Each year, the Diocese of Syracuse honors its clergy who are celebrating milestone anniversaries. Here, the Sun offers a look at the jubilarians and their years of dedicated priestly service.
Msgr. Eugene Yennock is celebrating 65 years in the priesthood. He was born on Sept. 29, 1925 and his home parish is Our Lady of Pompei. He graduated from that parish’s Catholic elementary school and went on to complete his secondary education at St. John the Baptist. He stated he received the calling to the priesthood when he received his First Holy Communion.
Msgr. Yennock attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s for his seminary studies and was ordained June 31, 1950, at which time he was appointed assistant pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Fulton. In October 1951, he became chaplain for the Fulton Junior Catholic Daughters and in July 1954, became chaplain for the Catholic Daughters, Court Peré LeMoyne #833. In November 1959 he was appointed administrator of Immaculate Conception Parish. In 1962, he was appointed principal of Oswego Catholic School, a position he retained until September 1971. In September 1966, he was appointed pastor of St. Peter’s in Oswego and in July 1971, was appointed pastor of Our Lady of the Angels in Endwell. Msgr. Yennock also taught Italian at Syracuse University and was appointed a Diocesan Consulter for a three-year term. In 1981, he was appointed pastor of St. Daniel Church in Syracuse, a position he currently retains.
Msgr. Yennock will celebrate his jubilee in June 2015 with a Mass at St. Daniel Church followed by a reception in the school’s gym.
In looking over his past years in the priesthood, Msgr. Yennock is proud and pleased with his accomplishments. “I have enjoyed all 65 years and all the places I have served,” stated Msgr. Yennock. “I especially enjoyed working with the children in our schools in Fulton, Oswego and at St. Daniel. The life of a priest is a happy and fulfilling life and I would recommend it to any young man.”
Father Moritz Fuchs celebrated 60 years in the priesthood on February 22, 2015. Father Fuchs was born on July 21, 1925 and his home parish is Immaculate Conception in Fulton. He attended elementary school at the Erie School until fourth grade and completed his elementary years at St. Mary’s School. “It turned out we had four vocations from our class,” stated Father Fuchs who also had two sisters who joined the Dominican Sisters. He graduated from Fulton High School and went on to pursue a degree in mechanical engineering at Purdue University. He was drafted into the Army during World Word II, and during that time, received his calling to become a priest. “During the war I was in the First Infantry and I was wounded. I spent time in the hospital and had a chance to speak to several of the chaplains there. A German pastor and his flock inspired me and I saw the effect one person could have on another’s life.”
Father Fuchs was also a bodyguard for Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials in Nuremberg, Germany.
After returning from war in August 1946, Father Fuchs attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s for his seminary studies. He was ordained in May 1955, and was appointed to Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Galeville as assistant pastor. In September 1955, he was appointed assistant pastor of St. Mary’s in Clinton and in April 1957, he was appointed assistant pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford. In February 1960, Father Fuchs was appointed assistant pastor of St. Paul’s in Oswego and in June 1966, was appointed assistant pastor of St. Catherine’s in Binghamton. In June 1969, he was appointed assistant pastor of Most Holy Rosary in Syracuse and moved on a few months later in January 1970 to become pastor of St. Joseph’s in Oriskany Falls. In July 1978, Father Fuchs was appointed pastor of St. Agatha’s in Canastota. He took a three-year sabbatical in July 1991 and was then appointed pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary, Hannibal, in March 1994. He retired in July 2000.
In reviewing his path to priesthood Father Fuchs laughed. “It’s crazy to think while I was serving in the war I received the call to become a priest. The only Latin I knew at the time was “E Pluribus Unum” and I had never even served Mass before as an altar boy. But it has been a great adventure and I am so glad I did it. Being able to offer Mass, having the privilege of hearing confession and freeing people of their prison, being close to God and trying to be more like him every day are just some of the things I am proudest of in my career.”
To celebrate his jubilee, Father Fuchs hopes to travel to Switzerland to spend time with his relatives there.
