NEW YORK — Franciscan Father Benedict Joseph Groeschel, well-known preacher and a founder of the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, died on Friday at age 81, after an extended illness.

“We are deeply saddened by the death of Father Benedict. He was an example to us all,” said Father John-Paul Ouellette, community servant of the Friars of the Renewal, in a statement.

“His fidelity and service to the Church and commitment to our Franciscan way of life will have a tremendous impact for generations to come.”

Father Groeschel was a founder, author, teacher, preacher and retreat master. He hosted and appeared on EWTN television shows for more than 25 years. He was ordained a priest in 1959 for the Detroit Capuchin province. He held a master’s degree in counseling and doctoral degree in psychology.

In 1987, Father Groeschel and seven other Capuchin friars founded the Community of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal (CFR) in New York City. He was director of Trinity Retreat House in Larchmont, N.Y., and also taught pastoral psychology for many years at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, N.Y.

He founded St. Francis House and Good Counsel Homes and served as chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry for 14 years.

“All of us at EWTN were saddened to learn of the passing of Father Benedict Groeschel, CFR.  Father Benedict played an enormous role in the work of EWTN, hosting numerous programs and being a frequent guest on the Network for nearly three decades,” Michael Warsaw, EWTN’s chairman and chief operating officer, said in a statement.  “Like Mother Angelica herself, Father Benedict was an iconic presence on EWTN.  His gray beard and Franciscan habit were known to Network viewers around the world and he had a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals.”