‘A Beautiful Little Church’

Oct 6-12, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 34
‘A Beautiful Little Church’
By Connie Cissell/ SUN editor
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Our Lady of Good Counsel is a perfect fit for Father Champlin

WARNERS — The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception has nearly 100 pews; Our Lady of Good Counsel Church has 20 pews, but Father Joseph Champlin is at ease in both places. After retiring from the Cathedral in downtown Syracuse last summer, Father Champlin has gone on in his retirement to lead the faithful at the quaint church in the country setting. “It’s a very pleasant place and an adjustment from the cement sidewalks outside the Cathedral to the cornfields outside in Warners,” Father Champlin said.

Father Champlin grew up in Hammondsport and went to Camden High School so the environment he finds himself in now suits him. “The skies are clear, the birds are singing,” he said, “It’s like deja vu.”

The number of weddings, funerals, baptisms and meetings that he participated in at the Cathedral is certainly more than what can be expected at his new parish. The change is exactly what he wants and needs, Father Champlin said. He is finding his semi-retirement pace fits in with his writing schedule. He writes each morning and recently finished editing and updating a previous book, What It Means to Be Catholic, which will be re-released in the spring. Next in line after that piece of writing is a sequel to Slow Down, a collection of five minute meditations designed to help readers de-stress. Diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow cancer in 2002, Father Champlin decided to retire, taking time to rest, to be near his cottage in Skaneateles and, most importantly, to take time to tend the relationships he’s built over the years.

Father Champlin related a story about bumping into a man at a local restaurant. The man’s wife had died recently, and Father Champlin said he realized while he was listening to the man that he could take the time to listen and be empathic to his friend, instead of feeling too harried to fully be present for him.

All of this free time is a result of the hard work of the people of Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish, according to Father Champlin. The parishioners take responsibility for the parish and it has functioned with a parish business administrator (PBA), Arthur Luke, for a number of years now. Luke completed the Formation For Ministry program’s PBA courses back in 2000. Before that time, he was everything from altar server at the parish to caller of priests to celebrate weekend Masses in the absence of a parish priest. Now that Father Champlin is at the parish, that responsibility has lessened.

Luke said he became actively involved at the church when his wife, who is now deceased, decided to raise his hand when volunteers were needed. That was many years ago and he’s still going strong.

One of the priests Luke called on to fill in was Father Vincent Kilpatrick, a previous pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel. Father Kilpatrick has retired and lives at the Tommy Coyne Residence for Priests in Syracuse, but he’s still willing to make the trip to Warners whenever he’s needed.

“He’s still our favorite son,” Luke said. “He’s our pastor emeritus no matter what.”

Luke said Father Kilpatrick revitalized the parish when he was there and helped build it up. Always ready with a joke, Father Kilpatrick had something to tell Father Champlin when he heard that he would be moving to the parish.

“I told him, ‘Congratulations on your promotion, Joe,’” Father Kilpatrick said. “Really, I knew he’d be happy there. It’s the perfect place for him. He doesn’t have to worry about work at all.”

Father Champlin still produces his radio spots for WSYR in Syracuse and still heads up the Guardian Angel Society for Cathedral School, and he’s considering more retreat and conference work.

His newest book, the sequel, should be ready in time for Christmas 2006. His most popular book, Together for Life, has sold nine million copies. Father Champlin was also encouraged by the response from a presentation about end of life issues that took place at the Cathedral last year. He is now planning a book on end of life issues titled, Preparing for Eternity. He offers a series of presentations, “Developing a Purpose Driven and Stress Free Life” at Stella Maris Retreat Center this month.

Father Champlin can look out the window and see cornfields instead of concrete, but he’s still not seeing a rocking chair.

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