Father Champlin remembered as one of the Syracuse Diocese’s most beloved priests
By Luke Eggleston
SUN Staff writer
The Syracuse Diocese said farewell to one of its most noted and beloved priests Wednesday, Jan. 23, when a funeral Mass for Father Joseph Champlin was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Father Champlin died Thursday, Jan. 17, following a lengthy battle with cancer.
Bishop James Moynihan presided over the funeral Mass, while Bishop Thomas Costello, Father Champlin’s contemporary and longtime friend, delivered the homily.
More than 80 clerics were in attendance at the Cathedral, which offered only standing room as each pew was filled with the late priest’s family members, friends and admirers.
After his ordination, Father Champlin was assigned an associate pastorate at the Cathedral in 1956. He then served as the associate director of the Liturgy Secretariat for the Bishops’ Committee on Liturgy in Washington, D.C., from 1968 to 1971.
Father Champlin returned to the Syracuse Diocese in 1971 and was assigned his first full pastorate at Holy Family Church in Fulton, where he served until 1979 when he was named the Vicar of Parish Life and Worship. Following a two-year sabbatical, Father Champlin returned to parish life when he was assigned to St. Joseph’s in Camillus in 1989. Father Champlin served at St. Joseph’s until 1995 when he became the rector of the Cathedral until his semi-retirement in 2005. That year, Father Champlin moved to Our Lady of Good Counsel in Warners.
Father Champlin was a prolific writer on matters of faith. He wrote over 50 books with 20 million copies in circulation and traveled over two million miles lecturing and conducting workshops both in the U.S. and abroad.
He also founded the Guardian Angel Society, which provides financial help to students at the Cathedral Academy at Pompei who wish to continue their Catholic education at Bishop Ludden or Bishop Grimes Junior/Senior High Schools or at Christian Brothers Academy.
Most recently, Father Champlin, along with Father John Schopfer and Sister Kathleen Osbelt, OSF, had been selected as the grand marshal for Syracuse’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Father Champlin also had strong connections with Le Moyne College. In 2002, he received the Simon Le Moyne Medal, the highest honor that the college presents and, at the time of his passing, the Jesuit institution was planning on presenting him with an honorary degree at its May commencement. Recently, Father Champlin donated his book collection to Le Moyne’s Noreen Reale Falcone Library.
He was well known as an avid runner. During his homily, Bishop Costello revealed that a final medical procedure was being discussed when Father Champlin said, “I am tired. I have finished the race.”
Often Father Champlin competed in charity marathons to raise money for Cathedral School (now merged with Pompei School to become the Cathedral Academy at Pompei). Bishop Costello implored those in attendance to continue honoring Father Champlin’s ef forts.
“Some of us must give by running and some of us must run by giving, but his legacy must go on,” Bishop Costello said.
During his opening greeting, Bishop Moynihan described Father Champlin as “Someone who cast a lengthy shadow across Central New York and, of course, way beyond that.”
Bishop Costello began his homily by underscoring Father Champlin’s unique connection to the Cathedral, where his ordination had taken place almost exactly 52 years before the day of the funeral Mass. The bishop also referenced Father Champlin’s lengthy stay as an associate pastor there and his years as the rector and his connection to nearby Cathedral School.
Bishop Costello noted what he considered three points of emphasis that summed up Father Champlin’s call to ministry. First, Bishop Costello said, he was a teacher; second, he was a liturgist; and third, he was, pre-eminently, a pastor.
The bishop also alluded to Father Champlin’s popular radio spots, which ended in the words “You’ve tried everything else, why not try God.”
Bishop Costello finished several clauses with the words, “he wanted you to try God.”
The bishop also emphasized the intimate nature of Father Champlin’s ministry.
“This pastor knew you. He knew your names. He knew your children’s names,” Bishop Costello said. He elaborated that each wedding ceremony Father Champlin celebrated had “a personal touch.”
Bishop Costello echoed many sentiments shared after Father Champlin’s passing when he said, “He was one of a kind. Totally unique.”
Bishop Costello concluded by thanking the many doctors and other medical professionals who had helped Father Champlin throughout his battle with cancer as well those friends who had attended him during his final days.
Bishop Moynihan offered his own final thoughts following Bishop Costello’s homily. Along with thanking all those who participated in the liturgy, Bishop Moynihan said, “We have lost a great friend. We have lost a true friend and we will miss him more than we can say.”
“He epitomized a true gentleman. He epitomized a true priest,” Bishop Moynihan said.
For his final words, the bishop quoted Hamlet when he offered one final farewell saying, “Good night, sweet prince.”