Br. Michael Gaffney, OFM Cap. passed on Friday, March 10, 2023 at Fraser Villa in Fraser, Michigan at the age of 79.
As a Capuchin friar, Br. Michael expressed his love of God through art. Many of his pieces and works can be found at the various Capuchin ministries in Michigan and Wisconsin.
Br. Michael was born to Thomas Roland Gaffney and Daisy Maxwell on May 13, 1943 in Milton, North Dakota. He was the youngest of nine children. From a very early age, he developed a love for art. Painting, drawing, even carving furniture for his parents.
Br. Michael could turn his visions into artwork through different mediums. In his own words: "I always find myself blessed by God that I could do exactly what I really like to do. How many people get to say that?" At a young age, his sister June gave him a book about St. Francis of Assisi. Inspired by his story, Br. Michael pursued a vocation to religious life. At age 18, he boarded a train that would lead him on a wonderful journey as he joined the Capuchin Franciscans. He was invested with the Capuchin habit in 1963, and he made his perpetual vows in 1967. Br. Michael's first ministry was at St. Lawrence Seminary in Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin. For nearly 15 years he served the seminary as photographer and printer. His artwork and photography would aid in development and fundraising for the seminary.
In 1984, Br. Michael moved to Detroit. With his experience of using art to tell the story of the seminary in Wisconsin, Br. Michael began, what he called, "the creative side of development." He asked the Province to enroll in the College for Creative Studies to formally study art. A room was provided for his art studio at the monastery, and Br. Michael became the provincial artist and graphics designer. Like his life, Br. Michael's work adapted with the times and the needs of the Church. One of his first works was Brother George, a portrait of a friar at St. Lawrence Seminary done in charcoal. Inspired by his faith and his Capuchin brothers, he learned to express this love through other mediums. Br. Michael's work can be seen in watercolor, clay, wood carving, and plaster. A bronze casting entitled Sister Death was inspired by St. Francis' Canticle of the Creatures and rests at the Capuchin cemetery in Mt. Calvary, WI. Other works by Br. Michael Gaffney are done in iconography, ink pointillism, scratchboard, as well as a few pieces of street art. With the advent of computers and graphic design, he also created works digitally, using a sketchpad to create art on the computer.
Br. Michael's life, his vision, and his artwork are testaments to the beauty and elegance of God's design. His joy, his peace of mind, his humility, and his willingness to help others encapsulated the universality of his art and his Capuchin vocation. In his own words, "My work has brought me many experiences as well as travels throughout the world. I am grateful for all I have been able to create and share with others."
Br. Michael is preceded in death by his parents, his sisters Marguerit (Danny) Walker, June (Louie) Papenfuss, Dolores (Arni) Johnson; his brother Tom (Lois) Gaffney; his brother-in-law Ronald Chapman; his nieces Carrie Chapman and LuJune Bjornson; and his nephews Dirk Johnson, Matthew Gaffney, Wade Puppe, and Kim Walker. . He is survived by his sisters Corrine Chapman, Bonnie Olson, Terry (Ray) Dusek; his brother Gene (Eloyce) Gaffney; his many nieces and nephews who loved him dearly; and his many Capuchin brothers with whom he lived, prayed, and ministered for almost 60 years.
Funeral arrangements are scheduled at St. Bonaventure Chapel, located at 1740 Mt. Elliott Ave, Detroit, MI. A visitation will be held on Friday, March 17 at 3PM, followed by the vigil at 4PM. On Saturday, visitation will begin at 10AM, followed by the Liturgy of Christian Burial at 11AM.
Ed Thomson wrote on Mar 30, 2023:
"Very sorry to hear of Michael passing.
We grew up in a small neighborhood together. Michael, Dick Lorenzen , Gene Martin and myself. We spend a lot of time at the local swimming pool together. Michael moved away from Cavalier with his family at the end of 8th grade. He would come back occasionally to visit his old friends in Cavalier thru high school.
I know he is still going to be doing his art work where ever it would be a blessing.
I'm really glad I got to know Michael he will be missed.
I really enjoyed his Christmas art pictures in resent years. He was a terrific talent."
Maria Perez wrote on Mar 15, 2023:
"I will truly miss Br. Mike."
Toni Mazur wrote on Mar 12, 2023:
"I will truly will miss seeing Brother Mike . I loved that he fed the birds. I loved the tours ( I asked him a few times to take a look) of his most homey office, seeing his rocking chairs, seeing his artwork. A very talened, quiet, modest man. I will miss him. T. Mazur "