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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Obituaries for Fr. Flann O’Neil, Deacon Robert Racicot, and Sr. Joselda Smolen

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Suzanne Hammons
Suzanne Hammonshttp://dioceseofgallup.org
Suzanne Hammons is the editor of the Voice of the Southwest and the media coordinator for the Diocese of Gallup. A graduate of Benedictine College in Kansas, she joined the Diocesan staff in 2012.

Fr. Flann O’Neil, OFM  (1924 – 2013)
Michael Dwyer O’Neil was born the son of Michael Augustine O’Neil and Rose Gertrude (Dwyer) on September 17, 1924 in Springfield, Ohio, where he grew up. Flann made his first profession of vows on August 16, 1944 at St. Anthony National Shrine in Cincinnati, OH. Solemn vows followed on August 16, 1947 at Duns Scotus College in Southfield (Detroit), MI. He was ordained a priest on June 12, 1952 at Holy Family Church in Oldenburg, IN.

All of Fr. O’Neil’s priestly ministry was spent among the Navajo people of Shiprock and Waterflow, NM as well as St. Michael’s, Kayenta and Tuba City, AZ. His final assignment was All Saints Mission in May, 2009 due to deteriorating health.

Fr. O’Neil will always be remembered for his easy-going ways, both with his brothers and particularly with the Navajo people to whom he ministered in his lifetime. He was gifted to speak and read the Navajo language, and was a man of simple faith with a deep and personal prayer life and a friar in love with his priesthood and the ministry that flowed from it.

Fr. O’Neil is survived by a brother, Joseph Terence O’Neil of Tallahassee, FL as well as several nieces, nephews and cousins. He has one surviving classmate, Joel Byrne of SJB Province in Cincinnati, OH.

His funeral was held at St. Michael’s Mission in St. Michael’s, AZ.

Deacon Robert G. Racicot (1934 – 2013)

Robert G. “Deacon Bob” Racicot, 78, passed away peacefully on Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013 surrounded by his family after a brave battle with ALS. He was laid to rest in the family cemetery in Silver Star, Montana.

Bob was born in Rochester, NY in 1934 to Esther and Garcia Racicot. He graduated from Canisius High School in Buffalo, NY and after spending a year at Cornell University, he traveled to Montana with a promise of a job on a cattle ranch and $5 in his pocket. In addition to his time as a cowboy, Bob served his country as a Marine sergeant in the Korean War.

He earned his undergraduate and master’s degrees from Montana State University, where he met his wife of 54 years, Ellen.

Bob continued his work with ranchers as an Agricultural Extension Agent for Montana State University and the University of Arizona.

In 2000, Bob was called to serve as a deacon in the Catholic Church. He served at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Holbrook and at Saint Eleanor in the Diocese of Las Cruces.

Bob and Ellen have three daughters and seven grandchildren.

Donations may be made to Bob’s favorite charity, The Nest Shelter, a domestic violence shelter, 26374 US Highway 70 East, Ruidoso Downs, NM 88346.

Sr. Joselda Smolen, OSF

Sister Joselda Smolen, OSF, 92, died on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013, at the Mount Saint Francis Nursing Center in Colorado Springs where she had been a resident since October 2007. The fourth of twelve children, she was born and raised in rural Nebraska and joined the Sisters of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration after high school. She completed a 3-year diploma program in nursing at Saint Anthony Hospital School of Nursing, Denver, Colorado in 1943. She earned her BS Degree in Nursing from Duchesne College, Omaha, NE in 1950 and her Master of Arts Degree in Nursing Administration from the University of Iowa in 1969.

Sister Joselda spent many years in Nebraska ministering as a conscientious nurse and supervisor in various hospitals sponsored, at that time, by her Franciscan Congregation including St. Mary Hospital in Columbus, St. Joseph Hospital in Omaha, Good Samaritan Hospital in Kearney, and St. Elizabeth Hospital in Lincoln. Sister Joselda was highly respected for her competence as a nurse and her excellence as a diagnostician.

In 1970 Sister Joselda moved to Gallup, New Mexico, and served as a Public Health Nurse for 3 years with Indian Health Service of the Department of Health and Human Services. She then assumed the position of Director of Catholic Charities for the Diocese of Gallup. From 1973 to 1990 she ministered in this capacity, working closely with Bishop Jerome Hastrich. While in this position, she established Casa San Jose, a home for unwed mothers, in nearby Grants, New Mexico.

In 1992 Sister Joselda retired to Mount Saint Francis and ministered in many ways throughout the convent and campus grounds. She will be remembered for her excellence in nursing, her independent spirit, her tender love of animals, her quiet but witty nature, and her kind-hearted simple Franciscan way. Sister celebrated her 60th Jubilee as a Sister of Saint Francis of Perpetual Adoration in 1999 and would have celebrated her 75th Jubilee in 2014.

A Wake Service with Vespers was held in the Sisters’ Canticle Chapel on the Mount Saint Francis campus at 5:15 PM on Sunday, January 27th. The Mass of Resurrection was celebrated at 10:30 AM on Monday, January 28th, in Canticle Chapel followed by burial in the Mount Saint Francis Cemetery. Memorials may be sent to Sisters of Saint Francis, 7665 Assisi Heights, Colorado Springs, CO 80919.


  1. Thank you,
    Fr. Flann O’Neil, OFM was my Father’s cousin. Our family in Cincinnati had lost touch with him several years ago. We found your article online, and appreciate the information.

    • Hello Maria, I am saddened by Father Flanns death. I am related, I was named after him, and talked to him once over the phone years ago. He sent me some family tree info, God bless him. I have two L’s on my last name, and im not sure how that happened, but Im part of the family. My Dad was Danny O’Neill from Lima Ohio. Im now retired living in West Chester, Ohio with my loving wife Becky. Feel free to e-mail if you like.

  2. My name is Kevin Newman and I am a member of the Navajo Nation. I’m saddened by the news of Fr. Flann O’Neil’s passing. He was a friend and mentor to me. I grew up in Kirtland, NM. Fr. Flann was intrumental in my ministry as a pastoral musician, liturgist, and organist. I met him when he was pastor of Sacred Heart in Waterflow, NM. He encouraged me in my ministry, offered advice and teaching. He gave me my first copy of the Liturgical Documents and told me, “If you want to be a good musician and organist for the Church, read these documents.”
    The last time I saw him was at the Pastors’ Conference in Las Cruces a few years ago. I embarrasssed him by telling him that he helped my fulfill my vocation in the Church, and if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing. I sincerely thanked him and he blushed. He was a good, humble and holy man and I will never forget him. Rest in peace my friend!

  3. I am so saddened to hear of father flann’s passing. He was a wonderful man and a true leader in the faith that was his life. He was more than that to my family. He was family! I grew up on the navajo nation and had the pleasure of his company every sunday at mass, afterward at the weekly skate(what a great skater)each monday at CCD and his weekly dinner at our cafe in kayenta. My dad insisted that he ate well not just a salad and of course that he not be allowed to pay for his meal,to which his reply was ” Jim I knew I had a boss , but I did mot know that you were HE” . I love you father flann, may you rest in the arms of our lord god.


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