Fr. Gavin Griffith (1937-2017): Franciscan priest journeyed with many on road to recovery

Fr. Gavin Griffith, OFM (1937-2017)

Fr. Gavin Griffith, OFM

Born: March 30, 1937 in Buffalo, New York

Professed final vows: July 7, 1959 with the Order of Friars Minor (Franciscans)

Ordained: July 9, 1965 at St. Mary’s parish in Stockton, California for the Franciscans

AA birthday: Sept. 3, 1968

Died: March 11, 2017

Service in the Diocese of Phoenix

– Franciscan Renwal Center, Scottsdale, 1979–85
– Parochial Vicar, St. Mary’s Basilica
– Director, Diocese of Phoenix Alcohol and Drug program

Funeral Information

Lenten Evening Vespers/Vigil: 5 p.m. March 26 at St. Mary’s Basilica followed by story-telling and tributes. All are welcome.

Mass of Resurrection: 10 a.m. March 27 at St. Mary’s Basilica. Inurnment following at the friar’s plot at St. Francis Cemetery.

Donations in his honor: Franciscan Friars – Fraternal Care Trust

While the Church on earth will no longer see Franciscan Father Gavin Griffith, his words of inspiration will easily live on. Audio files of his retreat talks for recovering alcoholics survive online.

Fr. Griffith, who spent 45 years in the fellowship of recovery himself, passed away March 11 at San Francisco’s St. Mary’s Hospital. He would have turned 80 March 30.

Fr. Griffith, OFM, was born in New York but raised in the Tucson area attending St. Peter & Paul Grammar School and Salpointe High School before joining the Franciscans at St. Anthony Seminary, Santa Barbara, Mission San Luis Rey College in Oceanside, California.

Fr. Griffith’s involvement in the “Serenity Retreat” movement not only on the West Coast and throughout the US and Canada was legendary. He was also instrumental in the call of many other clergy and laity to sobriety and healing.

In Arizona, he served as a parochial vicar at St. Mary’s Basilica and directed the Diocese of Phoenix’s Alcohol and Drug program from St. Mary’s friary for about a decade, as well as the “Mass for Shut-Ins.” Fr. Griffith also served at the Franciscan Renewal Center in Scottsdale from 1979 to 1985.

Other U.S. assignments took him to Il Ritero Franciscan Retreat Center in the St. Louis area and St. Francis Retreat in San Juan Bautista, California until 2005. His last assignment was St. Boniface Friary a little farther north in San Francisco until health issues moved him finally into full retirement.

A priest for more than 50 years, Fr. Griffith considered his AA birthday, Sept. 3, 1968, his second most significant day. He was generous for almost any opportunity for a 12 Step call and beloved as a sponsor, friend, mentor, retreat director and fellow “trudger,” according to an email from St. Mary’s Basilica.

The Franciscan priest also loved the circus and ham radios.