By Joe Pinter, News Editor, @JPinter93
This Day in Bonaventure History
January 28, 1981
Every semester, countless people take a retreat to Mt. Irenaeus for a weekend or two. It has proved to be the ideal location for students and professors looking for a place to relieve stress and relax. Those qualities perfectly describe its namesake, Fr. Irenaeus Herscher, O.F.M.
Fr. Irenaeus was born on Mar. 11, 1902 in France. He moved to New Jersey with his family right before he started sixth grade. He held various jobs after high school, although none lasted for too long.
While visiting a Franciscan church, he applied for a vocation to the Franciscan Order. He entered St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in 1920 before moving to the Novitiate in Paterson, N.J., in 1924. He was ordained a priest on June 9, 1931.
In 1933, Fr. Irenaeus went to Columbia University to study library science. He eventually took over as the top administrator in 1937, holding the position until 1970.
While at the library, Fr. Irenaeus had a hand in a baseball cachet that centrered on St. Bonaventure University’s contribution to the major leagues (Hugh Jennings and John McGraw – both in the National Baseball Hall of Fame). He also initiated America’s First National Bible Week in 1941.
Fr. Irenaeus moved to Western New York and became Chaplain of St. Francis Hospital and St. Joseph’s Manor in 1955. He offered daily mass prayers to the aged and chronically ill, causing many to believe he possessed healing powers. This supposed power is the reason the nearby Franciscan Friary is named after him.
One of his good friends, Thomas Merton, admitted that Fr. Irenaeus had one of the greatest influences on his spiritual attainment.
He has a cornerstone is his name at the library at Canisius College, was a charter member of the Silver Jubilee of the Western New York Catholic Librarians Conference and was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Literature from Bonaventure in 1969.
During the fall of 1980, Fr. Irenaeus was diagnosed with a heart condition. After being hospitalized for three months, he returned to Bonaventure and spent his last few days at the Friedsam Memorial Library. It was on this day that he went into cardiac arrest and died.
He is buried in the St. Bonaventure Cemetary.