Feb. 16-22, 2006
By Deacon Tom Picciano/ SUN contributing writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
Father Thomas Hobbes Celebrates 50 Years of Ministry and Service in the Priesthood
When a teacher gave 16-year-old Tom Hobbes three Holy cards, he escaped into the janitor’s hiding place in the bowels of Old Saint John’s Church in Utica. By the time he got to reading the third card that day in 1947, he realized he’d been “zapped.” Fast forward to 2006, when he is celebrating his 50th anniversary as a priest. “I knew it and I never had another doubt that I was going to be a priest,” said Father Tom Hobbes, “Most priests have to struggle. A lot of them have to decide if they have vocations or not. “
Father Hobbes shared his joy of the priesthood with the students at Seton Catholic Central High School during a homily at a Mass fifty years to the day of his ordination, February 2. He spoke of how his mother sought the intercession of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, after he was born and was near death.
“My mother never let me forget,” he remembered. St. Thérèse, known as The Little Flower of Jesus, was canonized in 1914, less than 20 years before Father Hobbes was born. “I’ve had 50 years of priesthood and almost 75 years of life because she interceded for me way back in 1931,” he said Father Hobbes joined the faculty of Catholic Central High School in 1963. He remained there through the merger with Seton High School and beyond. Father Hobbes was principal of Seton Catholic Central between 1979 and 1982. He left the school in 1984.
But he’s still a “Saint” at heart and wanted part of his anniversary celebration to be at SCC sharing time with students. Some of the young people in attendance are the children of those who attended the school when Father Hobbes was a faculty member. “The Eucharist is the most important thing,” he said. ”We are one with Christ at this sacrifice.” He said celebrating Mass is the “most wonderful privilege” and encouraged the students to bring their joys and sorrows to Jesus. “Your A pluses and your ‘F’s and your ‘B’s. Bring it all, offer it in and with the sacrifice.” The school community looks on Father Hobbes fondly
Father Robert Ours was an associate for part of the time that Father Hobbes served as Pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Endicott between 1984 and 94. He told the students about the school’s former principal. “You will meet in your life some people who are truly unique characters. Father Hobbes in my estimation is one of those people. A very unique and wonderful character. A great priest and a wonderful human being,” Father Ours said. “He is a teacher at heart. He is a great priest. He taught me by wonderful words and wonderful example, compassion for all people, even people who hurt you in life.” Father Ours said. “He was there and is always there for the people of God. Be it the time someone is sick or someone has died, he is there for people. Isn’t that what we are all called to do?” SCC Principal Kathleen Dwyer shared her feelings about Father Hobbes with the school too.
“I will spend the rest of my career thanking Father Hobbes for the compassion he taught me, realizing that every student does have a story. Sometimes those stories bring heartache, sometimes those stories bring tolerance. I’m still learning, but I feel Father Hobbes is one of my great teachers,” Dwyer said. Father Hobbes also celebrated a Mass on the evening of Feb. 2 at Christ the King Church in Endwell, where he has been pastor since 1994. He’ll will continue to mark his golden anniversary with family and friends from “Detroit to Derry” throughout the year. He sees the high point “a third ascent of Crough Patrick, Ireland’s holy mountain.” Father Hobbes has been in the southern region of the diocese for most of his 50 years as a priest, where he also served as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Windsor, and was in residence at St. Catherine’s in Hillcrest and Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City.
Early in his priesthood, he was associate pastor at St. Paul’s in Whitesboro, St. Agatha in Canastota and St. James in Syracuse. Father Hobbes reflected on the day after the two big anniversary celebrations, noting it was “a great joy and gladness.” He also wanted everyone to know that “I have been extremely happy in my priesthood.” Father Hobbes also encouraged men (young and not so young) to answer the same call. And he asked family and friends not to discourage calls to the priesthood, diaconate or the religious life.
Father Tom Hobbes has been a priest and educator for 50 years now, partly because his teacher shared three Holy cards with him. His work is remembered by many and summed up by one in four words. “He’s my favorite Christian,” said John Colonna, director of guidance at Seton Catholic Central High School.