 1962, professed first vows as a Franciscan in 1963, and was ordained a priest in 1968.
Throughout his 50 years of ministry, he has served in the greater New York area, just 40 miles from his hometown. While pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in New York City, Fr. Felice became involved with the needs of the mentally ill, many of whom had been put on the streets when the institutions that cared for them were closed during the 1970s. In response to the increase in homelessness, Fr. Felice and two other friars founded a housing program for the homeless and mentally ill under the auspices of St. Francis Friends of the Poor.
Today, St. Francis Friends of the Poor comprises three residences offering permanent housing with supportive services to 255 tenants and is a successful model for similar housing projects. Fr. Felice has worked with city and state agencies to help create laws and policies to help the homeless and mentally ill population, as well as to assist others in establishing housing programs around the country.
From 1997 to 2006, Fr. Felice served as provincial minister, or leader, of Holy Name Province. During his ministry, he furthered the province's social justice efforts by creating the Office of Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation. He also encouraged the two colleges sponsored by the province - St. Bonaventure University and Siena College, Loudonville, N.Y. - to promote social justice initiatives among the students by establishing Franciscan Centers for Social Concern on both campuses.
"I felt that every ministry of the province should be involved in the needs of the poor," said Fr. Felice of his focus on justice and peace initiatives.
Following the conclusion of his time as provincial minister, Fr. Felice returned to St. Francis Friends of the Poor, where he continues to serve as co-director.
"Being one of the friars has been the privilege of my life," he said of his half century as a Franciscan.
Fr. Felice and 10 other friars marking golden and silver anniversaries will be honored by Holy Name Province at the annual jubilee Mass on June 20 at St. Francis of Assisi Church on West 31st Street.
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