Brother J. Conal Owens, C.F.X.
Born John Francis Owens in Lowell, MA, to Irish immigrant parents, he attended St. Michael’s Grammar School and, for two years, Keith Academy, where he fell under the influence of the Xaverian Brothers.
Deeply influenced at Keith by Brother Paul of the Cross, a man bursting with vitality and enthusiasm, and in love with his vocation, John Owens decided to test his own vocation and transferred to St. Joseph’s Juniorate in Peabody, Massachusetts where he graduated in 1946.
In February of that same year, John entered the novitiate at Old Point Comfort, Virginia. On August 15, 1946, he received the habit and the religious name Conal. He loved his new name and used it for the rest of his life.
Brother Conal made his first profession in 1949. Instead of beginning his university studies, he was assigned to St. Patrick’s School in Baltimore. Over the next ten years he was the Xaverian version of a utility player, filling in as needed at six Xaverian grammar schools and secondary schools in New York, Maryland, and Massachusetts. In 1959, Conal was assigned to teach at Mission High School in Roxbury, MA and after four years became principal until the Brothers withdrew from Mission in 1965.
Like so many Brothers, Conal pursued his university studies on weekends and summers. He proved to be an excellent student, earning his BA and MA degrees in history and political science at Boston College. In 1981, Assumption University conferred upon him an honorary doctorate.
In 1965, Conal was assigned to St. John’s High School where in 1968 he was appointed Headmaster. He used his considerable educational experience and talents to improve and expand the school over the next 33 years. In 2001, Conal stepped down from being the chief administrator and remained on campus as Headmaster Emeritus. He remained active and shared his wealth of knowledge and wisdom with the school as well as on the finance committee of the Congregation and on a variety of XBSS boards.
During the last 20 years of his life Conal also generously helped the Venerini Sisters in stabilizing their academy in Worcester. He also reached out in service to the Poor Clare Nuns of Del Ray Beach, FL, helping them save their monastery and promising he was not going anywhere until the Sisters were able to sell their convent and find a new piece of property. They closed on that transaction a few days before his death. He died on May 7, two days after his 93rd birthday.
The Bishop of Worcester joined many priests, fellow religious, family and friends as well as the St. John’s school community in celebrating his funeral at the school. It was a fitting tribute to a man who had dedicated the better part of his life to St. John’s, making it the excellent Xaverian school it is today. Brother Conal was a Xaverian Brother for 76 years.