By Katherine Long and Tom Maguire | Sun staff
Each year, the Diocese of Syracuse honors its clergy who are celebrating milestone anniversaries. Here, the Sun offers a brief look at jubilarians marking 50, 60, and 65 years of dedicated priestly service. Last week’s issue featured jubilarians marking 25, 30, and 40 years.
Father John V. Ahern,
retired in 2007, ordained in May 1967
A former businessman, soldier, and parade leader, Father Ahern is reflecting on a varied life as he celebrates his 50th jubilee. He has served in Pulaski, Mattydale, Syracuse, DeWitt, and Liverpool. He also worked at St. Joseph’s Hospital as a chaplain.
Each generation of the faith is different, he said, and “we have to go along with the difference and make an impact.”
He is also thinking about the next group of priests who will be working in linked parishes. “It’s going to be different for them,” he said, “but then again there has to be changes within the Church itself. Thank goodness for our deacons. I think that’s very important. They do a great job.” He also thinks Pope Francis is doing a great job. “We’re lucky to have him. … We have to pray for him every day,” he said.
Father Ahern remembers the old Parochial League and the Friday night basketball games, perhaps followed by a hamburger at a restaurant. He remembers all the theaters that used to be on Salina Street, and he remembers their names too.
He graduated from St. Lucy’s on Gifford Street in Syracuse, and he celebrated his first Mass there too. During school he started working for Carrier Corp. when that company operated on South Geddes Street. The company moved to Carrier Circle and he worked there in accounting. He moved to Carrier’s Madison Avenue site in Manhattan for a short time before he was drafted into the Army.
Father Ahern served in Louisiana and remembers the Mississippi River. “It was just lovely,” he said. He drove tanks and ended his two-year stint in an office job. He also had brothers who served in the Air Force and the Marines. He remembers heading out of the barracks to go to Mass, and he remembers studying for the priesthood with fellow ex-GIs. He was ordained at age 33.
In 1991, Father Ahern served as the grand marshal of the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in Syracuse. “It’s wonderful,” he recalled. “Going down Salina Street! You had your big dinner before at the Hotel Syracuse.” He enjoyed being on the reviewing stand and waving at everybody and wishing them luck.
Father Ahern’s late brother Patrick served as the grand marshal of the same parade in 2004. Patrick was a great guy who helped and inspired people who had drinking problems, he said. “He was a fine young brother, God bless him.”
Father Ahern is from a family of five boys and two girls; one sister survives. He has 23 nephews and nieces, four great-nieces, and one great-nephew.
Now Father Ahern lives in Jamesville at The Nottingham, where there is always the 10 a.m. Mass in the priest chapel and there is always programming. “I’m not a couch guy, you know what I mean?” he said. “I like to keep busy.”
“The Holy Spirit’s still in charge. … But, again, you’ve got to be open to be guided by the Holy Spirit,” he said. “That’s the important thing.”
Father Peter M. Creed,
retired in July 2012, ordained in May 1967
Father Creed identifies with the title of a book by Archbishop Fulton Sheen: The Priest Is Not His Own.
That means that Father Creed lives to serve, and he’s happy doing it up North or in the South.
He was ordained in the Diocese of Syracuse and worked for 23 years in diocesan schools. He also served parishes full time in Manlius, Marcellus, Syracuse, and Endicott. He added weekend duty for parishes in Central Square, Rome, Oneida, Baldwinsville, and Fairmount.
In 2002 he moved to the Diocese of Richmond in Virginia. He served in three parishes there before his retirement. Excardinated from the Syracuse Diocese, he now lives in Williamsburg. A lot of Northerners have moved there, he said. This year’s snow total was 13 inches, he said, and that all came on one day. Schools were closed for several days.
“People are the same all over because people have needs,” Father Creed said. “And they’re loving, and they want to know how to get in touch with God and love more.”
The Diocese of Richmond covers close to two-thirds of the state, he said; it takes 14 hours to drive from one end of the diocese to the other. The diocese has about 150 priests, he said, including a lot of international priests. “Doing the best we can with what we have,” he said. He gives spiritual direction and retreats.
Father Creed also works with another group of people who deserve love, care, and respect: the military. For five years, he has worked as the Senior Priest for Langley Air Force Base/Fort Eustis. He administers the sacraments on weekends and during the week to help out. Langley has two chapels, he said, and about 50 percent of the attendees are retired military people; about 35 percent are active military.
Father Creed will celebrate his jubilee next weekend at three different parishes where he has served; there will be a Mass and a reception at each one of them. He hopes that people wear nametags so that he can remember them. He is pretty good at names, he said, but not the best.
For hobbies, Father Creed plays a little golf and occasionally plays guitar.
