Hess, Bede Frederick

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Minister general of the Order Friars Minor Conventual; b. Rome, N.Y., Nov. 16, 1885; d. Assisi, Italy, Aug. 8, 1953. He was the son of Joseph and Catherine (King) Hess. He was educated at St. Mary's School and St. Francis College, Trenton, N.J. In 1900 he entered the Franciscan Order and was professed on Nov. 17, 1901. He was sent to the University of Innsbruck, Austria, where he earned the S.T.D. After being ordained on July 26, 1908, he was given teaching assignments in New York at St. Francis College, Brooklyn, and St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary, Rensselaer. From 1912 to 1932 he was director of the mission band and pastor of St. Catherine's Church, Seaside Park, N.J. He founded a monthly magazine, the Minorite, later the Companion, and was active in promoting the Third Order, both as commissary provincial and chairman of the National Executive Board (192532). In 1932 and 1935 he was elected provincial of the Immaculate Conception Province. In 1936 he became the 112th successor of St. Francis and the first native-born American general of a religious order. He was confirmed in this position during World War II by papal appointment, and reelected in 1948, thus functioning as general longer than anyone except St. bonaventure. Under his direction the order expanded its activities, particularly in mission fields. He prevented the destruction of Franciscan provinces behind the Iron Curtain, and by liaison with the Nazi authorities, of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis. His writings on the constitutions of his order effected reform in administration and observance; there was a general reorganization of studies, liturgy, and mission norms. Besides numerous articles and a definitive encyclical on the Third Order, his writings include: The Tertiary Director's Guide (1926); De Tertio Ordine Saeculari SPN Francisci (1938); De Militia Mariae Immaculatae (1942); and Manuale de Regula et Constitutionibus O.F.M.Conv. (1943).

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