Obituaries, Week of April 3, 2021

Brooklyn Native and ‘Awesome Salesian’

Fr. John Francis Grinsell, SDB, assistant pastor of St. John Bosco Parish and director of mission for the Don Bosco Community Center in Port Chester, N.Y, died on Mar. 12 at White Plains Hospital in White Plains of complications from COVID-19. He was 79.

Fr. John Francis Grinsell, SDB

He was also vice director of the Port Chester Salesian community. A priest for almost 50 years, he would have reached his golden jubilee of ordination on Apr. 3. He was a professed Salesian for over 59 years.

He was born in Brooklyn on March 2, 1942. The family belonged to St. John the Baptist Parish, Bedford Stuyvesant, where John was baptized on March. 15, 1942. He attended high school at Don Bosco Juniorate at Haverstraw, N.Y., and from there entered the novitiate in Newton, N.J., in Sept. 1959. He professed his first religious vows on Sept. 8, 1960, at Newton, and his perpetual vows on Jun. 25, 1966, at Mt. Mongola in Ellenville, N.Y.

He graduated from Don Bosco College in Newton in 1964 with a B.A. in philosophy. He did his practical training as a teacher and assistant at the Salesian aspirantate in Cedar Lake, Ind., from1964 to 1967. He was ordained in Columbus, Ohio, on Apr. 3, 1971. Father Grinsell earned an M.A. in Christian spirituality from Creighton University, Omaha, in 1995.

“His spirituality was simple, bold, and directive. In the first class on the Salesian Constitutions, he wrote ‘J and J’ in big letters on the blackboard. He explained, ‘We follow and imitate St. John Bosco and Jesus.’ ‘J and J’ stood for St. John Bosco and Jesus,” according to Father Gus Baek, one of his first group of novices.

Father Mel Trinidad, provincial of the San Francisco Province, calls him “an awesome Salesian.” What made him “awesome” was his pastoral presence to young and old, Father Trinidad said.

Dr. Ann Heekin, executive director of the Don Bosco Community Center in Port Chester, said that he will be missed immensely: “Every basketball team wanted him playing on their side. Every child in the homework room wanted to show him their work — and the same with snack and dinner times. They could never get enough of him. We could never get enough of him.”

Fr. Grinsell’s funeral Mass was celebrated at St. John Bosco Church in Port Chester on Mar. 16 by Auxiliary Bishop Edmund Whalen of New York. Father Patrick Angelucci preached. Fr. Grisnell was buried on Mar. 17 in the Salesian Cemetery at Goshen, N.Y.

Sister Frances Mary Hagzan, OP, a Sister of St. Dominic of Amityville for 70 years, died on July 2, 2020. She was 90.

Frances Mary was born in Brooklyn on May 31, 1930, in SS. Cyril and Methodius Parish, Greenpoint. Soon, the family moved to a large farm in King Park, LI, where they attended St. Joseph Parish School.

Sister Frances Mary Hagzan, OP

When she was in the eighth grade, she chose to attend Villa Maria High School, Watermill, LI, a boarding school for those preparing to become Sisters of St. Dominic. Frances Mary entered the Novitiate of the Sisters of St. Dominic in Amityville as a candidate on Sept. 4, 1949. She was received as a novice and given the Dominican habit and her religious name, Sister Ann Josepha, on Aug. 4, 1950. On Aug. 6, 1951, she made her First Vows.

Her first mission assignment was at Sacred Heart Parish, Cambria Heights, and teaching fourth grade. After one year, she asked for first grade. She remained in that convent and school for 16 years. She taught first grade for more than 50 years. In 1967, she was transferred to St. Pius V Parish, Jamaica, NY, where she lived in the community and taught in the parish school for ten years. Then, in 1977, she moved to Our Lady of Guadalupe Convent, Brooklyn, and taught for two years at St. Frances Cabrini School. For the next 26 years, she taught at Our Lady of Guadalupe School until her retirement.

A private Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on July 7, at 10:45 am in St. Albert’s Chapel at the Motherhouse, followed by burial in the Sisters’ Cemetery.