Father John F. Harvey, O.S.F.S., founder of Courage, the spiritual support group for persons with same-sex attractions, died Dec. 27 at Union Hospital in Elkton, Md. He was 92.
A Funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 31 at St. Anthony of Padua Church in Wilmington, Del.
Father Harvey founded Courage in 1980 at the request of Cardinal Terence Cooke and served as its executive director for 28 years until he stepped down in 2008. The organization began in Manhattan and now has more than 100 chapters throughout the United States, as well as chapters in 11 other countries.
Archbishop Dolan is the chairman of Courage’s board of episcopal members. He said in a statement, “We thank God for the life of service of this heroic priest who became a prophet when it came to living healthy, wholesome chastity.”
The purpose of Courage is to help men and women with same-sex attractions to live chaste lives in accord with Church teaching, with a strong focus on prayer, the sacraments, fellowship and chaste friendships. Members attend meetings modeled on 12-Step programs.
Cardinal Cooke originally asked Father Benedict J. Groeschel, C.F.R., the noted psychologist, spiritual director and author, to establish Courage. Father Benedict, who also is director of the archdiocesan Office of Spiritual Development, was unable to do so because of his heavy schedule, but he recruited Father Harvey. “I was very happy to do it, and I asked God’s help,” Father Harvey once told CNY.
Father Benedict said in an interview, “I consider Father Harvey an outstanding apostle of the Catholic faith. He worked for decades in an apostolate that is easily misunderstood by many different kinds of people. I never saw him upset or aggravated by the opposition. He simply, quietly and directly continued his work for the personal and moral development of large numbers of people.”
Father Harvey conducted Courage meetings and did extensive counseling. He was the author of several books and more than 45 articles on human sexuality and counseling.
The work of Courage led to the founding of a separate group, EnCourage, which offers spiritual support to the families and friends of those with same-sex attractions.
Father Harvey was succeeded as executive director of Courage by Father Paul N. Check in 2008. The organization is now based in Bridgeport, Conn.
Father Check said in a statement, “Father Harvey brought exceptional humility, cheerfulness, and fidelity to a very demanding area of pastoral care. He often was confronted by resistance or misunderstanding, but he met both with Christ-like charity. He was a very good spiritual father to me and many others, and his gentle and steadfast spirit will always remain in the heart of the Courage apostolate.”
Father James J. Greenfield, O.S.F.S., provincial superior of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, told CNY in a statement, “I know that Father Harvey treasured his ministry with Courage that started in the Archdiocese of New York. He appreciated the warmth of the people and the vision and support of the archbishops and priests who have led them. He had deep gratitude for the archdiocese, and we Oblates are thankful for how well he was welcomed.”
Father Harvey was born in Philadelphia. He entered the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales in 1936, professed vows in 1937 and was ordained in 1944 at the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
He held a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a master’s in psychology, a licentiate in theology and a doctorate in moral theology, all from The Catholic University of America.
He taught in the 1940s at Northeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia. He taught moral theology at Dunbarton College in Washington, D.C., 1948-1973, and at the former DeSales Hall School of Theology, 1949-1987, where he also was president, 1965-1977.
Father Harvey taught sexual and medical ethics at DeSales University in Center Valley, Pa., from 1987 to 2009. He retired in 2010.
He was honored in 2003 by the Cardinal Cooke Guild, which awarded him the Cardinal Cooke Medal, and in 1998 by Franciscan University of Steubenville with its Courage in Faith Award.
In an interview when he stepped down as head of Courage, Father Harvey spoke about the annual Courage conventions that draw members from around the country for conferences, discussion and prayer.
“What I notice most of all among the men and the women,” he told CNY, “is a kind of deep peace of heart. They may still have struggles, but they’re on the right track.”
Burial was at the Oblate Cemetery in Elkton, Md.