Father John Harvey — Apostle of Charity and Chastity, Man of Courage

Father Harvey is best known as the founding director of the Courage apostolate, a ministry for men and women who experience same-sex attractions and strive to live chaste lives

Father John Harvey
Father John Harvey (photo: Father John Harvey Guild)

Earlier this year, on April 14, the Father John Harvey Guild officially announced its existence through social media. This announcement coincided with the 105th anniversary of the birth of John Francis Harvey, a native son of Philadelphia who attended Northeast Catholic High School for Boys and was ordained as a Catholic priest in the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales on June 3, 1944. Father Harvey was a professor of moral theology as well as medical and sexual ethics, and he was president of the Cluster of Independent Theological Schools in Washington, D.C.

When Father Harvey entered eternity on Dec. 27, 2010, many expressed the hope that his virtuous and holy life of charity would never be forgotten. While various efforts to preserve Father Harvey’s memory have been made over the last 13 years, there is now an official non-profit solely dedicated to that purpose. The Father John Harvey Guild, according to its mission statement, “aims to share the life, spirituality, and ministry of Father John Francis Harvey, Oblate of St. Francis de Sales, with the world and with the Church,” and members “especially pray for the opening of Father’s cause for beatification and canonization.”

Father Harvey is perhaps best known as the founding director of the Courage apostolate, a ministry that began in New York City in 1980 through the inspiration of Cardinal Terence Cooke. Courage provides spiritual support and sacramental community for adults experiencing same-sex attractions who freely choose to develop a life of interior chastity in union with Christ. Over the last 43 years, the Courage apostolate has grown into an international ministry and its subsequent Executive Directors are supportive of the efforts of the newly created Guild.

"When all that is hidden is revealed, the world — both those who embraced him and those who resisted him — will definitively see what a great and noble soul was Father John Harvey,” said Father Paul Check, current Executive Director of the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse, Wisconsin, and former Executive Director of Courage International from 2008 to 2016. “By supporting the Father John Harvey Guild, you will be furthering the work of an exceptional priest, whose capacity for truth and charity the world continues to need and deserve.” 

Father Harvey’s life is considered by many to have been one of exemplary virtue, holiness and courage. He succeeded in providing sound pastoral guidance and faithful moral teaching to those who wish to live in accordance with the full Catholic teaching on homosexuality. Father is recognized as having been faithful to the mission God gave him, even when faced with opposition from those within the Church who wish to downplay or deviate from the Church’s teachings on chastity.

“I can’t think of a better saint for our times,” said Susana J., a Courage member and friend of Father Harvey. “Father Harvey’s approach provides our Church’s leaders with a great example of humble and holy spiritual fatherhood, and also of the virtue of courage. Father was faithful to the truth and shared the full truth about chastity, always with gentleness and compassion, even when forces within the Church were working against that message. My hope is that Father will be recognized far and wide as an apostle of charity and chastity, and that his holy life will be officially recognized and recorded in the Church’s canon of saints.”

Everyone is invited to join the Father John Harvey Guild by signing up for a free membership at frjohnharvey.com/join-the-guild. All that is asked of members is that they pledge to say one daily Hail Mary for the opening of Father Harvey’s cause. New members receive five free prayer cards as well as a subscription to a free quarterly eNewsletter which keeps them apprised of the Guild’s activities and efforts. Additional free prayer cards may be ordered online at frjohnharvey.com/prayer-cards and are currently available in both English and Spanish.

The website frjohnharvey.com provides a treasure-trove of details about Father Harvey’s life with a timeline of key events, an autobiography, a free-to-view documentary, a gallery of photos, an extensive list of his publications and presentations, and even a section on Father’s childhood neighborhood, parish school and love of baseball. There are testimonies and articles from friends, family members, fellow priests, academics and many others who were blessed by his life and ministry. A special section has recently been created for Spanish speakers, and the Guild hopes to add more language translations to the site.

Father Philip Bochanski, currently Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and former Executive Director of Courage International from 2017 to 2023, said, “I only had a chance to meet Father Harvey in person once, when I was a seminarian. If I knew then what I know now, I would certainly have spent a lot more time with him! But I have met so many people whose lives he touched that it feels like I know him well, and his priestly life and ministry is an inspiration for me. I am delighted to think that through the Guild, many more people will have the chance to encounter him like I have, through the stories of those who knew him best.”

Father John Harvey Prayer Card
Father John Harvey Prayer Card
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