By Connie Berry
Father George Hartnett’s life came full circle as his funeral liturgy was celebrated on Sept. 17 at St. Brigid/St. Joseph Church in Syracuse. It was his home parish and the place where he celebrated his first and his last Mass. Father Hartnett died Sept. 14 after a lengthy illness at Francis House surrounded by family and priest friends. He was 63 years old. Bishop Robert Cunningham celebrated the Mass and Father Michael Carmola delivered the homily.
Ordained in 1974, Father Hartnett served as an associate at St. Joseph’s Church in Camillus, St. Paul’s Church in Oswego, St. John’s Church in Liverpool, St. Ann’s Church in Syracuse, St. James Church in Syracuse and St. Margaret’s Church in Mattydale. He was chaplain at both Community General Hospital and Crouse Irving Hospital during his priesthood. He was pastor of St. Anne’s in Parish/St. Patrick’s in Williamstown, temporary administrator at St. Vincent’s Church in Binghamton, and pastor of St. Cecilia’s Church in Solvay for 10 years. He is survived by his brother James (Susan) Hartnett and sister, Mary Lourdes (Ed) Sisson. He leaves behind many nieces and nephews, an aunt and several cousins. Father Hartnett was predeceased by his parents, Beatrice Fahey Hartnett and James Hartnett.
He grew up in the Irish neighborhood where his parish was located, and in his homily for his good friend, Father Carmola said Father Hartnett wanted to be a priest since childhood.
“He used to say Mass at his grandmother’s little altar making his brother Jimmy serve,” Father Carmola said.
Father Carmola said Father Hartnett grew up in a household where everyone found love and faith. Because his calling did not allow for children, Father Carmola said, Father Hartnett had a very special love for his nieces and nephews, and many spent time with him during the end of his final journey.
Father Carmola said that Father Hartnett’s last few years were difficult for him, marked by health setbacks and the death of his dear friend, Father Kevin Hannon. He thanked Father John Fenlon, pastor of St. Brigid/St. Joseph and nearby St. Patrick’s Churches for welcoming Father Hartnett “back home” to the parish. Father Hartnett had helped out at the parish until he became too ill to do so.
When he was at Francis House, Father Carmola said, “George looked up and said ‘It’s time for me to go.’ I asked him if he was all right and he said, ‘Oh yes, I’m fine.’”
Father Carmola said Father Hartnett was proud of his Irish heritage and the music at the funeral Mass, provided by the combined choir made up of St. Brigid/St. Joseph and St. Cecilia’s members, reflected that fact. Father Hartnett was remembered as a great listener who listened with kindness and without condemnation. His brother James and a nephew spoke at the end of the Mass remembering their brother and uncle.
James Hartnett thanked all the friends and family present and those who cared for Father Hartnett during his illness, especially Father Carmola and Father Bob Stephenson who were there when Father Hartnett died. He thanked childhood friend Sister Helen Hunt, CSJ, “whom we knew as Dolores,” along with Franciscan Sister Elizabeth John Timson, another family friend. James Hartnett thanked his sister Mary Lourdes calling her the “best caregiver.”
With Irish humor he said, “I told her not to wear herself out because she has another brother.”
Father Hartnett’s nephew spoke of how much he enjoyed spending time with his uncle toward the end of his life, watching movies and games on television, saying Father Hartnett was open to watching anything and always said, “Bring them [the movies] down.”
“He was a great guy and a great friend. We’re gonna miss him,” he said.
In true Irish form, James Hartnett invited everyone to a celebration of Father Hartnett’s life at Coleman’s Pub on Tipperary Hill.
“Everyone’s invited to Coleman’s after. We can enjoy a laugh, a cry or a jar or two,” James Hartnett told those gathered for the funeral Mass.
Bishop Cunningham thanked Father Hartnett’s family for the gift of his priesthood.
“Now, he will remember us in prayer and support us in a new way with his friendship,” Bishop Cunningham said.