Diocese mourns the passing of Msgr. Michael P. Minehan
By Connie Berry
BINGHAMTON — The death of Msgr. Michael P. Minehan came as a shock to many who loved and admired the former chancellor and parish priest. He succumbed to a brief illness on Nov. 26. He was 55 years old. Born on St. Patrick’s Day in 1953, Father Minehan leaves behind his sister Mary Jo Molter and nieces Megan and Lauren and nephews Ryan and Brendan. He was predeceased by his parents, Betty and Joe. A Mass of Christian burial took place Dec. 1 at his home parish, St. Paul’s in Binghamton. More than 75 members of the clergy and both bishops were in attendance at the church, and every pew was filled.
Father Minehan was ordained on Oct. 25, 1980. His first assignment as a parochial vicar was at St. Lucy’s Church on Syracuse’s west side. He served in the same capacity at St. Cecilia’s in Solvay beginning in 1985. Father Minehan then moved on to serve as judicial vicar on the diocesan tribunal while in residence at Holy Family Parish beginning in 1990. He was named judicial vicar for the diocese in 1995 and then chancellor and vicar for administration in 1996. While he was chancellor he also served as pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in LaFayette. Father Minehan left his position as chancellor to Bishop James Moynihan in 2005. In 2006, Father Minehan was designated “monsignor” along with 10 other priests of the diocese. He was serving his pastorship at St. Mary’s Church and School in Cortland at the time of his death.
A 1971 graduate of Catholic Central High School in Binghamton, Father Minehan initially attended Georgetown University and New York University to study law. He completed his priestly studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester and Catholic University. Bishop Frank Harrison ordained Father Minehan at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Ironically, Father Minehan was able to be both a lawyer and a priest as he served as a canon lawyer who helped to promote the cause of the diocese’s Blessed Mother Marianne Cope, a Sister of St. Francis who served the lepers in Hawaii.
At the funeral Mass, Bishop Moynihan remembered Father Minehan as always having the Code of Canon Law open on his desk. “He would refer to it on a daily basis,” Bishop Moynihan said. “I was greatly inspired by that. He always took things so seriously but he had such a great sense of humor. His Irish wit was instantaneous and it always came at wonderful moments.”
The loss of Father Minehan was particularly poignant for Bishop Moynihan. The two spent much time together over the nearly 10 years Father Minehan served as chancellor. Bishop Moynihan said he was “devastated” by the monsignor’s untimely death. “It’s a great loss,” the bishop said. “Now we can pray for Mike and pray to him.”
Members of Father Minehan’s family participated in the funeral Mass. Father Robert Chryst, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Syracuse, was the homilist. Father Chryst met Father Minehan shortly after his 1980 ordination when the former worked with the Spanish community in the neighborhood surrounding St. Lucy’s Parish. Father Chryst’s homily described Father Minehan as growing up in a traditional proud Irish Catholic family. He described Father Minehan’s many accomplishments but said that just six weeks ago, Father Minehan had told him he was most happy that he was able to foster vocations in his relationships with seminarians and young priests just beginning their pastoral duties.
Transitional Deacon Lukasz Kozlowski and Father John Kurgan were two friends Father Minehan encouraged. Father Chryst said he also supported and inspired Father Robert Hyde and Father John Donovan, two canon lawyers for the Syracuse Diocese. Father Minehan was to vest Deacon Kozlowski at his upcoming June ordination.
Two years ago, Kozlowski served his pastoral year at St. Mary’s in Cortland with Father Minehan. He said he had to admit that Father Minehan’s reputation as a stickler for canon law and liturgy preceeded his first meeting with the parish priest.
“I had an image in my head of what other people had said, that he was kind of ‘tight‘ with everything,” Kozlowski remembered smiling. “I was pleasantly surprised at his sense of humor and how he treated people. I was mostly inspired by his everyday life. He didn’t try to be someone he was not. He did not try to impress people. He always told the truth and sometimes you didn’t want to hear it.”
Father Chryst said that Father Minehan was placed in diocesan positions that required great trust. When Bishop Moynihan asked him to take on the extra duties of chancellor and vicar of administration his response was, “Whatever you say Bishop.”
Along with an unfailing dedication to duty and truth, Father Minehan was known for unleashing a quick quip at the drop of a hat. Mourners who signed the obituary book online at www.syracuse.com, included some of Father Minehan’s past parishioners. One of the entries, by Tony and Mary Stimson of LaFayette, gives particular insight to Father Minehan’s sense of humor.
“We remember one year when SU was playing Georgetown and as we sang the final hymn he walked up the aisle and instead of ‘Alleluia’ he substituted ‘Hoya.’ The next week, since SU beat Georgetown, for our penance he jokingly brought out the phone book to read the sermon! Oh, what a blessing he was to all of us.” He most certainly was.