Father Alfred E. Nortz celebrated 60 years as a priest on February 2, 2015. He was born July 22, 1928 and his home parish is Blessed Sacrament in Syracuse. He attended Blessed Sacrament Elementary School and completed his secondary education at Christian Brothers Academy. During eighth grade he received his calling to become a priest after learning a priest in the diocese was leaving to become a missionary. After the priest left, Father Nortz approached his pastor and stated he too wanted to become a priest. The pastor told him to return after high school, which he did, and at that time the pastor encouraged him to attend the seminary.
Father Nortz began his seminary studies at St. Andrew’s and completed them at St. Bernard’s. He was ordained on February 2, 1955. He was appointed as the associate pastor for Blessed Sacrament in Utica in February 1955. In September 1961, he was appointed associate pastor for Holy Family in Fairmount, and in July 1967, was appointed administrator for the parish. In September 1969, he was appointed associate pastor for St. Thomas Parish in Binghamton and in February 1970, was appointed pastor of St. Ann’s in Hinkley. He was appointed pastor of St. Joseph’s in Boonville in May 1972, and pastor of St. Vincent de Paul in November 1977. He retired in July 2005.
Father Nortz celebrated his jubilee on February 2, 2015 with a cake and celebration with friends at the Tommy Coyne Residence in Syracuse.
“It has been a privilege to say Mass for the people in the areas I have served,” stated Father Nortz as he recalled his many years in the priesthood. “I am very thankful to the Lord for letting me live this long and work for Him alongside so many wonderful people. I hope wherever I went I encouraged people to know that the church was their church, not mine. I don’t think I did enough but I know I did what I could and I was happy so many people were so receptive.”
Father Wilbur J. Votraw celebrated 60 years as a priest on February 2, 2015. He was born March 29, 1929 and his home parish is St. Anthony of Padua in Syracuse. He attended Percy Hughes Elementary School and continued his secondary education at St. Anthony’s High School. It was during this time in school that he received the Sacrament of Confirmation and began considering a career as a priest. He went on to attend college at Le Moyne for two years and then, after consulting with Msgr. Dillon, began his studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary. He was ordained on February 2, 1955 and was appointed as associate pastor for St. Peter’s in Rome. In February 1956, he was assigned as temporary administrator for St. Mary’s in Kirkwood. In August 1956, he was appointed temporary associate pastor for St. Anthony’s in Chadwick. In February 1958, he was appointed as associate pastor for St. Mary’s in Cortland and three years later in February 1961, he was appointed temporary associate pastor for Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville. In March 1963, Father Votraw was appointed associate pastor for St. Patrick’s in Binghamton and later that year in Se
ptember, he was appointed associate pastor for St. Christopher’s in Binghamton. In September 1970, Father Votraw was appointed pastor of St. Patrick’s in Whitney Point. In May 1974, he became an associate judge for the Tribunal in Syracuse and later that year in July, was appointed pastor for St. Andrew’s in Binghamton. In 1993, Father Votraw went on sabbatical to study scripture. He was appointed temporary associate pastor for St. Vincent De Paul’s in Syracuse in August 1994 and retired in July 1999. He came out of retirement and returned to St. Vincent de Paul’s as administrator from July 2005 until his retirement in July 2012.
Father Votraw is a certified American Catholic Correctional Chaplain Associate and is certified in Matrimony Canon Law.
Looking back over his career, Father Votraw is proud of his work for the Tribunal and in hospital ministry. “I was chaplain at Crouse Hospital for eight years, and was the last full-time priest they had in the ministry. I enjoyed ministering there very much.”
Father Votraw celebrated his jubilee at a dinner with several classmates in February 2015. “I’ve been very happy as a priest these past 60 years,” he said.
Father J. Michael Donovan is celebrating 50 years of priesthood.
A native of Utica, he was a member of Blessed Sacrament Parish there and graduated from Utica Catholic Academy in the class of 1956. He went on to seminary studies at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s, and was ordained for the Diocese of Syracuse May 1, 1965.
Father Donovan served as assistant pastor at St. Paul’s, Whitesboro; St. Anthony of Padua, Syracuse; Blessed Sacrament, Utica; St. Paul’s, Oswego; and St. Mary’s, Baldwinsville. He served as pastor of Holy Trinity, Syracuse; St. Paul, Oswego and Sacred Heart mission, Scriba; and St. Francis Xavier, Marcellus, retiring from that pastorate in 2011. Additionally, Father Donovan served as Newman chaplain at Utica College and as moderator of Marriage Encounter in the Syracuse area.
