VOL 124 NO. 26
‘Thanks for the Memories
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
Attendees at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Wednesday night, June 29 helped Father Joseph Champlin celebrate 10 years of memories.
After a decade of service as rector at the Cathedral, Father Champlin will retire to the parish of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Warners.
After Maria DeSantis finished a rendtion of “Thanks for the Memories,” the 900-plus attendees rose in a standing ovation for Father Champlin that lasted one full minute.
“The picture, the memory of this scene will always be in my heart,” Father Champlin said after thanking the many people involved in his final Mass at the Cathedral.
A teary-eyed Father Champlin spoke to the crowd. He said that while he is at peace with his decision to retire, the response from the attendees provoked a mixture of emotions.
Not only was he moved by sadness at the thought of leaving, Father Champlin said, “It also strikes me when people love me” and that he found the public display “very, very affirming.”
Father Champlin leaves the Cathedral as one of the most celebrated clerics in the Syracuse Diocese. During the course of his career, he has published over 50 books.
Perhaps as notable, Father Champlin has dealt with a rare form of bone-marrow cancer in recent years.
Ordained for the priesthood in 1956, Father Champlin began his career at the Cathedral, serving as its assistant pastor. From 1968 to 1971, he served as the associate director secretariat for the Bishops Committee on Liturgy in Washington, D.C., and was the weekend assistant at St. Ambrose Church, Cheverly, Md.
From 1971 to 1978 he served as the pastor at Holy Family in Fulton. From 1978 to 1987 he was the Vicar for Parish Life and Worship for the Syracuse Diocese and the weekend resident associate at St. Joseph Church, Camillus. After a Sabbatical year that included a year of research, writing and lectures with residence at Camillus between July 1, 1987 to June 30, 1989; Father Champlin became the pastor at St. Joseph’s, serving from July 1, 1989 to June 30, 1995.
Father Champlin finally arrived at the Cathedral on July 1, 1995.
Bishop Thomas Costello delivered the homily at the Wednesday night Mass.
The bishop met Father Champlin over 50 years ago and he said they have remained friends ever since.
Bishop Costello stressed the challenges priests face in the world today in particular noting, “With this task of ministering the word, Father Champlin came undaunted 50 years ago.”
The bishop also emphasized Father Champlin’s familiarity and popularity among the people around the parish offering a brief anecdote.
Bishop Costello recalled walks with Father Champlin around Syracuse during which people would first recognize the latter and then say, “Who’s that older priest with Monsignor? He looks familiar…”
John and Rosemary Capria followed Father Champlin from St. Joseph to the Cathedral.
“He’s the noblest, most respected priest I know,” John Capria said. “I love him. I never thought I’d love another man like I love my own father.”
Capria noted that what sets Father Champlin apart is his compassion.
“I think it’s his caring, his projection of his innermost self to us. I just can’t find words to describe him,” he said.
Although Father Champlin is leaving the Cathedral, Bishop Costello said the priest will continue his service to the Lord and to Catholics.
“A change in emphasis, perhaps; but my friends, he’s not done yet,” the bishop said, concluding his homily.
Father Champlin will still execute certain pastoral responsibilities at Our Lady of Good Counsel, but in a very limited capacity. He hopes to commit more of his time to writing and to his radio show.