Asked what he’s reflecting on for his 50th, he said: “I’m remembering the people who have touched me along the way in each different spot.”
Father William R. Jones,
parochial vicar of Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse, ordained in May 1967
Since June of 2010, Father Jones has been the parochial vicar of the Cathedral. He has ministered in parishes in Syracuse, Endicott, Binghamton, and Maine.
In addition, Father Jones has served as chaplain for Broome Community College, Broome County Jails, and Southern Tier Marriage Encounter. Over the years, he has served on a number of diocesan committees.
When asked what he reflects upon as his jubilee approaches, he responded by saying the following:
“For me, Pope Francis says it best when he says, ‘I am a sinner on whom God has turned his gaze.’ That is me in a nutshell. I am most grateful to be called to serve God through his Church for these 50 years.
“Even though there have been times of darkness and struggle aplenty, I thank God for the grace to persevere and come to the numerous exceedingly joyous times and experiences that overshadow these times of downcast.
“With the many graces, blessings, gifts, and talents God has bestowed on me, first and foremost, I strive to be a priest that people can turn to.”
When asked what has impressed him or inspired him since his 40th anniversary, Father Jones replied:
“As always what inspires and energizes me is the living faith of so many people I have come to meet and know.
“In a world where the force of evil bares itself more and more, I find myself living among saints. It appears to me that the Lord reveals the treasures of his wisdom and his spirit more and more. I concentrate on taking in the good.”
Asked about hobbies, Father Jones said, “My ministry keeps me active, but I continue to walk and swim and play golf on a regular basis.”
Participation in sports has always been a part of his life. In 2014, Father Jones was inducted into the Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame because he was a three-sport all-star in golf, basketball, and baseball at St. John the Evangelist High School in Syracuse and Waterloo University in Canada.
Father Edward J. Reimer,
pastor, St. Patrick Church, Chittenango, ordained in May 1967
Father Reimer, celebrating his 50th jubilee, has served in Utica; Solvay; South America; Manlius; Mattydale; Guayaquil, Ecuador; Syracuse; and Chittenango.
He was asked what has impressed him since his last jubilee. He was also asked about whether the time has gone by quickly for him. He said this in an email:
“I was overjoyed at my 25th Anniversary by the enthusiasm of the parishioners and I realized that it was really a celebration of the parish and the priesthood. That is what this celebration is all about. It’s not about me but it is the people of St. Patrick’s demonstrating belief in Jesus, the Eucharist, the Gospel, and the Church. It becomes a celebration not of a person but of the people; God’s Easter People.
“It is the people who make the years fly by. In the parish community there is always something different; something to rejoice over; something to think about; something to share in sorrow. To be a part of all this has made the years fly by. Some days have been difficult. Some days have been tiring and all of them with the Lord and His people.”
Msgr. J. Robert Yeazel,
pastor, Holy Cross Church, DeWitt, ordained in May 1967
Msgr. Yeazel will be retiring from Holy Cross Church this July. He has served in Binghamton, Syracuse, Fayetteville, Jamesville, and DeWitt.
He also has had many special assignments. He has served in diocesan administration as vicar general, chancellor, and vicar for priests. Msgr. Yeazel has served on the diocesan finance committee, the diocesan management board, and the Le Moyne College and Christian Brothers Academy boards of directors.
He was asked what has inspired him since his last jubilee and what he is reflecting on as he observes his 50th jubilee. He responded in an email:
“Since my 25th and 40th anniversaries, I continue to be inspired by the many ways the Lord continues to work in my life. The challenges for the Church have changed dramatically — the priest shortage, the pedophile crisis, and aging, and yet the Lord revitalizes and blesses us more and more each day to look to Him and not to ourselves; to remain hopeful and confident.
“Reflecting on being revitalized by this new stage in life, I find myself excited about serving in new, and hopefully meaningful, ways in retirement. I am excited and energized by the new possibilities.
“The years have gone quickly and every one has been filled with great joy and multiple blessings. I pray that retirement will offer new leisure time in the midst of continued ministry. I don’t crochet or [use a rocking chair], so I’m all set to serve and hopefully to give back for all the blessings that have been given to me.”
Father Gerald Buckley,
retired in 1999, ordained in May 1957
Father Buckley helps out in parishes in the Broome County area, doing daily Masses and weekend work, and also at the Greater Binghamton Health Center.
“I’m a people-centered person and I sort of miss that so I do as much visiting as I can do to the hospital and the people that call on me,” he said.
“That’s the priestly work,” he said, “to get involved with families and offspring and keeping in touch with them and following through with them in their life in the faith and their activity.”
Asked what has impressed or inspired him since his last jubilee, Father Buckley mentioned the “ongoing upgrading of the Church and its people.” He is also inspired by the way the liturgy is performed today, and he keeps up with that.
