One of the most prominent social activist priests in the United States died on August 5, after being diagnosed with esophageal cancer last December.

Capuchin Father Michael Crosby, 77, was one of the founders of the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) in 1971, and said his mission was to help develop a spirituality of discipleship for U.S. and other “First World” Catholics.

The priest was involved in a wide range of issues over the decades – from fighting apartheid in South Africa, climate change and the tobacco lobby.

More recently, he worked in corporate social responsibility, helping investors use their money to promote social change.

Crosby also was the source of controversy, and had been banned from speaking in some dioceses because of his unequivocal support for women’s ordination and his questions about the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

Crosby was diagnosed with cancer in December, and underwent surgery in April, after a course of radiation treatment and chemotherapy. The cancer returned in June, and Crosby entered hospice care.

According to his online journal, he decided he did not want to continue aggressive treatments, since they would “merely prolong the inevitable.”

“I accept the diagnosis; in fact, I surprisingly am embracing it and hope you can too,” Crosby wrote. “Meanwhile, if I can be so brash, I can only repeat to you what Jesus said the night before he died with those he called his friends: ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled; have faith in God and also believe in me’ (John 14:1).”

Father Michael Crosby receives the anointing of the sick from his brother Capuchins in June 2017. (Credit: Friars of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Joseph.)

Crosby was born on February 16, 1940, and grew up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.

He joined the Capuchin Order in 1959, and perpetually professed his vows on September 1, 1963. He was ordained three years later.

Crosby belonged to the Midwest Province of the Capuchin Franciscans, and although he was a popular speaker and retreat master, he continued to live with his fellow Capuchins in a mission serving the poor of Milwaukee.

His brother, Dan, was also a Capuchin, and was with him when he died.

“Mike gently slipped into the arms of Our Lord who was so eager to welcome him home,” he wrote in Crosby’s web journal.

His brother said that at almost the exact moment he died, two Capuchins were pronouncing their final vows in the chapel below the room.

“And there, up in his bedroom, Mike was DOING, with all his heart, what they were saying in the chapel below,” he wrote. “He was giving himself, handing himself over, body and soul, to the Lord who created him, loved him and worked through him in such a powerful, beautiful way as his channel of peace, justice and hope.”

Crosby’s funeral will be on August 10 in St. Francis Church in Milwaukee, and he will be buried in the Capuchin cemetery at Mt. Calvary, Wisconsin.

In his web journal entry where he informed his friends of his prognosis, Crosby wrote that he had no fear of dying: “In fact I must admit that, given the above, I actually prefer to depart from this form of my life sooner than later; I believe in heaven. I am at peace and very thankful for this peace.”