Father Robert Ours is Honored by SCCHS Binghamton — A slushy mix of snow and rain on Oct. 25 didn’t dampen the spirits inside Seton Catholic Central High School for the celebration of two anniversaries for Father Robert Ours. He’s been a teacher at the school for 17 years, and was ordained to the priesthood 25 years ago. The Mass, reception and dinner that followed brought students, staff, friends and family together.
“My mom and my aunt came down. My brother and his wife came down in the middle of a snow storm,” Father Ours laughed, recalling the rain on his ordination day a quarter century ago. “This is just incredible.” he said, “I guess God outdid himself. He brought on snow.” Father Ours has helped students weather the good and the bad in their lives. The sentiment was summed up in a letter read by students at the anniversary dinner. “Father Ours is the often unnoticed bond that holds our school together.”
“The thing I remember wasn’t in class. It was two years ago with the deaths of Andy Donahue and Brad Conklin.,” said senior Ed Sweeney, recalling Father Ours response to the car crash in which the two students were killed. “He really got everybody together. He really got everybody to know that we need to depend on each other.”
“He’s a very honest man,” Sweeney added. “Very down to earth, very based. Trying to get the best out of people, trying to have everybody come to an understanding that we need each other.” “He always relates everything to real life,” noted senior Colleen Regan, who’s in her second year of theology with Father Ours. She likes the use of movies in the class. “We’re able to apply them to our daily lives and apply the Catholic view,” she said. Regan added that Father Ours has inspired her to become more active in her faith, her parish, school and community.
“He’s just a great example to show what Catholic life is all about,” said junior Mark Girardi. “He’ll find a way to talk to you in a way that you understand. He’s a great guy to talk to because he’s real relaxed. He knows. He’s been through what you’ve been through.” Father Ours was a teaching business courses in Syracuse when he decided to become a priest. Several years after ordination, he found himself back in the classroom, this time at Seton, teaching one course. “Then it worked into two courses and then three. And all of a sudden two and a half years after that it’s full time. I can’t even figure out where 17 years have gone here and 25 years have gone as a priest. The time just flies so quickly,” Father Ours said.
He’s taken on an added responsibility within the last year, as pastor of St. Rita’s Parish just outside Binghamton. But each morning Father Ours celebrates Mass at 7:30 in the Seton chapel. That’s where he sees not only some students and staff, but neighborhood residents. “He’s a great priest and a wonderful person,” said Joanne Riley. Her husband, Robert Riley, said they’ve known Father Ours for many years. “He’s been a pleasure to be around. He’s thoughtful, considerate, kind. And he’s just a good person.” Gerry Lombardi finds it amazing that Father Ours continues his relationships with students long after they graduate. “When they go on to college, when they get married, when they raise their families, they are constantly corresponding,” Lombardi said. “A very well-liked person, a very warm person and a very gracious person.”
Father Ours’ colleagues speak highly of his inspiration to the school community. “Father is certainly a key part of our school. A key part of our spiritual development of our students and staff,” said Principal Kathleen Dwyer. “One of the major parts of what makes Seton Catholic Central what it is.” “To me it is extremely humbling,” Father Ours said of the turnout for the celebration. “I’ve always just tried to do what I am supposed to do and do the best I can at it.”
While he’s grateful to be honored on his anniversaries, Father Ours prefers to focus on the students. “Our young people need the message of the church, the message of Jesus more than ever before. When you look around at what’s going on in the world, what do we hold on to? What helps us get through the most difficult of times? All those people in the Gulf Coast area have lost everything. What do they hold on to but faith? It is the presence of the Lord that gives them the strength to keep moving on. This is why the work here in the school is so important.”