By Jennika Baines / Claudia Mathis
SUN Assoc. Editor / Staff Writer
Father Gaetano Baccaro is celebrating 25 years of priesthood since his ordination on June 8, 1985.
For him, the best part of his priesthood has been his interaction with parishioners. “You really have a sense of unconditional love from the people, unconditional forgiveness, welcoming, nourishment and nurturing,” Father Baccaro said. “It’s really what keeps you going.”
Father Baccaro attended St. Bonaventure University in Olean and Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y. His first appointment was as associate pastor of Our Lady of Pompei in Syracuse from 1985 to 1989. He was a religion teacher and a religion department chair at Rome Catholic High School from 1989 to 1995. He was also a junior/senior guidance counselor from 1993 to 1994. During this time, Father Baccaro also assisted on weekends at St. Peter’s Church in Rome and was a chaplain for the Knights of Columbus, acting as a faithful friar of the Rome Council and the Rome Assembly, and was police chaplain of the Rome Police Department from 1993 to 1994.
Father Baccaro served as pastor of St. John’s Church in Liverpool from 1995 to 2007, and during this time he was the chaplain for the Knights of Columbus Louis Waters Council in Liverpool. Father Baccaro is currently serving as the pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Oswego and celebrates the sacraments at the SUNY Oswego Newman Center. He has been the Northern Region Vicar since 2009.
He said one of the challenges of his priesthood has been balancing administrative duties with sacramental duties, but he said a benefit of this has been the increasing role of the laity in the “nuts and bolts” of the parish. “Gone are the days when Father does it,” Father Baccaro said.
But this has led to a wonderful relationship between parish priests and the people of his church. He said the parishioners are what helped him through the two worst days of his life, the days when his father and mother died. “It was the people who helped me through,” he said. “I just want to say thank you. It’s what’s kept me going for 25 years.”
Father Don Bourgeois is celebrating his 25th jubilee after being ordained on June 8, 1985.
“From the time of my childhood I knew I wanted to be a priest,” Father Bourgeois said.
But after earning a bachelor’s degree at Siena College and a master’s degree at the College of St. Rose in Albany, Father Bourgeois went on to teach English at Waterford High School for 14 years. He said it was his parish priest, Father John Connolly, who encouraged him to fulfill his vocation.
Father Bourgeois attended Holy Apostles College in Cromwell, Conn. and Theological College in Washington, D.C. His first appointment was as associate pastor of Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City from 1985 to 1990. He was also an original member of the diocesan Pro-Life Committee, which was established in 1987.
Father Bourgeois was associate pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Vestal from 1990 to 1991, when he also taught moral theology and English part-time at Seton Catholic High School in Binghamton. He was pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Bainbridge and St. Agnes’ Church in Afton from 1991 to 2003 and he served as pastor of Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City from 2003 to 2009. He currently serves as parochial vicar of St. Ambrose in Endicott.
Father Bourgeois also served as editor-in-chief and is currently the episcopal liaison for The Catholic SUN.
When asked what he most enjoys about his priesthood, Father Bourgeois responds without a moment’s hesitation: “The people. How much they love their pastors, how much they appreciate what the pastors do for them, how much they want to help the priests.”
And although Father Bourgeois left his career in the classroom behind, he still said he loves teaching Scripture to his parishioners and helping them apply the Scriptures to their lives. It has been a life-changing experience for him as well as for some of his parishioners.
“I think one of the really moving and defining moments of my priesthood was when three different people came to me and said after coming to Mass with their Catholic spouse, they wanted to become Catholics,” Father Bourgeois said. “To me, I think that’s one of the most awesome experiences you can have as a priest.”
Father Abraham Esper is celebrating 25 years since his ordination on June 8, 1985.
What he has loved most about his priesthood has been, he said, “empowering people, watching people grow spiritually and making them grow in the one life with our Lord.”
Father Esper attended Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn. and Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y.
His first appointment was as associate pastor of St. Catherine’s Church in Binghamton from 1985 to 1990. He was then associate pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica from 1990 to 1994. Father Esper served as pastor of St. Stephen’s Church in Oriskany from 1994 until it closed in 2007. During that time, he also became pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Whitesboro from 1996 to 2009 and was pastor of St. Anne’s Church in Whitesboro from 2004 until it merged into St. Paul’s Church in 2006.
Since 2009, Father Esper has been pastor of St. Augustine and St. Mary’s Churches in Baldwinsville.
Father Esper said the closing and merging of parishes were among some of his biggest challenges as a priest. “I’ve closed two parishes, and that was the most difficult,” he said.
But he said he has seen how parish life has become more reliant on parishioners. “From my standpoint it’s become less hierarchical and more of a shared experience with the people,” he said.
Father Esper said he has loved his time as a priest. “I couldn’t imagine doing anything else with my life other than what I’m doing,” he said.
Father Amedeo Guida is celebrating 25 years in the priesthood. He was ordained on June 8, 1985.
“The best part of the priesthood for me has really been being able to bring Christ to the people through the Sacraments and the liturgy and being able to be a part of their spiritual lives,” Father Guida said.
Father Guida attended Theological College in Washington, D.C. and Aquinas House in Syracuse. His first appointment was as associate pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption in Binghamton from 1985 to 1989. He was the first director of the Spanish Apostolate for the Eastern Region from 1989 to 1995.
He was temporary associate at St. Peter’s Church in Utica in 1995, and from 1996 to 1997 he was assistant chancellor and secretary to Bishop James Moynihan.
Father Guida served as parochial vicar at Holy Family in Syracuse from 1997 to 2000 and as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception from 2001 to 2004. He was administrator of St. Daniel Parish in Syracuse from 2004 to 2006. He was administrator of St. Stephen’s Church in Oswego and Our Lady of the Rosary in Hannibal from 2006 to 2009. He served as weekend assistant chaplain at St. Luke’s Hospital in Utica for a few months in 2009. He has served as parochial vicar at St. James Church in Johnson City since 2009 and has once again taken over the position as director of the Spanish Apostolate while Father Kevin Bunger is on sabbatical.
Father Guida also serves as the bishop’s liaison for the Charismatic Renewal Movement for the diocese. He celebrates Charismatic Masses on the second Monday of each month at Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford and the third Monday of the month at Holy Family Church in Syracuse. He celebrates healing Masses on the first Thursday of each month at St. James.
“This type of commitment, this type of lifestyle, without the help of God, of course, it doesn’t happen. But also good friends and family are very important,” Father Guida said. “All of the parishes I’ve lived in, I’ve always found some wonderful people, and I thank God for that.”
Father Lucian Urbaniak was ordained 25 years ago on May 23, 1985.
He said he has loved the time he has been able to be there for his parishioners and hopes to be able to dedicate many more years to his ministry. “I hope to see what I do makes a difference in people’s lives,” Father Urbaniak said.
After attending the Papal Institute of Theology in Pozna, Poland, Father Urbaniak earned a master’s degree in philosophy and theology. His first appointment was at Holy Cross Church in Leszno, Poland from 1985 to 1987. He then served at St. Catherine’s Church in Ivronki, Poland from 1987 to 1988. He was a chaplain for Medical Academy Pozkan in Poland from 1989 to 1990.
Father Urbaniak’s first appointment in the U.S. was as associate pastor of Transfiguration Church in Rome from 1990 to 1992, then at St. Peter’s in Utica from 1992 to 1996. Father Urbaniak was appointed pastor of St. Mark’s Church in Utica from 1996 to 2008, and he currently serves as pastor of Transfiguration Church in Rome.
“I always experienced the gratitude of parishioners, and that was my greatest reward,” Father Urbaniak said. “People appreciate dedication and see when you are working for them and with them.”
He said that whereas once priests may have expected to be respected, now priests must earn the respect of their parishioners. “It’s not just given to us because we’re a priest,” Father Urbaniak said. Instead, priests must devote themselves to their parishes and dedicate themselves to working with the people. “And then,” he said, “the people will love us and respect us.”
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Father Charles Aho is celebrating 40 years in the priesthood since his ordination on May 16, 1970.
