The Diocese of Syracuse issued the following statement to the Catholic Sun Feb. 15:
Syracuse, New York – Most Rev. Thomas J. Costello, retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse, died today, Friday, February 15, 2019, at the age of 89 years old. A native of Camden, New York, Bishop Costello served as a priest of the diocese for nearly 65 years and as auxiliary bishop for over 40 years.
“Bishop Thomas J. Costello has faithfully served the Church here in the Diocese of Syracuse for nearly 65 years as a priest and 40 years as a bishop,” states Bishop Robert J. Cunningham. “Every area of the diocese has known his tender pastoral care. He has been an ardent supporter of Catholic education, serving at one time as Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese. His personal generosity enabled many young people to receive a Catholic education in our schools. Thousands of young people throughout the seven counties of our diocese have heard his strong voice as they received the Sacrament of Confirmation from him. He lived a simple life, consistently reaching out to the poor and needy — a friend, as Pope Francis would say, to those on the peripheries. He has been a brother to the priests of the Diocese, a friend to the deacons, a champion for the men and women religious, a father figure to all the faithful. Whenever we would meet, he would always express his active interest in diocesan happenings and assist with thoughtful recommendations. When he would leave me, he would often say: ‘Prayers and Peace.’ May we now accompany him with our prayers as he goes forth from us to the eternal peace of the Father’s house.”
Bishop Costello was ordained a priest on June 5, 1954, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by Most Rev. Walter A. Foery, D.D. He was appointed an Assistant Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Syracuse where he served from 1954-1959. He served as a Secretary in the Diocesan Tribunal for one year before being named Superintendent of Catholic Schools from 1960-1975. In 1975, he was named Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Syracuse where he served until 1978. He was named Vicar General of the diocese in 1978 and served in that role until 2009.
Costello received many papal honors including being named a Papal Chamberlain with a title of Monsignor in 1965, elevated to Honorary Prelate in 1971 and Titular Bishop of Perdices and Auxiliary Bishop of Syracuse in 1978. He was appointed by Pope Paul VI and ordained Auxiliary Bishop on March 13, 1978 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse — choosing his Episcopal motto to be “As One Who Serves.”
Bishop Costello served on many boards in the community and across the country, including Jubilee Homes, Le Moyne College, the then Syracuse Interreligious Council, WCNY, Loretto and more. He was very active on the national scene belonging to many committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops including Chairman of the Communications Committee.
Bishop Costello’s legacy will most notably be being a man of deep faith and a man of the people. He had no tolerance for any injustice. He was in the forefront of speaking against racism, poverty, inequality, violence and more. He marched in Selma, Alabama, with Dr. Martin Luther King, fought for employee rights, spoke against the death penalty, promoted the respect and dignity of all life, encouraged interfaith dialogue and equality for all. He very much believed that we are called to be peacemakers and he strived to live his life emulating that belief.
Bishop Costello will also be remembered for being a passionate preacher with a booming voice and being the man to get things done in the diocese and the greater community. He was a scholar who was consistently approachable to all.
Bishop Costello stated quite often, “It is not enough to be a believer. One must be a witness.” And he most certainly will be remembered as a man who witnessed his faith each and every day, celebrated being a child of God and lived every word of his motto: As One Who Serves.
Funeral arrangements will be forthcoming.