By Claudia Mathis
It was standing room only at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Syracuse on March 14. Family, friends and parishioners gathered to bid farewell to long-time pastor and rector of the Basilica, Msgr. Peter Gleba. After serving at the Polish parish for the last 22 years, he died unexpectedly on March 9 at age 84.
Msgr. Gleba’s funeral Mass was celebrated by Bishop Robert Cunningham, who described Msgr. Gleba as someone who encouraged people to put aside their distractions and turn to God.
A native of Utica, Msgr. Gleba was born on Jan. 27, 1927, to Peter and Agnes (Webster) Gleba. He attended Holy Trinity Catholic School and graduated from St. Francis de Sales High School in 1945. After high school, he attended St. Mary’s Seminary in Orchard Lake, Mich., for two years and then went on to complete his theological studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
In 1953, Msgr. Gleba was ordained by Bishop Walter Foery at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. He was first assigned to St. Stanislaus in Utica. He then served at St. Stanislaus in Binghamton and at Transfiguration and Sacred Heart Churches in Syracuse.
Msgr. Gleba’s first pastorate was at St. John’s Church in Bainbridge followed by St. Joseph’s Church in Lee Center, St. Mary’s Church in New York Mills and Sacred Heart and St. Stephen’s Churches in Syracuse.
Msgr. Gleba earned a master’s degree in education at Syracuse University. He also served as chaplain for the Knights of Columbus and as president of the Polish American Priest Association.
“He was born to be a priest,” commented Father William Gleba, Msgr. Gleba’s brother. “His dreams always came true. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a priest and when he was a seminarian, he dreamed of becoming the pastor at Sacred Heart and then getting the church to be designated as a basilica.”
The Vatican designated Sacred Heart Church as a minor basilica in 1999. Msgr. Gleba was named Reverend Monsignor in June 2006.
Father Thomas Kobuszewski, pastor at Transfiguration of Our Lord Church in Syracuse, delivered the homily. He said that Msgr. Gleba’s actions as a priest enabled others to return to Christ, to accept Christ and to live more with Christ. “He was enamored of the Lord,” said Father Kobuszewski. “As we reflect on his life, we see how God’s love, mercy and presence were operative in his priestly ministry. Like St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he spoke words of encouragement, consolation and inspiration gleaned from the Holy Scriptures to aid and assist us one and all on the journey, pilgrimage to the Kingdom.”
Deacon James Morse shared ministry at the Basilica with Msgr. Gleba for the last 22 years. “To those of us in the ministry he was fabulous,” said Deacon Morse. “He had a unique understanding that there was so much ministry to be done.”
Carol Rojek, lifetime parishioner at the Basilica, said that Msgr. Gleba was extremely dedicated to his ministry. “He did an amazing job,” said Rojek. “He was an excellent pastor.” She liked the way that he kept the traditions alive at the Basilica, namely the practice of kneeling during Communion and the offering of a Latin Mass on Sundays.
Sister Melanie Jaworski, CSSF, catechetical leader at the Basilica, worked with Msgr. Gleba when she served as the principal of the parish school before it closed in 2002. She said she enjoyed working with Msgr. Gleba because he encouraged and supported her efforts as an administrator. “It was nice to work with a pastor who was so interested in the school,” said Sister Melanie. “He loved being a part of the children’s lives. He loved the kids and they loved him.”
At the conclusion of his homily, Father Kobuszewski emphasized the importance of believing in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. “The same power that God the Father used in raising Jesus Christ, His Son from the dead will be applied to us come our own resurrection,” he said. “Think about that a little and then offer a prayer of thanks for having had Msgr. Peter W. Gleba as your pastor, friend and fellow pilgrim on the way to the kingdom.”