He attended Resurrection College in Kitchener, Ontario, Christ the King Seminary in East Aurora, N.Y. and St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
His appointments include serving as assistant pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Syracuse from 1970 to 1972, as a teacher at Binghamton Catholic Central from 1972 to 1974, as an assistant pastor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception from 1974 to 1977, and as a chaplain at Christian Brothers Academy from 1977 to 1979.
Father Aho was a weekend assistant at St. Mary’s Church in Clinton during the summer of 1979, and a weekend assistant at St. Matthew Church in East Syracuse from 1979 to 1980. From 1980 to 1982, he was a part-time associate at St. Mary’s Church in Clinton and a part-time Newman Chaplain for Hamilton College in Clinton. He served as associate pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Cicero in 1982 and assisted at Most Holy Rosary Church in Syracuse in 1983.
He served as associate pastor of St. Therese Church in Syracuse from 1986 to 1988, as administrator at St. Francis Church in Lacona and St. Mary’s Church in Altmar from 1988 until he became pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Oneida in 1992.
Father Aho served as a chaplain at Syracuse Developmental Center from 1994 to 1996, at the Dominican Monastery from 1996 to 1997, at the Hillbrook Detention Center from 1997 to 1998, and as part-time chaplain at Iroquois Nursing Home. He also assisted on weekends at St. Michael’s Church in Fulton beginning in 1998 and served about 10 years as the Catholic chaplain at Van Duyn Nursing Home in Syracuse.
Father Aho also celebrates Mass for retired nuns at Jolento convent. “One of the things that I’m very happy about is the more frequent use of the talents of women in the parishes than was the case in my day,” he said.
He said he gets a great deal of satisfaction from his ministry, particularly in ministering to bereaved families. “The people are at their most sensitive when they’re suffering from a loss,” he said. Being able to pray with and for people at this time is one of the greatest gifts a priest can give, he said.
Father Aho said some of his most formative years were spent as a novice at the Trappist monastery in Geneseo from 1957 to 1959. “I really did learn my best training in spirituality and liturgy from the Trappists,” he said.
Father John Fenlon, pastor at St. Patrick’s Church in Syracuse, is celebrating his 40th year in the priesthood. A native of Tully, his home parish is St. Leo’s. After graduating from Tully Central High School in 1962, Father Fenlon studied at St. Bonaventure University and completed his seminary work at Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, N.Y.
Father Fenlon was ordained May 16, 1970. The summer following his ordination, he served as chaplain at Lourdes Camp in Skaneateles.
From 1970 to 1975, Father Fenlon served as assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s in Binghamton and in the same capacity at Our Lady of Lourdes in Syracuse from 1975 to 1976. From 1976 to 1981, Father Fenlon served as associate pastor at St. Therese in Syracuse. From 1981 to 1985, he served as associate pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption in Rome and as administrator at St. Malachy’s in Sherburne. After serving as administrator for a few months in 1985 at St. Agatha’s in Canastota, Father Fenlon ministered to the parishioners at Most Holy Rosary in Syracuse as associate pastor until 1986. He then assumed the role of pastor at St. Anne’s in Parish and St. Patrick’s in Williamstown. In 1991, Father Fenlon took a sabbatical after which he served as associate pastor at St. Mary’s in Cortland, and eventually as pastor from 1993 to 2006.
Father Fenlon then served as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse from July to October 2006 and at St. Ambrose from November 2006 to August 2007.
In 2007, Father Fenlon began his ministry as pastor at St. Patrick’s in Syracuse.
In addition, Father Fenlon in October 1974, served in vocation promotion at Christ the King Church in Liverpool and Aquinas House in Syracuse.
“God has been wonderful to me,” reflected Father Fenlon. “I’ve had a great life.”
St. Patrick’s parishioners are planning a summer event, which will honor Father Fenlon. He is also looking forward to a reunion with his fellow classmates in Allegany on July 7.
Father Richard Kapral, celebrating 40 years of priesthood, said his life has been very happy as a priest. “It’s been great,” he said. “There have been interesting ministries in each of the parishes that I have served.”
Father Kapral has been serving as pastor at Ss. Joseph/Patrick Church in Oneida since 2008.
