He leaves legacy of service and love, longtime friend says

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

Deacon James L. Morse, affiliated with the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus for almost 30 years, died Sunday at age 69 after a recurrence of a long-term illness.

Father Andrew E. Baranski, rector of the basilica, and Deacon Gregory Cross, deacon personnel director, said Deacon James worked in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program for a long time.

Deacon James was born in Cortland in 1947 and baptized in 1968 at Sacred Heart Church, before it was named a basilica. He married Elaine (Salis) there in 1969, and he was ordained a deacon on Sept. 24, 1988. 

Deacon Gregory said Deacon James’ ministries at the basilica included the following:

  Teaching confirmation students and baptismal preparation.

  Presiding regularly at novenas and Benediction liturgies.

  Moderating the Holy Name Society.

  Serving on the Liturgy Committee and the Pastoral Council.

He also served for a time as the Catholic chaplain at Hillbrook Detention Center.

Deacon James retired from active ministry on May 1, 2017.

Early in his career, Deacon James was a self-employed engineering consultant, said his great friend Deacon Frank T. Timson, who serves at the basilica. Those jobs took Deacon James out of town for months, but he would stay in a big camper with his whole family, Deacon Frank said.

Later, Deacon James worked for Carrier Corp. He also was a member of the Air Force Reserve. He had a unique gift for balancing his time between church and family, his friend said. Elaine Morse is still active in the basilica choir.

Deacon James was like a brother to him, Deacon Frank said, and in fact he was responsible for his joining the diaconate. Deacon Frank said his friend was an amazing man who always had time for anybody that wanted to talk.  “I was amazed by his love of service to others,” he said.

He added that he is a far richer person for having known Deacon James: “He’s going to be sorely missed. … I think that’s the tightest and most loving family I’ve seen in my whole life. Service and love.”

“Everybody’s special in this world,” Deacon Frank said, “but if there’s a pecking order, he’s one of the best.”

Deacon James’ wake service will be 4-7 p.m. Thursday, July 27, at the basilica, followed at 7 p.m. by the Vigil for a Deacon prayer service.

The funeral Mass is set for 10 a.m. Friday, July 28, at the basilica.

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