Though all of his assignments were meaningful, Father Donovan said that one of the most important things he did as a priest was “making a Marriage Encounter weekend. The experience of the weekend, and working with Marriage Encounter for several years afterward, really cemented my commitment to priesthood. It was during Marriage Encounter that I really experienced the reality that the Church is the people of God…. My greatest joy in the priesthood was simply being a part of the people of God.”
Reflecting on the last 50 years, Father Donovan said, “Nothing in my 50 years of priesthood has changed my desire of the priesthood, my excitement about being a priest, the joy of being with people. I can’t conceive of myself doing anything different.”
Msgr. Michael Meagher is celebrating his Golden Jubilee, marking 50 years as a priest.
A native of Syracuse, Msgr. Meagher was a parishioner of Blessed Sacrament and a graduate of Cathedral High School’s class of 1957. He went on to seminary studies at St. Andrew’s, St. Bernard’s and Theological College in Washington, DC. He was ordained a priest of the diocese May 1, 1965.
Msgr. Meagher’s ministry has included service as parochial vicar of Our Lady of Pompei in Syracuse and as pastor of St. Andrew in Binghamton, the merged Church of Saints John and Andrew in Binghamton and St. James in Syracuse. He returned to Saints John and Andrew as pastor in 1999, and continues to serve there.
Msgr. Meagher taught at Catholic Central High (later Seton Catholic Central) in Binghamton for 12 years. He also served in many diocesan capacities, including as assistant director and director of religious education, co-vicar for education, director of Aquinas House, director of continuing education for clergy and director of the Office of Vocations. He was named a Chaplain of His Holiness in 2006.
Msgr. Meagher credits “family, the schools and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit” with helping him to discern his vocation to the priesthood, noting the many priests and religious sisters who were instrumental to him along the way.
Of his varied ministries over the years, Msgr. Meagher said he could not choose a favorite, as he was “very blessed to work with the bishops, the priests, the people and the religious… Every part had something special about it.”
“As I look back, I see certainly the grace of God and the inspiration of the Holy Spirit in how I matured and learned and have grown. If you allow it, and I hope I have, faithful people can teach you a lot about what priesthood means. I have tried to be open to that, to listen. That’s been a blessing,” he added.
Msgr. Meagher urges those who might feel a calling to “Not to let go of the idea, to keep it up front,” he said. “Do that by prayer, by being at church and Mass, by finding someone they can talk with, a group of people who have similar thoughts for the support.” He encourages “walking with it, but not letting it go, letting it stir within you.”
Father Joseph Moskal celebrated the 50th anniversary of his priesthood at a special Mass and a reception afterward on April 26 at his home parish, Holy Trinity in Utica. After attending his parish’s elementary school, he completed his secondary education at Utica Free Academy, graduating in June 1953. He attended St. Mary College in Orchard Park, Mich. and then completed his seminary studies at Ss. Cyril and Methodius Seminary in the same location.
Father Moskal was ordained on May 1, 1965. He has served at parishes in Forestport, Syracuse, Rome, Cicero, Binghamton, Utica, Hinckley, Whitesboro, Camden, Williamstown and Clayville. He retired on July 1, 2009.
“I’m enjoying retirement immensely,” Father Moskal said. “I help out at Holy Trinity and at St. Joseph’s Nursing Home in Utica.”
Father Moskal offered some words of advice for those who are considering becoming a priest. “If you have any doubt about the calling, speak with your pastor immediately,” he advised. “It’s a blessing to be a priest and to follow Christ. It’s a vocation that keeps you close to God and in His grace. He’s been good in his mercy and love to me and my priesthood.”
Father Carlo Stirpe is celebrating 50 years as a priest.
A native of St. Brigid Church in Syracuse, Father Stirpe graduated from St. Patrick High School in 1957. He went on to seminary studies at St. Jerome and St. Bernard, and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Syracuse May 1, 1965.
