Living Biographies: Father John Gaffney, O.S.A.

In the summer of 2012, Prior Provincial Fr. Bernard Scianna, O.S.A., Ph.D. assigned our men in formation to visit some of our various communities across the Midwest Province to interview some of our elder priests and brothers. The following is an excerpt of Brother Stephen Isley, O.S.A.'s reflections on his interview with Fr. John Gaffney, O.S.A. in Oklahoma, who now celebrates 75 years of Augustinian vows in 2014.  This article was originally published in the 2012 Fall issue of The Midwest Augustinian.

 Father Jhhn Gaffney, O.S.A.  (left),  with Father Bernie Scianna, O.S.A., Prior Provincial, celebrates 75 years of Augustinian vows in 2014

Father Jhhn Gaffney, O.S.A. (left), with Father Bernie Scianna, O.S.A., Prior Provincial, celebrates 75 years of Augustinian vows in 2014

Our interview with Fr. John Gaffney got underway much differently.  No sooner than introducing ourselves and sitting down, John began his account in breathless fashion, “My name is John Gaffney.  I was born in Wolksberry, Pennsylvania in 1919. I went to St. Leo’s Parish...” Fr. Gaffney
could not tell his early story without John Gallagher, a primary school buddy all the way through ordination and beyond. He told us that since they received very little of Augustine in their formation, they learned Augustinian spirituality by their living together. Apart from the original account of his vocation, the first half hour explained the “nuts and bolts” of his life, a mere roll call of different ministries and assignments. After completing what he thought we expected of him, he began to put some meat on those bones. He shared with us three of the most meaningful quotes in his life. The first is a quote from Rudyard Kipling:

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours it the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

He spoke to us about what the quote has meant for him and how he tries to use his time even in retirement. He learned a complementary quote from his cousin, a religious sister. “Next to grace, God’s greatest gift is time,” said Cardinal Manning. The other quote he shared with
us was posted in the sacristy of a Carmelite convent where he served for some years. It read, “Celebrate this Mass as if it were your only Mass, your first Mass, and your last Mass.” For John, “the Mass is the entire thing.” So these last years not celebrating Mass publicly have been a trial, and the recent weeks of not celebrating Mass at all have been a cross.

I’ve seen John before numerous times, but in the larger group setting, he had a difficult time being prominent in the discussions. This was a wonderful opportunity for me to visit with him at length, and such length!

Facts about Father John Gaffney, O.S.A.

  • Born in: Wilkes-Barre, PA in 1919
  • First Profession of Vows: 1939
  • Ordination to the Priesthood: 1945
  • Currently Resides at:  Montereau Retirement Community, Tulsa, OK

Past Ministries include: