ENDICOTT — Father Charles Currie would often ask, “How’s your life?” He really wanted to know how people were doing. The beloved priest, father and grandfather died Dec. 23 following
a procedure at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City at the age of 82. The funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 31 by Bishop Thomas J. Costello at a packed Our Lady of Good Counsel Church. Dozens of priests and deacons, a Knights of Columbus Color Guard and a combined choir also participated.
Father Currie was ordained a priest in 1958 in the Order of Friars Minor of the Conventual Franciscans, with whom he served until leaving to marry Sally Gilhool. He is survived by his brother Brendan; former wife, Sally; daughters Jennifer and Charlotte; son Jonathan; and five grandchildren, Robert, Kyle, Christian Charles, Cory and Sarah Rose.
In 1999, Father Currie received permission to return to priestly ministry in the Diocese of Syracuse as parochial vicar at St. Ambrose in Endicott. He was then assigned to the faculty at Bishop Grimes High School in East Syracuse and as a parochial vicar at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. He became a parochial vicar at Holy Cross in DeWitt in 2000, before moving to the same post at Our Lady of Good Counsel in Endicott in 2001. He was appointed pastor of St. Ambrose in 2002. In 2012, Father Currie was appointed administrator for Immaculate Conception, Greene/St. Joseph’s, Oxford, where he served until February of 2013. He then took over St. John’s, North Bay/St. Mary of the Lake, Verona Beach, where he served until his retirement in September 2014.
In 10 years at St. Ambrose, Father Currie’s efforts resulted in the completion of a renovation to the nearly 100 year-old church building. He also urged four other parishes to help establish the Mother Teresa’s Cupboard food pantry and gave support to a weekly soup kitchen. Father Currie twice opened the doors of St. Ambrose School for flood victim relief; he also donated space for mental health counselors for those affected by the floods of 2011.
Father Currie developed close friendships and gave nicknames to fellow pastors in the Southern Region. Speaking at the Vigil for a Priest on Dec. 30, Father Michael Galuppi, also known as “Mikey,” of Our Lady of Good Counsel, remembered how Father Currie brought together the priests in the region. He reflected on Father Currie’s wit and vocal talent, once interrupting a meeting to listen to singing from the upstairs bedroom.
Father Charles Opondo-Owora, known as “Big Chuck,” recalled Father Currie’s compassion for the poor when they served together at St. Ambrose. He said Father Currie would help people, and tell them “not to come back,” but he would never turn them away if they did. When Father Currie found that Father Opondo-Owora was sending his paycheck to build a church back home in Uganda, he asked parishioners to support the project. With their help, St. Paul’s was dedicated in September 2014.
“We are better priests for having known Charlie Currie,” said Father Edward Zandy, pastor of St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament Parish in Vestal, in his homily at the funeral Mass. He became friends with Father Currie while at Our Lady of Good Counsel. “This is probably one of the hardest sermons I’ve experienced. I speak from the heart, not notes.”
“Charlie had a bad heart, but he had a Franciscan heart filled with love. He loved his God. He loved Jesus in a special way. He loved his fellow priests and deacons. He loved his family. He loved the Yankees. He loved a joke, to kid. He loved a good dinner and a glass of merlot. And he always knew that every day that he had was one more than he should have had,” said Father Zandy.
But there were serious times too, Father Zandy said, like a visit a few days before Father Currie’s death. “There was no laughing, no kidding. He expressed to me his fear. He was afraid. He expressed to me his concern for his children and his grandchildren. But he also was a man of deep faith.”
The night before he died, Father Currie was the last one hearing confessions at St. Anthony’s penance service. Father Zandy paused for a moment before he left there.
“I wanted to say something to Charlie. Maybe something that I never expressed. But I saw the line and I figured I would have the chance before Christmas. He was going to go to North Bay for Christmas. I wish I could have said to Charlie how much he meant to me, how much I loved him as a priest and as a friend,” Father Zandy said.
“All of us can learn from his example,” Father Zandy said. “He loved those who he served here at Good Counsel, at St. Ambrose. They were so dear to him.”
“Each time someone passes that we love a little of us goes with him and some of him stays with us. I know that Charlie is in heaven and the first thing that comes to mind is what nickname he has given Peter. Heaven will never be the same,” Father Zandy said.
“Charlie would always say enjoy your day. Take one day at a time, for life is so fragile. And never forget to say to those who are dearer to you and those you love those words…I love you,” said Father Zandy.
“Hey kids!” smiled Jonathan Currie, echoing words his father said so many times before large groups of people.
“Charles was a man of terrific intelligence and profound feeling, incredible feeling,” said Jonathan, speaking for the family. “When I last spoke with him, he answered the phone. He said, ‘Jonathan, my son, how’s your life?’ I said, ‘It’s outstanding Pop. All is well.’”
Jonathan said that question showed genuine concern for people’s lives: “It was an invitation to us to speak our deepest selves to someone who would receive us and support us totally. Whether we were joyous or sorrowful or broken or at peace with the day’s challenges, he availed himself to be a mirror for others.”
Jonathan added that his father was a sought-after confessor. “People knew… everyone knew he would lovingly receive their brokenness and then proceed to fill them with God’s hope and God’s feeling.”
A long-time contributor to the Sun, Deacon Tom Picciano served with Father Charles “Charlie” Currie at St. Ambrose Parish. Deacon Picciano is currently assigned to St. Vincent de Paul Blessed Sacrament Parish in Vestal.