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Father Francis J. Principe

Father Francis J. Principe, who had taught at Cardinal Spellman High School, the Bronx, since 1981, died June 6 at the Edward Cardinal Egan Pavilion, the Bronx. He was 89.

He had also served at Cardinal Hayes High School, the Bronx, 1959-1980.

A Funeral Mass was offered by Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh June 13 at Holy Family Church, the Bronx. The homilist was Father James D. Flanagan, a parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception parish, Manhattan, and a former pastor of Holy Family, the Bronx.

The paths of Father Principe and Father Flanagan crossed many times through the years, Father Flanagan recalled, starting with St. Elizabeth’s parish, Manhattan, where their families lived a few blocks apart.

“He was so smart! As a child, I heard from neighbors of his appointment to Cardinal Hayes High School and graduate work in anthropology and history that made him a respected and accomplished teacher,” Father Flanagan said.

“He later transferred to Cardinal Spellman High School to continue as religion teacher and head of the department. Graduates of both still remember him fondly and respectfully today.”

And to the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral, Lower Manhattan, where both were assigned, although at different times, as well as Holy Family, the Bronx, where Father Principe served as a Sunday associate for almost four decades.

“‘Sunday morning seminars’ between the first and second Masses offered conversation that was enlightening and engaging,” Father Flanagan said.

If Father Principe mentioned the theology of Karl Rahner, the fiction of Flannery O’Connor, the historical studies of Eamon Duffy, Poulenc’s opera “Dialogues of the Carmelites” or Dostoyevsky’s “Grand Inquisitor,” Father Flanagan continued, “it wasn’t to dazzle us with his learning or to show off like a high school debater. It was simply for ‘clarification of thought.’”

“It’s not hard to picture him striking up a conversation with others on the road, as Jesus does on the way to Emmaus, seeking to share what he believes and cherishes.”

Father Principe also understood the profound lesson of Emmaus, suggested Father Flanagan, “that instruction and teaching achieve their purpose when they lead to the breaking of the bread of the Eucharist—a message he promoted faithfully in classrooms, pulpits and conference rooms for more than 60 years of priesthood.”

Father Principe had been a senior priest beginning in 2002. He also served at Wagner College, Staten Island, 1980-1981 and City College, 1954-1958. He was a parochial vicar at St. Joseph’s, New Rochelle and the Basilica of St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral.

Born in the Bronx, he attended Cardinal Hayes High School and Cathedral College before entering St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie. He was ordained in 1953.

He earned a bachelor’s degree from St. Joseph’s Seminary and a master’s in history from Fordham University.

He is survived by a sister, Yolanda Sirna and a brother, Eugene. He was preceded in death by a sister, Mary.

Interment was at St. Raymond Cemetery, the Bronx.


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