Father Kapral’s home parish is Holy Family in Fairmount. He graduated from St. John the Evangelist in Syracuse in 1962. After attending Resurrection College in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, he completed his seminary work at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
Father Kapral was ordained on May 16, 1970. His first assignment was as associate pastor at Our Lady of Solace in Syracuse. From 1974 to 1976, he served as associate pastor at St. Francis de Sales in Utica and at St. Thomas in New Hartford from 1976 to 1980. Father Kapral then began to serve as pastor at St. Francis de Sales. In 1992, in addition to serving as administrator at St. Mary’s in Florence and St. Paul’s in Redfield, Father Kapral gave his support to the Vietnamese ministry based in St. Francis de Sales in Utica. “That was a great experience,” said Father Kapral.
From 1993 to 2005, Father Kapral served as pastor at St. Bernard’s in Waterville and at Holy Family in Vernon from 2005 until the time he began to serve at Ss. Joseph/Patrick.
Father Kapral will be honored at the 10 a.m. Mass on May 16.
Father James O’Brien, pastor at St. John’s in Liverpool, is celebrating his 40th year of priesthood on May 16 with a special Mass and a reception afterwards at nearby Soule Road Elementary School.
Father O’Brien’s home parish is the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. After graduating from the parish school in 1962, Father O’Brien attended the University of Notre Dame and Christ the King Seminary in Allegany, N.Y. In addition to his seminary education, he earned a master’s degree in education from Syracuse University.
Father O’Brien was ordained May 16, 1970 and his first assignment was to serve from June to September at St. Michael’s in Central Square as associate pastor. After that, Father O’Brien served again as associate pastor at St. Vincent de Paul in Syracuse from 1970 to 1972.
In 1972, Father O’Brien became a faculty member of Bishop Ludden Junior/Senior High School and in 1975 he was named superintendent of Catholic schools. From 1982 to 1983, he served as associate pastor at Sacred Heart in Cicero. From 1983 to 1995, Father O’Brien served as rector at the Cathedral in Syracuse and from 1995 to 1999, he was pastor at Blessed Sacrament in Syracuse.
In 1999, Father O’Brien took a sabbatical to work as a priest in Bolivia. He returned to Blessed Sacrament in Syracuse as pastor in 2001. He was then appointed pastor at St. John’s in Liverpool in 2007.
Father O’Brien’s special assignments include serving on the Priest Personnel Committee in 1994 and he is presently serving on the Notre Dame Institute for Clergy Education.
Father O’Brien said that his life as a priest has been interesting and challenging but it has also been a blessing. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity and a gift to be a part of the church and to serve the best I could,” he said.
Father John Putano, pastor at Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal, is celebrating his 40th jubilee with his parishioners at a reception following the evening Mass on May 15.
“Every place I have served was a wonderful experience,” said Father Putano. “I feel honored to be able to serve the parishes.”
Father Putano’s home parish was Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Binghamton. After graduating from St. Patrick’s Academy in Binghamton in 1961, Father Putano completed his seminary work at St. Andrew and St. Bernard Seminaries in Rochester.
Father Putano was ordained on May 16, 1970. He was assigned to St. John the Evangelist in Binghamton as associate pastor for three months and then as associate pastor at St. Anthony’s in Utica until 1974, when he was assigned associate pastor at Our Lady of Angels
in Endwell. From 1975 to 1980, Father Putano served as associate pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption in Binghamton and from 1980 to 1984, he served in the same capacity at St. Margaret’s in Mattydale. After serving as pastor at St. Anthony’s in Endicott from 1984 to 1996, Father Putano took a year-long sabbatical. Prior to arriving at Our Lady of Sorrows in 1998, Father Putano served as parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse for one year.
Father Putano has served as the Regional Vicar for the Southern Region and as the Catholic School Office Liaison to Broome County Schools.
Father Francis Wapen, pastor at St. Patrick’s in Taberg, is celebrating his 40th jubilee since his ordination May 16, 1970. His home parish is St. Mary of the Assumption in Oswego. After graduating from Oswego Public High School in 1961, Father Wapen attended Resurrection College in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and completed his seminary work at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
Father Wapen’s first assignment was as associate pastor at St. Peter’s in Utica in 1970. He also served as associate pastor at Holy Family in Fairmount from 1971 to 1977, Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica from 1977 to 1982, St. Paul’s in Oswego from 1982 to 1985 and St. Paul’s in Whitesboro from 1985 to 1991. In 1991, Father Wapen took over the pastorship of St. Patrick’s in Taberg and St. Anne’s in Glenmore, which is now closed.
