As the sunlight of early afternoon hours filled his room at St. Catherine’s Infirmary on Sunday, June 23, 2024, Father Joseph Levesque, CM, entered eternal life. His decades of work throughout the Eastern Province, particularly within academia at Niagara and St. John’s universities, shaped the current state of our province.

The Funeral Mass was held on Monday, July 1 at The Basilica Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Philadelphia, followed by interment in Princeton, New Jersey.

As Fr. Levesque was called by God, his confreres provided company and Fr. John Maher, CM, the Superior of St. Catherine’s, led everyone in the prayers for the deceased. They provided a farewell to a genuinely great Vincentian.

“Fr. Levesque was one of the most influential leaders in our province’s history,” said Executive Vice President for Mission at St. John’s University Fr. Aidan Rooney, CM. “His leadership focused our province’s commitment to the economically poor more deeply than ever before. His personal and professional commitment to Vincentian higher education is part of the story of both St. John’s University and Niagara University. Our continuing Catholic and Vincentian identity owes much to the choices he made in seeing to the preparation and assignment of key Vincentians to both universities.”

Born on September 3, 1938,in North Tarrytown, New York, the Vincentians ordained him as a priest in 1967 after studies at Mary Immaculate Seminary in Northampton, Pennsylvania. He would go on to shape the very nature of the province, particularly within education, teaching religious studies at St. John’s Preparatory School in Brooklyn and at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey.

In 1970, Fr. Levesque was given his first assignment at Niagara University and became a member of their religious studies department. While he left to earn a doctoral degree in theology at The Catholic University of America, he returned to Niagara in 1978 and was named dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and director of the college’s graduate division.

In 1986, Fr. Levesque returned to seminary work, serving as president of St. Joseph’s Seminary. Four years later, he was elected provincial superior of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission and remained in the role until 1999. During this time, he had maintained his ties academia serving as chair of the boards of both St. John’s University and Niagara University.

In 2000, Fr. Levesque took on the role of president of Niagara University He would serve in this position until 2013, a tenure that would be among the longest in the university’s history. After leaving the role, the university’s board of trustees voted to confer on him the title of president emeritus.

Additionally, when Fr. Donald J. Harrington, CM, retired as St. John’s president in the summer of 2013, Fr. Levesque stepped in to serve as interim president.

Fr. Levesque’s contributions reached beyond the Eastern Province as well. The Conference of Major Superiors of Men named him liaison to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy from 1991 through 1994, then president from 1995 until 1997.

He received honorary degrees from Niagara and St. John’s universities as well as an honorary doctorate from Christ the King Seminary, the former seminary in East Aurora, New York, where he had served as a board member for several years.

“Father Levesque leaves a tremendous legacy, which impacted everyone who had the chance to meet him,” said Fr. James Maher, CM, president of Niagara University. “He will be forever remembered for his faith-filled legacy of pastoral care, his leadership of the province and Niagara University, and his never-ending commitment to service of the poor and the oppressed. Father Levesque was a shining example of what a Vincentian priest should strive to be, and he will be greatly missed.”

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