Arthur Espelage Obituary, Death – Fr. Arthur John Espelage, OFM, died on December 9, 2022 at Riverside Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, from renal insufficiency. Antoinette (Green) Espelage and Art Arthur Sr. had six children, including Art. St. Bonaventure Elementary School in Cincinnati. With Franciscan ties through his parish and uncles (Sylvester Espelage, OFM, Bishop of Wuchang, China, and Bernard Espelage, OFM, Bishop of Gallup, New Mexico), Art attended St. Francis Seminary in Cincinnati before entering the Franciscan novitiate on August 15, 1962, receiving the religious name “Nathaniel,” later returning to his baptismal name. After vowing in 1963, he enrolled at Duns Scotus College in Southfield, Michigan. On June 12, 1971, Fr. Art was ordained in Ohio. St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe, New Mexico was his first CDP position. Fr. Art earned a JCB and Licentiate in Canon Law in 1977. St. Leonard College’s canon law professor also oversaw field instruction.
1981’s closure of St. Leonard College saddened Fr. Art. Fr. Art is Associate Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Centerville, Ohio. He was Defender of the Bond, Associate Tribunal Judge, and Tribunal Judge for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati until 1983, when he became Judicial Vicar in Santa Fe. Fr. Art earned his JCD in Canon Law from Catholic University of America in 1987 before becoming a lecturer in Columbus, Ohio Canonist for the Dioceses of Columbus and Palm Beach (1998-1999). In 2008, he was named Venice, Florida’s Judicial Vicar. He was the province’s general visitor. After a year of prayer and reflection, Art became Canonist and Adjutant Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Tucson in 2017. Fr. Art was dedicated to helping the needy, said Tucson Bishop Edward Weisenburger. “I’m humbled by how many divorcees he helped join or keep Catholicism. Pray for Fr. Art, his family, and Franciscans.
Art viewed canon law as a ministry tool, not a goal. Years ago, a married former monk called me. They were in their late 80s and wanted the Church’s blessing. I suggested he talk to Art, who was sympathetic. They died soon after. Canon 1752 declares, “Soul salvation is the Church’s ultimate mandate.” This was in art. Art’s generosity is well-known. His legal knowledge helped prior provincial ministers, friars, and others. His parents and sister Angela were stillborn. Theresa (James) Michael, Diane Daria, Anne (Scott) Martin, and Joseph (Jennifer) Espelage survive him. Balassone, Groth, Langenderfer, Seay, and Young survive. Diane Daria, 3600 Neiheisel Ave., 45248. Art requested cremation. On Monday, January 16, 2023, at 10 a.m., friars, family, and friends will receive Art’s remains. Funeral mass is at 11. After lunch in St. Anthony’s Shrine Hall, interment will take place.
Art wants to finish. “Thanks for your affection,” he told the friars, his family, and friends. You’re in my family’s everyday prayers. I’ll miss you, but I’ll pray for you. Honored to stroll alongside the province’s friars. My small triumphs mirror my ancestors’ greatness. I appreciate your encouragement to follow the Friars Minor Rule and Life. My faith journey is to follow Francis of Assisi’s vestigia Christi. Mismatched steps hurt. Forgive my weakness. Appreciate prayers. I’ve tried to forgive wrongdoers, but I’m not good with words or deeds. Sorry if I missed something. Please eat and visit before leaving the funeral, if possible.