Father Wapen’s special assignments include serving as a committee member of the Liturgical Commission and the Ministry of Music from 1972 to 1974.
Looking back over his years as a priest, Father Wapen said he has lived a very good life and that it has had its ups and downs. “It has been a very, very turbulent time in the church,” he said. “It’s been a period of change — it’s been an exciting time and a time of learning. The church came out better for it.”
There will be a parish celebration to commemorate Father Wapen’s jubilee after Mass on May 16 and Father Wapen said he would also celebrate by dining out with his friends.
Father Francis Young, celebrating 40 years of priesthood, is serving as administrator at St. Agnes in Brewerton. A native of Baldwinsville, his home parish is St. Mary’s. After graduating from Baldwinsville Academy and Central School in 1960, Father Young attended Resurrection College in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and completed his seminary work at St. Bernard’s in Rochester.
After his ordination on May 16, 1970, Father Young was assigned to Holy Cross in DeWitt as associate pastor and served in that position until 1973, when he began to work on the faculty at Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School.
From 1981 to 1986, Father Young served as associate pastor at St. James in Johnson City and for the next two years, he served in the same capacity at St. Mary’s in Cortland. In 1988, Father Young began to serve as pastor at St. Paul’s in Norwich and in 1992, as associate pastor at St. Rose of Lima in North Syracuse. He has been serving as administrator at St. Agnes since 2009.
Father Young’s special assignments include serving as chaplain of the Knights of Columbus Father Leo Council in North Syracuse and teaching at Le Moyne College.
Father Young has enjoyed his life as a priest. “It’s been awesome,” he said.
He will be honored on May 16 at St. Rose of Lima’s 3 p.m. Mass and at a reception afterwards at Arrowhead Lodge in Brewerton.
Father Edward Zandy, pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Endicott, is celebrating his 40th jubilee. A special Mass will be held on May 15 followed by a dinner at the church center to honor Father Zandy.
Father Zandy’s home parish is St. Anthony’s in Endicott. He graduated from Seton Catholic High School in 1962. He continued his studies at Niagara University in Lewiston, N.Y. and at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester where he completed his seminary education.
Father Zandy was ordained on May 16, 1970. He was first assigned to Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal where he served briefly as associate pastor. After that, he served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Syracuse until 1974, when he began to serve as a faculty member at Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High School. During the summer of 1979, Father Zandy served as a weekend associate pastor at Immaculate Conception in Pompey and St. Patrick’s in Truxton. He entered the U.S. Army in September 1979 to serve as a military chaplain.
Beginning in 1986, Father Zandy served on the faculty at Seton Catholic High School. From 1987 to 1993, he served as pastor at St. Christopher’s in Binghamton. He was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Endicott in 1998.
In addition, Father Zandy served as police chaplain in Binghamton for 11 years and is currently serving as a fire and military chaplain in the Endicott area.
“I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve done,” said Father Zandy. “I’ve had a lot of varied experiences.”
Father Louis Nichols was ordained 50 years ago, and since then his vocation has taken him around the world.
Father Nichols graduated from Union Endicott High School and went on to attend St. Andrew’s Preparatory Seminary and St. Bernard’s Seminary both in Rochester. He was ordained on Feb. 2, 1960, and his first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Andrew’s Church in Binghamton from 1960 to 1962. He served as associate pastor of St. Lucy’s in Syracuse from 1962 to 1966.
From 1966 to 1977, Father Nichols served as a chaplain for the Navy, and during that time he served two tours of duty in Vietnam.
During the first tour of duty, he was stationed in a Marine compound when people from the nearby village of Thach Nam came to tell the Marines that their priest had been killed by the Vietcong. They asked if a priest might be willing to celebrate Mass for them, and Father Nichols was given parochial jurisdiction over the church from 1967 to 1968.
