Published March 1, 2007
Father Joseph Tynan, OCSO, 88, one of the first monks ordained a priest at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery, died after a long illness on Thursday, Feb. 22, in the monastery infirmary. The celebration of the funeral Mass of the Resurrection was held at the monastery on Monday, Feb. 26, at 9 a.m. Reception of the body was held Sunday, Feb. 25, at 5:10 p.m.
Born on May 17, 1918, Thomas Francis Tynan was the son of John and Anna (McMahon) Tynan. He was baptized at the Church of the Nativity in Brooklyn, N.Y., and confirmed in 1929 by Bishop Thomas E. Molloy of the Diocese of Brooklyn.
He graduated from Bishop Loughlin High School in Brooklyn and attended Manhattan College for two years. As a student at St. Mary’s College in 1938, he became interested in the Trappists through the movie “The Garden of Allah” (released in 1936). He applied for entrance into the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Ky. The rector at St. Mary’s, Francis J. Jaglowicz, highly recommended him to the abbot, Frederic M. Dunne. Thomas Tynan entered the abbey on Dec. 29, 1938, and was given the religious name Mary as a novice. He would later change his name to Joseph, his confirmation name.
On Feb. 9, 1941, Brother Mary-Joseph made simple monastic vows followed by solemn vows three years later on March 19, 1944, on the Solemnity of St. Joseph. On that same day, the abbot named 20 monks to begin a new monastery in Georgia, Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery. A year later, on March 20, Brother Mary-Joseph joined the group in Georgia, where he remained until his death.
On June 7, 1947, Brother Mary-Joseph and two other monks (Father Corentine and Father Cyprian) were the first monks ordained as priests at Our Lady of the Holy Spirit Monastery. This year would have been Father Joseph’s 50th anniversary of ordination.
Bishop Emmet Walsh of Charleston, S.C., presided at the ceremony.
At the time, the monks were living in a pineboard monastery built from timber on the property.
Father Joseph served as sub-prior for the community from Aug. 27, 1948, until he went to Rome for scripture studies at the Pontificium Institutum Biblicum in October 1960. He later taught scripture courses to his brother monks as well as serving as novice master for many years.
Father Joseph also served the monastic community as master of ceremonies. He was meticulous in his overseeing of the liturgy, making sure everyone knew what to do.
Before entering the monastery, Father Joseph was a champion runner of longer distance races. Later, he renewed his champion style when he received special permission from the abbot to compete in road races in Atlanta. He came in at the top of his age bracket.
Father Joseph suffered from an ailing back for many years and was an example of endurance as he continued with his duties under hardship. Since 2001, he was cared for in the infirmary.
The monastery’s current abbot, Father Francis Michael Stiteler, said that while he mourns the loss of a friend, Father Joseph was “ready and ripe for heaven.” Like Father Bob Pearson, another monk who died just last week at the monastery, Father Joseph had a strong faith—both men were bedridden and had been “looking forward to this all their lives.”
Father Francis Michael, who knew Father Joseph for 33 years, remembered him as a “gentle kind of soul”—while quiet, he could be strong when he wanted to be, especially in matters of liturgy, getting what he wanted but “never raising his voice.” He also did a lot of work building the private cells in the west wing of the monastery, and the abbot recalled the elder monk’s massive forearms and his own feeling that “he wouldn’t want to be the nail” that Father Joseph was hammering.
In addition, Father Joseph, with his “boyish face and smile,” was fondly remembered as a “giant sports fan,” with Notre Dame as his particular passion.
On Jan. 10, 1939, just days after he entered the monastery, Father Joseph was asked by his novice master to write about himself. Father Joseph wrote, “At present, I am completely happy and contented in the monastery and know that since God will surely give me the necessary graces, I shall persevere here usque ad mortem (until death).”
Like the other monks in Conyers, he did persevere and was a beloved member of the community. As Father Francis Michael said, “It’s easy for me to celebrate them as they pass” into God’s hands.
Father Joseph is survived by four nieces: Maureen Nobles, Kim Lord, Susan Gibson, and Sandy Nichols.