By Father Mark Pasik
Sun contributing writer
Recently, Father Richard J. Stuczko died at his retirement home in Florida. It was a residence in a condominium village of people from around the nation.
His presence was that of a priest, who without duties of pastoral administration, breathed a unique awareness of God and the church in the charisms of a so-called retirement.
Father Stuczko was born in East Utica, in the parish of St. Stanislaus, bishop and martyr, on April 22, 1929.
It was the apex of the “Roaring Twenties.” Yet, the clear lessons of the economic depression that followed, chyrstalized his generation into recognizing what is, as St. Augustine stated, “Ever ancient, ever new,” i.e., God sustains us and strengthens our faith in every age. With the guidance of his late uncle, Father Charles Stuczko, his youth yielded to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Father Richard entered studies for the priesthood beginning at Niagara University and ending at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary near Detroit.
This prepared him well for the challenges of the “Roaring Fifties.”
On June 5, 1954, Father Stuczko was was ordained “a priest forever” in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It was a time of great hope and recovery from a world that had been at war.
Parishes and vocations to the priesthood and religious life were flourishing, yet, the lessons of a simple Catholic catechetical training, the death of his mother in his youth, the economic challenges of a community and indeed of a nation, World War II, the Korean Conflict, together with a sparkling wit, would indicate his preparedness to simply preach, teach, sanctify and heal in the midst of a society at relative peace. Nevertheless, the social turmoils of the 1960s and 1970s, together with the challenges of a technocratic generation and constant change, did not alter the calm and consistent approach of this priest “in season and out of season.”
Father Stuczko’s assignments starting in Rome at St. Mary’s Parish with follow-up communities in Binghamton, Johnson City, Utica, Oxford and finally Oriskany, all provided the unique perspective of a priest who had an appreciation of the greater diocese. Whether it was as chaplain at the New York State Veteran’s Home in Oxford or chaplaincy at the Oneida County Jail in Oriskany, Father Stuczko brought, as everyone experienced, an empathetic and pastoral presence. His sense of realism, intelligence and humor was a sign of contradiction in environments challenged by despair.
Father Stuczko would travel seasonally back to New York State to a small residence near Lake Pleasant. His friends looked forward to his return and they were loyal. Though his health had been failing, his mind and humor were always nourished by the priesthood and God’s never-failing presence.
Father Stuczko was a friend and mentor. His priesthood and humanity were uniquely placed for all seasons until the Lord came at an unexpected time.
His sparkling and humorous personality will have a rippling effect in the lives of those he served. For his friends, we are graced and rewarded for having known him. Father Richard would frequently say, “Put it all in the hands of our Blessed Mother!”
At this time, we place this time, we place this beloved priest of God in the hands of this same Lady!
(Father Pasik is pastor of St. Mark’s Church in Utica.)