Very Rev. Father Christian R. Oravec, T.O.R., 77, of the Third Order Regular Franciscans of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, died suddenly on Saturday at Conemaugh Hospital, Johnstown.
He was born in Johnstown, son of the late Andrew G. and Gabriella T. (Kavacic) Oravec and given the name Robert. He was a graduate of Morell and Bheam Elementary Schools, Johnstown, Garfield Junior High School, Johnstown and Johnstown Central High School, 1955.
After high school graduation, he entered the Third Order Regular on Sept. 8, 1955, in Loretto. He entered novitiate at Portiuncula Friary, Washington, D.C., on June 30, 1956, and made his first profession of vows on July 1, 1957. He pronounced his solemn vows on July 1, 1960 at Mt. Assisi Friary, Loretto. Fr. Christian was ordained to the priesthood by the late Bishop J. Carroll McCormick, D.D. of the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, at the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, Altoona, on May 23, 1964.
Fr. Christian received his Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy from Saint Francis University, Loretto, 1960; theological studies, Saint Francis Seminary, Loretto, 1964; and graduate studies, the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C. He did graduate studies at the University of Paris, France. He received a Baccalaureate, Universite de Louvain, Belgium, 1965; Licentiate Universite de Louvain, Belgium, 1967; Doctorate, Universite de Louvain, Belgium, with the doctoral dissertation The Ecclesiology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Exposition, Evolution, Analysis, 1969.
For more than half a century, Fr. Christian was a faithful son of Saint Francis; a renowned educator and a respected business and civic leader. He was professor of dogmatic and systematic theology, Saint Francis Seminary, Loretto, 1969 to 1976; Director of Postulants of the Third Order Regular, 1970 to 1976; Executive Vice-President, Saint Francis University 1976 to 1977; and President of Saint Francis University, 1977 to 2004. He was elected to the Provincial Council four times and served 16 years. He was Minister Provincial for two terms and served eight years. He was Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Saint Francis University, Loretto, from 2004 to 2012; and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Franciscan University of Steubenville, Steubenville, Ohio, from 2004 to 2012. At the present time, he was Director of Provincial Archives and served on the faculty of Saint Francis University.
With his very busy schedule, Fr. Christian made time to minister to the people of God. After ordination, while studying in Europe, he ministered at St. Josef Church, Vienna, Austria; Bon Pasteur Hospital, Paris, France; Joannes Hover Haus, Aachen, Germany; U.S. Army and Air Force bases in Germany and at Louvain and Brussels, Belgium. After returning to this country, he gave pastoral assistance at St. John Vianney Church, Mundys Corner, Pa.; Good Shepherd Church, State College, Pa., as well as ministering in several local convents. He gave retreats and days of recollection in Franciscan communities, in dioceses, at parishes and military bases. He was involved in ecumenical ministry and was guest preacher for Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Lutheran congregations.
Fr. Christian served on several boards and councils for the Catholic Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, including the commission for the Beatification of Servant of God Fr. Demetrius Gallitzin. He served on numerous boards, including the Board of Trustees, Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, Loretto; Board of Directors of AmeriServ Financial Bank, Johnstown; Community Relations Board, Vice Chairman, Federal Correctional Institution, Loretto; Steering Committee, Celebrate One (annual Ecumenical Christian Service.) He was chairman of accreditation teams, Commission of Higher Education, Middle States Association of Colleges and Universities and Chairman of Division I Certification Teams, National Collegiate Athletic Association.
Fr. Christian received many awards during his life, including Doctor of Pedagogy degree, honoriscausa, Franciscan University of Steubenville, 1983; Master of the Order, Third Order Regular, 1997; Pro Ecclesia etPontifice Cross, Pope John Paul II, 2001; Prince Gallitzin Cross, Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, 2002; and President Emeritus, St. Francis University, Board of Trustees, 2006.
Fr. Christian is survived by his sister, Theresa Rose Grandinetti; and his brother and sister-in-law, Anthony Andrew and Marion Domenick Oravec of Johnstown; nieces and nephews; great-nieces and great-nephews; great-great nieces and great-great nephews; great-great-great nieces and great-great-great nephews; and his Franciscan brothers.
He was preceded in death by four sisters: Sue Hammer, Kathryn Krumenacker, Mary Gordian and Elizabeth Kuchenbrod.
Friends will be received in the Immaculate Conception Chapel, Saint Francis University, Loretto on Tuesday, July 22, 2014 from 3 until 7:30 p.m. and a vigil service will be celebrated at 7:30 p.m. A Mass of Christian Burial will be concelebrated on Wednesday, July 23, 2014 at 11 a.m. in the Immaculate Conception Chapel with the Very Rev. Richard L. Davis, T.O.R., Minister Provincial, as principal celebrant. Following the Mass, internment will take place in the Friars' Cemetery on the campus of Saint Francis University, Loretto, Pa.
Memorial contributions may be made to support retired T.O.R. Friars in care of T.O.R. Retirement Fund, Saint Francis Friary, P.O. Box 137, Loretto, PA 15940.
Arrangements are by Gibbons Funeral Home, 301 Church Street, Gallitzin, PA 16641.