Joseph A. Grifferty, O.S.A.

1906 – 1994 (February 11)

Joseph Aloysius Grifferty was born October 6, 1906, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Patrick Grifferty and Mary Lamond. He had three brothers and two sisters. He attended Saint Francis Assisi Elementary and High School in Germantown, graduating in 1923. He entered the Order as a postulant at Villanova in September, 1923, and was accepted as a novice on June 24, 1924. He professed simple vows on June 26, 1925 and solemn vows three years later. In 1928 he graduated with an A.B. degree from Villanova University. Sent to study theology at the college of the Escorial in Madrid, Spain, he was ordained to the priesthood there by the Bishop of Segovia on July 27, 1930. Father Grifferty returned to this country to complete his graduate studies in Spanish at the Catholic University of America, Washington DC, which granted him a master’s degree in 1931.

Father Grifferty’s first assignment, in 1931, was to Fox Valley High School, Aurora, Illinois, and for the next 31 years his life he was devoted to the secondary education apostolate. In 1932 he was assigned to Villanova Preparatory School in Ojai, CA, and in 1934 began a 28 year association with Malvern Preparatory School, Malvern, PA. He taught Spanish and held various administrative positions. From 1956 to 1962 he was prior of the Augustinian community at Malvern. A former student, wishing to formalize his affection and gratitude to his teacher and counselor, established the Father Grifferty Award for Excellence, granted yearly to a member of the senior class for exceptional effort. 

In 1962 Father Grifferty began full-time parish ministry. He served as pastor and prior at Saint Denis, Havertown, PA, until he was transferred in 1965 to Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, the Bronx, NY, with the same responsibilities. In 1972, he was appointed assistant pastor at Saint Mary’s Parish, Lawrence, MA, where he was instrumental in establishing ministry to the rapidly growing Hispanic community of the Merrimack Valley. In 1980 he was transferred to Saint Thomas Monastery on the campus of Villanova University, Villanova, PA.  Although retired, Father Grifferty remained active, ministering to the spiritual needs of the Sisters of the Holy Child in nearby Rosemont, Pa., administering the Sacrament of Reconciliation at Saint Joseph in the Hills Retreat House in Malvern, Pa., and Saint John the Evangelist Church in downtown Philadelphia, where his fluent Spanish was greatly appreciated. On the campus of the University he was moderator of the Legion of Mary and became active in the Pro-Life Movement. Father Grifferty was an avid follower of the sports program at Villanova, especially basketball, where he, along with Fathers Conneen and Dunne, were familiar figures at all home games. On July 27, 1990, Father celebrated 60 years priesthood.

Shortly after observing his 87th birthday on October 6, 1993, he began to show signs of failing health. He died on February 11, 1994, at the Mercy Haverford Hospital. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on February 17, 1994, at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church. The celebrant was Father John J. Hagen, O.S.A.