Joseph Coleman, O.S.A.

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1842 – 1902 (July 2)

Joseph A. Coleman was born in Balbriggan, Ireland, on May 17, 1842. He entered the Order in Ireland, and at 22 years of age made his novitiate at Ghent, Belgium. He continued as a student in that General House together with John Fedigan of the American mission. He was professed on August 15, 1865. Joseph then left Ghent for Hoxton, London, sometime after January, 1868, and was ordained by Archbishop Henry Manning in the bishop’s chapel on July 26, 1868. On October 8 of that same year he was named collector for the mission at Hoxton. At the Irish Provincial Chapter of 1871 he was named prior at Drogheda, and in 1875 prior at Dublin. 

Father Coleman left for the United States to raise funds for the new church in Dublin and made the acquaintance of Bishop Thomas Galberry, O.S.A., of Hartford, Connecticut. He returned to Ireland in October 1877 where he spent a year before leaving once again for the States to establish in Hartford a center for Augustinian ministries. He arrived in Philadelphia on October 3, 1878, just one week before the untimely death of Bishop Galberry. The plan for Hartford never materialized and Father Coleman took up residence at Saint Augustine Church, Philadelphia. On June 4, 1878, Father Coleman was transferred to the American Province by decree of the Prior General. At the end of April and beginning of May, 1879, he directed a parish Mission with four other friars at St. Mary’s in Lawrence that was termed the “grandest and most successful Mission with which the Catholics of this city were ever favored.” 

In the mid-Chapter of 1880 he was unanimously elected prior, pastor and president of Villanova. The Ordinary Chapter of 1882 confirmed him in these offices and named him procurator as well. He was also elected a definitor at this Chapter.

As President he saw to many improvements at Villanova. He began the construction of the present church on Villanova’s campus, breaking ground on March 29, 1883. Two years later the mission at Bryn Mawr was begun and Father Coleman celebrated the first Mass in the school building and broke ground for the church on May 15, 1886. His term as President lasted from 1880-1886. 

On August 8, 1886 Father Pacifico Neno, Prior General, removed Father Coleman from the Province of St. Thomas of Villanova and appointed him to the Australian missions of the Order under the Irish Province, where he served until June, 1898. He was then appointed as alms-gatherer for the Italian Mission in the United States, by Prior General Thomas Rodriguez. He took up residence with the Italian Augustinians at Our Mother of Good Counsel Church on Christian Street in Philadelphia. He subsequently moved to Our Mother of Good Counsel in Bryn Mawr in the Spring of 1902.

Father Coleman died while on a visit to Atlantic City on July 2, 1902. The funeral Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of Good Counsel, South Philadelphia, with Archbishop Patrick Ryan presiding. Villanova Provincial, Father Charles McEvoy, was celebrant and the sermon was preached in both English and Italian. Father Coleman was buried in the vault at Saint Augustine, Philadelphia.