He has served as an associate pastor at St. John in Camden, Our Lady of Pompei in Syracuse, St. Anthony of Padua in Utica, St. Charles Borromeo in Syracuse, and Blessed Sacrament in Utica; as administrator of St. Anthony in Cortland and St. Joseph in Camillus; and as pastor of St. Anthony in Cortland, Immaculate Conception in Fulton and St. John in Camden, where he has served since 2004. Father Stirpe also served on the faculty of Bishop Grimes High School in East Syracuse, teaching Italian and English.
Reflecting on his call to and service in the priesthood, Father Stirpe offered the following:
“The question is often asked of priests, ‘Why did you become a priest?’ In the beginning it was a response to what we usually called ‘The Call.’ That great mysterious ‘Call.’ The response is wrapped up in choice. God chooses and I choose. The priesthood, lived out daily, is a daily choosing. I chose to be a priest because I had to respond to a Love that I couldn’t resist….
“I am a priest because I witness to the normal of every day life… Tears, joy, pain are all normal. The complexities of work, relationship and sin are normal. Loneliness, confusion and human drivenness — all normal. Brokenness, pride and trying to figure out eve
ry single day what is normal; these are normal. Wondering and wandering and working through the doubts and whatever is certain are normal. Going where one should not and coming back sometimes wiser and more wounded; and, even a lot less oneself, or less the myth of oneself, it’s all normal, too. I became a priest because I am normal. It takes years to realize that all the ‘normal’ is still wrapped up in the ‘mystery’ of why I became a priest. Celebrating, worshipping, teaching, preaching, befriending, loving and more are the ‘romantic’ expressions of this ‘normal.’ It takes the daily ‘okay’ to acknowledge that the normal is what is real and what is real is God. I became a priest because He chose me and chooses me!”
Father Stirpe will celebrate his jubilee with a special Mass at St. John’s at 2 p.m. on May 3, followed by a reception.
Father John Croghan is celebrating his 40th year in the priesthood since his ordination on May 10, 1975. A native of Utica, his home parish is St. Francis de Sales where he attended the parish elementary school.
After graduating from Notre Dame High School in 1967, he studied at Wadhams Hall Seminary College in Ogdensburg. He completed his seminary studies at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester.
Father Croghan is now serving as pastor at St. Mary’s Church in Clinton and as Newman chaplain for the Catholic community at Hamilton College. He said he enjoys working with college students, something he’s done since 1982.
After his ordination, Father Croghan ministered at St. Margaret’s in Mattydale and Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal, before coming to St. Mary’s.
Msgr. James Lang is celebrating 40 years as a priest.
Msgr. Lang grew up in Liverpool, where he was a member of Immaculate Heart of Mary Church, before moving to Baldwinsville and graduating from Charles W. Baker High School in the class of 1967. He went on to seminary studies at Wadhams Hall in Ogdensburg and St. Mary’s in Baltimore, Md., and was ordained a priest for the diocese May 10, 1975.
He served as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Utica and St. Mary of the Assumption in Rome. Msgr. Lang then served as Newman chaplain at SUNY Oswego for 10 years before moving to the same post at Syracuse University for nine years.
Msgr. Lang has been the director of the diocesan Office of Pastoral Planning since 1998, Vicar for Parishes since 1999 and Director for Campus Ministry since 2000. He also serves as a member of the diocesan College of Consultors, the Presbyteral Council, the Committee for the Continuing Education of Clergy and the Safe Environment Program, and has served on numerous additional diocesan boards and committees throughout his career. He has served on the Priests’ Council of New York, as regional observer to the national bishops’ conference, as a member of the Conference on Pastoral Planning and Council Development and as a partner representative for the Emerging Models of Pastoral Leadership Initiative. Msgr. Lang has been the diocesan Chaplain for Scouting since 1990, in addition to serving as the New York State Chaplain since 2013, and has been an advisor to students in the Alpha Phi Omega National Co-ed Service Fraternity since 1988. He was named Chaplain of His Holiness in 2012.
When he was young, Msgr. Lang’s extended family included five diocesan priests; he said he first thought about being a priest as a boy, on a walk through his neighborhood. Though he “did his best to talk God out of it,” he ultimately discerned a call to the priesthood for the Diocese of Syracuse.
His ministries as a priest have allowed him to serve in a variety of capacities and communities, and he fondly recalls his years in campus ministry as some of the best of his life. As to what his future may hold, Msgr. Lang said he remains “open to the movement of the Spirit.”