He also keeps busy golfing and walking. He golfs in a league once a week. “I like the approach shot, the chip shot,” he said, adding that he is not a long hitter.
“I hope the Lord blesses me with good health so I can be as active as I can and be active and available,” he said.
Father R. Daniel DeLorme,
retired in July 2011, ordained in February 1957
“I have lived a very happy life as a priest for 60 years,” Father DeLorme said. He has served in Homer, Solvay, Syracuse, North Syracuse, and Lacona.
“I love being with people and serving them,” he said.
He really loved Homer: He served at St. Margaret’s Church there for 35 years. “The people liked me,” he explained. “I loved it there.”
Asked what has impressed him since his last jubilee, Father DeLorme said, “I’m pleased with our new pope, very much pleased with our new pope. He’s very forward thinking. He’s trying to save the Church.” Father DeLorme noted that when he was ordained, the diocese had close to 300 priests.
He said Pope Francis is very understanding about the lack of priests and the fact that parishes are closing. “He’s a very good person,” Father DeLorme said. “He loves the poor. He has a special option for the poor. They come first. They did with Jesus, too, you know.”
He is also impressed that “there are many people who can help the Church if they are asked. Many, many people would help the Church if they were asked.”
Now living at The Nottingham in Jamesville, Father DeLorme said he appreciates the residents there, too.
“I just enjoy being with people,” he said.
Father Tadeusz Rudnik,
retired in 2004, ordained in April 1957
A native of Poland, Father Tadeusz Rudnik studied at the University of Lubin before his ordination April 6, 1957.
Father Rudnik’s first assignment in the Syracuse Diocese was as parochial vicar at Sacred Heart and St. Stephen’s, both in Syracuse, in 1993.
Father Rudnik, who is celebrating his 60th jubilee, then served at St. Michael’s Church in Fulton for two years. In 2002, he took over as administrator at St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s in Forestport and Otter Lake, respectively. In 2003, he became the administrator at St. Stephen’s in Marathon and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Cincinnatus.
Reflecting 10 years ago on his 50th jubilee, Father Rudnik said, “I am glad I went to the seminary and served God and the people — absolutely. I am sure that I served in the best possible way.”
Father Matthew S. Wieczorek,
retired in August 2013 ordained in May 1957
His friends say that Father Wieczorek is very devoted to both the Church and the people of the Church. He has served in Endicott, Mattydale, Utica, and Binghamton.
A native of Solvay, Father Wieczorek is celebrating his 60th jubilee.
His home parish is Sacred Heart in Syracuse and he attended the Cathedral Academy before moving on to the seminary at St. Mary’s and Ss. Cyril and Methodius, both in Orchard Lake.
Father Wieczorek’s first assignment was as associate at St. Casimir in Endicott in 1957. He also served as an associate pastor at St. Margaret’s in Mattydale from 1965 to 1968 and then Holy Trinity in Utica from 1968 to 1973. He also taught at Seton Catholic High School in Endicott from 1957 to 1965. In addition, Father Wieczorek served as the chaplain for the Catholic Daughters of America in Rome, N.Y.
Father Wieczorek’s first pastorate was spent at St. Casimir in Endicott from 1973 to 1987. He then took over as pastor at St. Stanislaus in Binghamton until he was assigned to Transfiguration Church in Rome from 1997 to 1999. He returned to St. Casimir in Endicott in 1999.
Msgr. Ronald Bill, having served in a variety of ministries, says he has never been bored in his 60 years of priesthood.
A native of Our Lady of Pompei Parish in Syracuse and a graduate of Christian Brothers Academy, Msgr. Bill was ordained Feb. 2, 1957, following studies at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s in Rochester.
His ministry has included service at Oswego Catholic High School, St. Joseph’s in Oswego, St. Mary of the Assumption in Binghamton, St. Thomas Aquinas in Binghamton, Sacred Heart Church in Cicero, St. Mary of Mt. Carmel in Utica, St. Anthony’s and St. Mary’s in Cortland, and St. Joseph’s in Lee Center, WHAT in Baldwinsville, St. Joseph’s in Camillus, Corpus Christi in South Onondaga, and St. Patrick’s in Otisco. He is currently in residence at Immaculate Conception in Fayetteville and though he is retired, he continues to serve at various parishes on weekends.
Msgr. Bill served as a chaplain in the Army National Guard, retiring as a brigadier general.
Msgr. Bill spent many years with Catholic Charities, serving as director of Oswego County Catholic Charities, assistant director and director of Broome County Catholic Charities, and diocesan Vicar for Community Services, leading the diocesan-wide mission of Catholic Charities.
He has also served as a member of the New York State Human Rights Commission, the Broome County Youth Bureau, the Broome County Urban League, and InterFaith Works.