“The Marines who were converted while I was over there made their confirmation with the Vietnamese children,” Father Nichols said.
During Father Nichols’ second tour of duty in 1971, he was the chaplain for Destroyer Division 52 which patrolled the coast of Vietnam. His ship was caught in Typhoon Joan off the South China Sea for four days, and Father Nichols said the captain thought the ship would have capsized if they hadn’t had a priest aboard.
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After Father Nichols was discharged from the Navy, he took advantage of the G.I. Bill to earn degrees in psychology and social science. Through Cardinal John O’Connor, who was the chief of chaplains for the Navy, Father Nichols took a position as a minister working with alcohol and drug addicted employees of US Airways. Many of those he ministered to were military veterans working for the airline, he said. “I helped save jobs and I helped save lives,” he said. It was a position he held from 1980-90.
Father Nichols’ ministry also brought him to serve on the USS Guadalcanal LPH-7 amphibious assault ship and helicopter carrier, to the Marine Corps Combat Development at Quantico, Va. and to the Naval Aviation Schools Command in Pensacola, Fl.
Father Nichols served as chaplain at Queen of the Valley Hospital in Napa, Ca. from 1994 to 1997, as pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Willits, Ca. from 1994 to 1997, as administrator for Our Lady Queen of Peace in Clearlake, Ca. from 1997 to 2005, and currently serves as pastor of St. Anthony’s Parish in Mendocino, Ca. from 2005 to the present.
Father Nichols said he has been tempted to return to the Syracuse Diocese, but he has always felt at home with brother priest-chaplains.
“The brotherhood of the priesthood is the thing that’s always stabilized me,” he said. “And the brotherhood of military chaplains was just unmatched by anything else in this world.”
Father Stanley Gerlock is celebrating the 50th jubilee since his ordination on April 2, 1960. Although Father Gerlock may have retired in 2004, he’s still hard at work. Father Gerlock serves twice a week as the chaplain at Broome County Jail, a position he has held since 1986.
“There’s a lot of satisfaction when a person comes and says to me, ‘The Mass has really been the highlight of my week, and now I’m being released and I want your blessing,’” Father Gerlock said.
He attended St. Stanislaus Elementary School and St. Patrick’s High School in Binghamton. He then went on to attend St. Mary’s Preparatory and Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary both in Orchard Lake, Mich.
Father Gerlock’s appointments include serving as assistant pastor at St. John the Evangelist in Binghamton from 1960 to 1962, at Holy Trinity Church in Utica from 1962 to 1964 and at Blessed Sacrament in Utica from 1964 to 1966. He served as parochial vicar in Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City from 1966 to 1968, at Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford from 1968 to 1973, at St. Paul in Binghamton from 1973 to 1975 and at St. Ambrose in Endicott from 1975 to 1976.
Father Gerlock was pastor of St. John-St. Agnes in Bainbridge/Afton from 1976 to 1983, of St. Mary’s in Kirkwood from 1983 to 1996, and of St. Rita’s Church in Chenango Forks from 1996 until his retirement.
His ministry also includes a chaplaincy at Notre Dame High School from 1968 to 1973, a chaplaincy at Camp Brace, a juvenile detention center in Masonville, N.Y., from 1978 to 1983, and a chaplaincy of the Newman Club at Utica College of Syracuse University from 1962 to 1965.
Father Gerlock said he can recall how anxious he was right before his ordination. “I wasn’t sure I was ready,” he said. Now, he said he hopes to be able to continue his ministry as long as his health allows.
“There are about 20 steps that are out in front of the jail,” he said. “When I can’t make it up those 20 steps, then it’s time to retire.”
Father Bob Jones is celebrating 50 years since his ordination on Feb. 2, 1960.
“I think the best part of my priesthood would be the giving of comfort and encouragement to people,” Father Jones said.
He attended Blessed Sacrament and St. Francis de Sales High School in Utica and went on to attend Le Moyne College in Syracuse and St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
His first assignment was as associate pastor of St. Paul’s Church in Oswego from 1960 to 1962 and at St. John’s Church in Oswego from 1962 to 1966. While serving at St. John’s, Father Jones was also a faculty member at Oswego Catholic High School.
