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Rev. Francis X. Moan, recalled as a schoolmaster’s master, dies of coronavirus

The Rev. Francis X. Moan worked as coordinator of the American Assistance Refugee Project.
The Rev. Francis X. Moan worked as coordinator of the American Assistance Refugee Project.

The Rev. Francis X. Moan, a Jesuit priest and former Loyola Blakefield administrator who later assisted with refugees, died of complications of COVID-19 on April 17 at Saunders House at Lankenau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania.

He was 93 and had lived in his order’s North Roland Park residence.

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“Frank Moan was a schoolmaster’s master,” said The Rev. William J. Watters, former pastor of St. Ignatius Church in Mount Vernon. “He was an amazing teacher in a classroom. He loved teaching and had a passion for the classics. He was a tough, demanding teacher, too. And he also knew the boys sitting before him had great minds who could be challenged. He could mesmerize his students.”

Born in Baltimore and raised on Mainfield Avenue, he was the one of 11 children born to Frank Moan and his wife, Emma. He attended St. Dominic School and was a 1945 graduate of Loyola High School at Blakefield.

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He entered religious studies at St. Isaac Jogues in Wernersville, Pennsylvania, and was ordained in 1957 at Woodstock College, a former Jesuit seminary in Howard County. He celebrated his first Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Baynesville.

He also earned a bachelor’s degrees in English from Spring Hill College in Alabama and in sacred theology from Woodstock College. Father Moan later earned a doctorate in education from Columbia University in New York.

Before he became headmaster at Loyola Blakefield, he taught Latin, Greek and religion at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C., St. Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia and St. Paul’s School in New Hampshire.

John Stewart, the former dean of students at Loyola Blakefield, recalled Father Moan when he was named academic dean and oversaw academics at the school after a period of academic experimentation in the late 1960s.

“He came in and did an excellent job with our corriculum and setting our school on a different path from what we had been doing,” said Mr. Stewart, an assistant to the president and dean of students for 33 years. "As a teacher he had a gift for getting the best out of his students. As an administrator, he got the best out of his teachers, too.

Mr. Stewart also said, “He represented Jesuit pedagogy at its best.”

After his time at Blakefield, Father Moan became a Jesuit university administrator. He later moved to Washington, D.C., and was an editor for National Jesuit News.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Father Moan became the coordinator of the American Assistance Refugee Project and director of Refugee Voices, a publication and now a website where refugees tell their stories.

He traveled the world in connection with his refugee work and spent time in Southeast Asia. A 1991 Baltimore Sun article described his work with Cambodian refugees living in the Philadelphia suburbs.

Stephen Pomplon, a nephew, said, “I knew him as a family man and academic who was driven to fight for justice. He brought the plight of the refugee to the forefront. And within the family, he loomed larger than life. I remember him as a straightforward man who practiced strict academic rigors.”

He remained active and occasionally wrote for America magazine, a national Jesuit publication.

In 2011, he wrote a memoir, “Bless Me, Father," that discussed his decades of hearing penitents’ confessions. “I remember the first day I heard confessions. I had been assigned to weekend work in a large urban parish. As I was about to leave the rectory for the church, an elderly, experienced pastor stopped me with ‘Are you about to hear confessions for the first time?’ When I assented, he continued, ‘Don’t give any advice today. Just listen.’ It was excellent advice. I observe it often 53 years later.”

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After leaving the classroom, Father Moan lived at his order’s Colombiere Jesuit House in North Roland Park. He spent his weekends saying Masses at the Brightview Home in Timonium and at St. Joseph’s parish in Odenton.

After suffering a fall, he spent his final years at Manresa Hall, a nursing facility for Jesuits in suburban Philadelphia.

“For a person who was as accomplished as he was, he really had no airs,” said his nephew, Brian Woods, a Cockeysville resident. "He was down to earth and a friend to all.

“I can remember being in a Bible studies class with him," said his nephew. “He wasn’t afraid to admit that there things in the Bible that are a mystery,” Mr. Woods said.

“He was a great letter writer,” said Mr. Stewart, of Loyola Blakefield. “And years later, after I had been made a dean, he wrote me to say how happy he was that the practice of jug [a form of detention] had been brought back.”

Survivors include numerous additional nieces and nephews.

Plans for a memorial are incomplete.

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