Msgr. Lang offers that same advice to young men discerning a call to the priesthood. “Young people looking at priesthood,” he said, “tend to look at what society says are the negatives. But if you take the time to pray it through and look at the reality of priesthood, the blessings are a hundredfold.”
Father Lester Smith will celebrate 40 years of priesthood in May.
Father Smith’s home parish is St. Paul’s in Rome. He attended Fort Stanwix Elementary School and completed his secondary education at Rome Free Academy. Father Smith’s post secondary schools include Virginia Military Institute, Hunter College in New York, N.Y., Utica College and the University of Albuquerque, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology and certification to teach secondary education.
Father Smith studied for the priesthood at Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure University and was ordained to the priesthood on May 10, 1975.
Father Smith ministered at Holy Family in Fairmount, St. John the Baptist in Rome, Christ the King in Liverpool, St. Peter’s in Utica, St. Stephen’s in Marathon, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Cincinnatus and is now ministering at St. Malachy’s in Sherburne and St. Theresa of the Infant Jesus in New Berlin.
Father Smith said he felt called to the priesthood after he returned home from the Vietnam War. “I had the sense that God desired me to become a priest and it kept growing,” he remembered. “After I got back from Vietnam, I kept hearing in church that they needed priests and it seemed that nobody was volunteering, so I figured I should do it. It took three years to make the decision. In the end, I figured it’s what God wanted me to do. I thank God for all the people who have helped me out along the way and have been so good to me.”
Father Smith enjoys serving as a priest. “I love trying to impart a vision of the kingdom of God through preaching and teaching,” he said. “I love working with people and celebrating Mass and absolving from sins.”
Father Paul Madej, recently retired from serving as a military chaplain for the U.S. Army, is celebrating 25 years of priesthood.
A native of Utica, Father Madej attended his parish’s elementary school, Holy Trinity. He graduated from Notre Dame High School in June 1982. He then attended Wadhams Hall Seminary in Ogdensburg and Le Moyne College.
Father Medej studied for the priesthood at The American College of Louvain in Belgium and was ordained on Dec. 8, 1990 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse.
Father Madej said his strong Catholic upbringing influenced his decision to become a priest. “I was raised in a family who celebrated our Catholic faith on a daily basis and I was an altar boy at Holy Trinity in Utica, where I attended school,” he explained. “My family, the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth and the priests and people of God of Holy Trinity and Notre Dame High School called me to become a priest. Serving others was a part of the fabric of my life and after some incredible mentoring at Aquinas House, I acknowledged the calling and thank God for the ministry of these last 25 years.”
Father Medej’s first assignment was to serve as associate pastor at St. Margaret’s in Mattydale. He ministered in that position for five years.
While serving at St. Margaret’s, Father Madej was asked to assist the military men and women at the nearby military reserve center. “Their need for a shepherd inspired me to begin a journey of prayer with Bishop O’Keefe, who ultimately released me into active duty in 1995,” Medej said. “From that day on until this very day, my heart will always beat for those who are willing to serve our nation in war and in peace.
Father Madej was assigned to the following U.S. Army posts: Fort Campbell, Kentucky, deploying to Ope
ration Enduring Freedom I (Afghanistan) and Operation Iraqi Freedom I (Iraq); Wiesbaden, Germany, deploying to Bosnia; Fort Carson, Colorado, deploying to Operation Iraqi Freedom IX (Iraq); Fort Jackson, South Carolina, training Army and Navy chaplains of all faith groups; and Fort Irwin, Calif., managing training for mid grade deploying chaplains of all faith groups at the National Training Center, U. S. Army Garrison.
Looking back on his time in the military, Father Medej said his toughest yet most rewarding moments took place on the battlefields. “Answering tough questions about faith after a buddy loses a friend in combat, standing with parents, spouses and family members at the grave at a memorial service for their soldier were opportunities that caused me to dig deep in faith and suffer with others who paid the ultimate sacrifice,” he said.
Now, Father Madej is eager to help out wherever he can in the diocese. “I look forward to God’s plan for the next chapter of my life and pray that my small part in the life of military men and women and their families will bear fruit in the faith dimension of their lives.”