In loving service

Father Bernard Walsh remembered for his friendship

By Claudia Mathis
SUN staff writer

Father Bernard Walsh died Sunday, May 25 at age 88.

St. John the Evangelist Church in Binghamton was almost filled to capacity on Thursday, May 29 for Father Walsh’s funeral Mass.  Bishop Thomas Costello presided at the Mass of Christian Burial.

At the beginning of the service Bishop Costello shared his memories of Father Walsh. “He was a good priest and he will be missed,” said Bishop Costello.

Father Wilbur Votraw, pastor at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Syracuse, delivered the homily. Father Votraw said he first met Father Walsh in September 1949 at St. Bernard’s Seminary. Their rooms were situated next to one another due to the alphabetical order of their last names. The young men’s relationship developed as Father Votraw helped Father Walsh with his studies and Father Walsh taught Father Votraw how to play tennis. Father Votraw also remembered playing volleyball and walking with Father Walsh. After they were ordained, Father Walsh and Father Votraw continued their friendship. The first summer after their ordination, they vacationed in Washington, D.C.

Father Votraw recounted the time that he and Father Walsh attended a Marriage Encounter Weekend at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y. “Can you visualize this — two priests sharing the weekend together, sharing their ministry in contrast to married couples who are sharing their love and marriage together?” asked Father Votraw. “We were encouraged by the people of the parish at the time to attend the weekend. That is why he later became a Marriage Encounter facilitator.”

Father Gerald Buckley, another friend of Father Walsh, remembered playing tennis and golf with him. “He was an avid sports person,” said Father Buckley. “He skied and he golfed. He was also musical.”

Father Buckley described Father Walsh as quiet and reserved. “He lived a simple life,” he said. “He was a straightforward person. He never demanded anything and never looked for plaudits.” Father Buckley said that after Father Walsh retired, he really enjoyed assisting at his home parish of St. John the Evangelist.

Father Walsh was well-educated. After attending Salvatorian Seminary, Syracuse University and St. Bernard’s Seminary, Father Walsh completed post graduate studies at St. Joseph’s Seminary and participated in advanced psycho-theological training at the International Therapeutic Center in Massachusetts.

Father Walsh was ordained at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse on Feb. 2, 1955. His first assignment was at Blessed Sacrament in Johnson City. He served as associate pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, St. Leo in Tully, St. Joseph in Lafayette, St. Paul in Rome, St. Patrick in Otisco, Our Lady of Good Counsel in Endicott, Christ the King in Endwell and St. Ann in Manlius. He also served as pastor at St. Patrick in Forestport and at Corpus Christi Parish in Nedrow.

In addition, Father Walsh served at many weekend retreats for the engaged in New York and other states as a Marriage Encounter facilitator. He also worked with the Catholic nurses in Rome and the Christian Family Movement.

Father Walsh retired on July 1, 1994, returning to his home parish of St. John the Evangelist in Binghamton.

During his homily, Father Votraw compared the friendship  between Father Walsh’s family and friends and Father Walsh to the one between Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus and Jesus in John’s Gospel. “The writer emphasizes the loss and grief that Jesus experiences at the death of his friend Lazarus,” said Father Votraw. “This, I think, says something about our own loss and grief at the death of our own Father Bernard.”

Father Votraw also talked about the themes of faith and resurrection in the Gospel of John. The resurrection of Jesus’ body is symbolized by the raising of Lazarus four days after his death. “As Catholics and Christians we believe strongly in the resurrection of the body,” said Father Votraw. “While you and I now wait patiently, Bernie has gone now to prepare for this new life. Bernie, we will share with you in that resurrection promised by Jesus. In the meantime, God bless you for your ministry and patient suffering. We will remember you and pray for you.”

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