Father Jones went on to serve as associate pastor of Holy Trinity in Syracuse from 1966 to 1970, at St. Anthony of Padua in Syracuse from 1970 to 1972, at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse from 1972 to 1975 and at St. Matthew Church in East Syracuse from 1975 to 1979. He became pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Cleveland and St. Bernadette’s Church in Constantia from 1979 to 1992. He has served at Unity Acres and Elizabeth House in Orwell since 1992. Unity Acres is a hospitality house for men battling addiction and Elizabeth House is a Catholic Worker house.
While Father Jones said he has enjoyed the challenges and rewards of his life in the priesthood, his time in the seminary was a different story. “I wasn’t really fond of the seminary, to tell you the truth. Lots of heaviness and gloom. I know discipline is necessary, but I just decided that if I was going to stick it out, I was going to have to shake things up a little bit, you know, get a laugh,” Father Jones said.
So, for a term paper, he wrote through the alter ego of “Dr. Throckmorton Photius Gooch,” and, showing the paper to some of his fellow seminarians, he said it got quite a laugh. “It was a survival technique — a nonsense kind of thing,” Father Jones said.
“And the term paper even earned a B+,” Father Jones said.
Many of his friends still know of the exploits of Dr. Throckmorton Photius Gooch, and after 50 years of priesthood, Father Jones is still laughing.
Father George Wurz was ordained 50 years ago on Feb. 2, 1960, and in that time he has brought his ministry to every region of the Syracuse Diocese.
He was associate pastor of St. Ambrose in Endicott from 1960 to 1963, at Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford from 1963 to 1964, at St. Thomas in New Hartford from 1964 to 1967, at St. Mary’s Church in Rome from 1967 to 1969, at Blessed Sacrament in Utica from 1969 to 1971, at St. Anthony of Padua in Syracuse from 1971 to 1974, at Our Lady of Solace in Syracuse from 1974 to 1975, at St. Lucy’s in Syracuse from 1975 to 1981 and at St. Peter’s Church in Oswego from 1981 until now.
“I’ve always felt called to the ministry,” Father Wurz said. “The best part of the priesthood for me is ministering to the poor and to the spiritually needy.”
Father Wurz also served as a chaplain at the Jamesville Penitentiary and has served for over 18 years as a chaplain at the Oswego County Jail.
“Jail ministry has been an important part of my time in the priesthood,” Father Wurz said. “It’s very enriching to me in that you minister to the needs of so many that are hurting so deeply, and they might not have anyone else to look to or receive ministry from.”
He said being able to discern the needs of those he ministers to is one of the biggest challenges in his priesthood, but it’s a challenge to which he is willing to dedicate the rest of his life.
“I thank the Lord for the apparent good health that I have now and I hope to use that health that the Lord has given me to continue His ministry,” Father Wurz said.
Father Leo Wimett is celebrating his 50th jubilee this year. He was ordained on Feb. 2, 1960.
He attended Sacred Heart Elementary School and St. Michael’s High School in Utica as well as St. Paul’s Mission Seminary, Minn. He graduated from St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
Father Wimett’s first appointment was as parochial vicar of Holy Cross Parish in DeWitt from 1960 to 1966. He was parochial vicar at St. James in Johnson City from 1966 to 1969, at St. James in Syracuse in 1969 and at St. Ann’s Church in Syracuse from 1969 until 1976. He has served on the diocesan finance committee and was the chaplain for the Ladies Auxiliary Our Lady of Peace Council for the Knights of Columbus. He also served as chaplain of the Knights of Columbus in Johnson City from 1965 to 1970.
Father Wimett has been the pastor of St. John’s in North Bay since 1976, and he said this has given him a remarkable chance to get to know the families in his parish.
“Now I’m marrying some of the kids I baptized,” he said.
He said that while he has appreciated his time at each of the parishes he has served, he has grown to have a special affinity for St. John’s. He said he hopes to minister to the parish as long as he can.
“I intend to stay here,” Father Wimett said. “I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I retired.”
Msgr. Eugene Yennock, pastor at St. Daniel in Syracuse, is celebrating 60 years in the priesthood. His home parish is Our Lady of Pompei in Syracuse. He graduated from St. John the Baptist in Syracuse in 1943.