Msgr. Bill began discerning his vocation while in high school, and he said it “feels like yesterday that I was ordained.” He called his time with Catholic Charities “the greatest experience of my life,” and said he’s enjoyed assisting and filling in at parishes over the last few years, as “it gives you a different perspective of the Church, the universality of it, because there are such wonderful people at every place I’ve gone.”
To a young person discerning a vocation, his advice is simple: “Pray about it. Think about it. And go for it.”
Father Vincent Kelly, marking 60 years of priesthood this year, says he’s always gotten a lot of joy out of his vocation.
A son of St. Francis de Sales Parish and Schools in Utica, Father Kelly went on to study at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s in Rochester and was ordained for the diocese Feb. 2, 1957.
His service includes ministry at St. Patrick’s in Clayville, St. Paul’s in Oswego, St. Mary’s in Baldwinsville, St. Peter’s in Rome, St. Ann’s in Manlius, St. Theresa in New Berlin, St. Mary’s in Clinton, and St. Joseph’s in Oriskany Falls. He retired in 2011 and continues to assist on weekends.
Father Kelly also served on the diocese’s Priests’ Personnel Committee and as chaplain to the Rome Fire Department.
When he was in fifth or sixth grade, young Father Kelly would set up an altar at home and “play priest,” making his sisters come in for “Mass” (complete with homemade envelopes!), he recalled. He also enjoyed the privilege of serving as an altar server, something that helped his vocation, he noted. The example of his older brother, who was also ordained a priest, was an inspiration as well.
To a young person discerning a call to the religious life, Father Kelly advises, “Pray and keep it in mind. … To me it was a special vocation and an enjoyable vocation.”
Father John Quinn, celebrating 60 years since his ordination Feb. 2, 1957, says the priesthood is a wonderful life.
Father Quinn is a graduate of St. Anthony of Padua School in Syracuse. He completed seminary studies at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s in Rochester.
Father Quinn served at St. Paul’s in Whitesboro for eight years before joining the faculty at Utica Catholic Academy, later Notre Dame. He taught for more than 20 years, mostly the Old Testament, he said.
After his time in the classroom, Father Quinn began ministering in parishes throughout the diocese. He served wherever needed — in total, some 74 different parishes, he said. “I was able to visit lots of places. … I loved it,” Father Quinn said, also noting that his travels allowed him to see some of the schools his father, an architect, built in the ’30s and ’40s.
Father Quinn is the only diocesan priest in the Diocese of Syracuse who is a member of the Discalced Carmelites, he said. Bishop Thomas J. Costello accepted his simple vows into the order in May 1993.
To a young man discerning the priesthood, Father Quinn advises not to be afraid, to pray, and to stay close to God. “The happiest day of your life is ordination day,” he said.
Father Laurence Kennedy is marking 60 years of priesthood this year.
A son of St. Patrick’s Church and School, he went on to seminary studies at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s in Rochester. He was ordained for the diocese Feb. 2, 1957.
Father Kennedy’s ministry has included service at Our Lady of the Rosary in New Hartford, Our Lady of Lourdes in Utica, St. Vincent de Paul in Syracuse, Holy Family in Fulton, St. Paul’s in Rome, and St. Brigid/St. Joseph in Syracuse, retiring in 2011.
Father Kennedy also served as a chaplain at Mohawk Community College, on the faculty of Bishop Ludden High School, as well as on the diocesan marriage tribunal as defender of the bond, judge, and officialis.
Father Joseph Larkin celebrates 60 years as a priest this year.
A graduate of St. Anthony’s School in Syracuse, he completed seminary studies at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s in Rochester. He was ordained for the diocese Feb. 2, 1957.
Father Larkin has served in parishes throughout the diocese, including St. Ann’s in Syracuse, St. Patrick’s in Oneida, St. Brigid’s in Syracuse, St. Anthony’s in Syracuse, St. Mark’s in Utica, Our Lady of the Rosary in Hannibal, and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Minetto. He retired in March of this year.
Father Stanley Dudkiewicz celebrates 65 years as a priest this year. A native of Kielce, Poland, he was ordained there in 1952. “It was illegal to study during the war,” Father Dudkiewicz told the Sun in 2010. “They hated intellectual people. They were always looking for professors and they would shoot them. Every day you went to a different location to study. I was finally ordained in Kielce in 1952.”
He came to the United States on retreat in 1970 and stayed due to the political climate at home, according to Sun archives. He connected with his friend in the Syracuse Diocese, Msgr. Casimir Krzysiak, joining him at Holy Trinity Parish in Utica in 1973. He moved to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Syracuse in 1975, retiring from there in 2011.
Profiles were compiled from interviews where possible, Sun archive materials, and diocesan materials.