Msgr. Yennock completed his seminary work at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s Seminaries in Rochester.
After his ordination June 3, 1950, Msgr. Yennock served as parochial vicar at Immaculate Conception in Fulton until 1959 when he became administrator in the same location. From 1962 to 1966, Msgr. Yennock served as principal at Oswego Catholic High School.
Before coming to St. Daniel in 1981, Msgr. Yennock served as pastor at St. Peter’s in Oswego from 1966 to 1971 and at Our Lady of Angels in Endwell from 1971 to 1981.
Msgr. Yennock’s special assignments include serving as chaplain for the Catholic Daughters of Fulton and Oswego and the Junior Catholic Daughters of Fulton, Regional Episcopal Vicar for the Southern Region, Diocesan Consultor on the Liturgical Committee, Broome County Catholic School Board, State Chaplain of the Catholic Daughters of America and Spiritual Director of the Binghamton Patronesses Ladies of Charity.
Msgr. Yennock was named Honorary Prelate to His Holiness Pope Paul VI in 1974.
Reflecting on the last 60 years as a priest, Msgr. Yennock said he felt he had accomplished what he intended to do. “It was what I envisioned,” he said. “It’s been very happy and fulfilling — witnessing the deep faith of the people that I had the opportunity to meet throughout my priesthood.”
Msgr. William Donovan is celebrating his 60th jubilee. His home parish is Blessed Sacrament in Utica. He graduated from Utica Catholic Academy in 1943.
Msgr. Donovan attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s Seminaries in Rochester to complete his seminary work. He also holds a master’s degree from Syracuse University and attended Catholic University to study Canon Law.
Msgr. Donovan was ordained on June 3, 1950. His first assignment was as assistant pastor at St. John’s in Utica. Then he served as principal at Utica Catholic Academy from 1960 to 1967. From 1967 to 1976, Msgr. Donovan served as pastor at St. John’s in Utica. From 1976 to 1987, Msgr. Donovan was pastor at St. John the Evangelist in New Hartford. Beginning in 1987, he assumed the position of vicar for Parish Life and Worship and continued in that role when he served as administrator at St. Peter’s in Utica from 1991 to 1994. From 1994 until his retirement in 1997, Msgr. Donovan served as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica.
Msgr. Donovan was named Honorary Prelate to Pope Paul VI in 1971 and he also served as chaplain to many organizations, which include the Utica Circle IFCA (Internal Federation of Catholic Alumni), Knights of Columbus Utica Council 189 and the Utica Fire Department. In addition, he served as the moderator for the Daily Mass League in Utica and as chairman for the Greater Utica Area Task Force.
“It’s been a very happy period for me,” said Msgr. Donovan, as he looked back on his 60 years of priesthood. “I liked helping people.”
Msgr. Matthew Luczycki, celebrating 65 years of priesthood, has retired and is now in residence at St. Joseph Rectory in Oneida. He is still helping out, visiting people in the hospital and answering the rectory phone, as needed.
Msgr. Luczycki’s home parish is St. Stanislaus in Binghamton. After graduating from Johnson City High School in 1938, Msgr. Luczycki attended St. Mary’s Preparatory in Orchard Lake, Mich., and then completed his seminary studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
After his ordination on Dec. 22, 1945, Msgr. Luczycki was assigned to St. Stanislaus in Utica as an associate pastor. He continued to serve in the same position at Transfiguration in Rome from 1947 to 1953, at Sacred Heart in Syracuse from 1953 to 1958, at Holy Trinity in Utica from 1958 to 1961 and again at Transfiguration in Rome until 1964. At that time he was assigned to St. Joseph in Oriskany Falls and St. Agnes in Vernon Center as pastor. From 1970 until he retired in 1989, Msgr. Luczycki served as pastor at Transfiguration Parish in Rome.
Msgr. Luczycki’s special assignments include serving on the diocesan personnel board and on the Ecumenical Commission.
Msgr. Luczycki said he has enjoyed every day of his priesthood. “I have good memories of being close to the people and of assisting them,” he said. “The people were good to me.”