By Katherine Long, Editor
Father David J. Baehr, a retired priest of the Diocese of Syracuse residing in Florida, died Nov. 23, 2016. In the days that followed, his life was celebrated during Masses in both Florida and New York.
Father Baehr’s Funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 2 at St. Frances Xavier Cabrini Church in Parrish, Fla., where he served as Assisting Priest. Bishop Frank Dewane presided. Father John F. Hogan, Jr., Father Baehr’s cousin and the pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Oswego and Our Lady of the Rosary in Hannibal, offered the homily. Father Hogan shared the prepared text of his homily with the Sun.
Recalling the words Bishop David Cunningham spoke at Father Baehr’s ordination, Father Hogan noted that “throughout 50-plus years, Father Dave has given much evidence that he has ‘discharged his obligation as a priest in a praiseworthy manner.’ In the way he responded to the call of the Spirit within him, he has brought joy and healing to the lives of many, many, many people.”
“I myself am living testimony of one of those person because I know that I am a priest today in a large part because of David’s example through the years,” Father Hogan said. “A seed was planted on that Pentecost Sunday in 1964 when, as a first grader, I led Father Dave’s first Mass procession at St. John the Evangelist in our hometown of Oswego, New York.”
It is difficult not to make Father Baehr sound like a candidate for sainthood, Father Hogan noted, “but he did possess the qualities of a saintly man. He had the great gift of seeing all people as God sees them. When you were in his company, David made you feel like you were special — a child of God.”
“Whether it was Father Dave’s family, friends, a perfect stranger, or the people of his parish communities in the diocesan church of Syracuse or Venice, Florida, he responded generously and unselfishly,” Father Hogan said.
“The life of Father David Baehr has been exemplary,” he said. “He is a powerful reminder to all of us that we are called to use our unique gifts in the service of one another and that each one of us has the power to make a difference in someone’s life.”
In closing, Father Hogan said, “David truly was a radical sign of God’s love to all! The greatest tribute that we can pay to Father David Joseph Baehr — as we lovingly commend him to the Lord Jesus Christ — is for us to ‘love one another.’”
St. Margaret’s Church in Mattydale celebrated a Memorial Mass for its former pastor on Dec. 5. Current pastor Father Robert Hyde presided. Deacon David Losito offered the homily.
“Compassionate, loving, loyal are some of the words that I would use to describe the Father David Baehr that I knew,” Deacon Losito said. “But probably the best word I could think of is ‘hospitality.’ He would always make you feel at home and welcomed. I can remember the first time that I met him. He also met all of my eight children at the same time. The next week when we came to Mass, he knew all of their names and them called them each by name.”
Though Father Baehr’s tenure at St. Margaret’s was not long, Deacon Losito noted, he kept in touch. “When I was being ordained a deacon over four years ago, he left a long message on my answering machine about even though he would not be able to make it physically that he would remember me in prayers, and how happy and excited he was for me becoming a deacon. Probably even more than me,” he said with a laugh.
“In that same discourse from John that we heard in today’s gospel, Jesus speaks about the fact that there are many dwelling places available in his father’s house, for you and for me,” Deacon Losito said. “Father Dave is now experiencing his father’s house, being the good servant of Jesus.”
Father Baehr was born on December 15, 1938, to parents Rosalie (Hogan) Baehr and George Baehr.
He was educated at St. John Parochial School, Oswego Catholic High School, and St. Bernard Seminary, being ordained May 16, 1964, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse.
He served as an assistant pastor at Blessed Sacrament Church in Syracuse, St. Agatha Church in Canastota, Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in Liverpool, and Holy Family Church in Fulton. As pastor, he served at St. Theresa Church in New Berlin with its mission of Our Lady of the Valley in Leonardsville, St. Patrick Church in Taberg with its mission of St. Anne in Glenmore, St. Michael Church in Central Square, St. Mary of the Assumption Church in Oswego — at the same time serving as pastor of John the Evangelist in Oswego as well as Vicar of the Northern Region of the Diocese of Syracuse — and St. Margaret in Mattydale.
Father Baehr served as Ecclesiastical Attorney as well as Associate Judge in the Marriage Tribunal, on the Presbyteral Council, and on the Priest Personnel Committee. He was a Fourth-Degree member of the Knights of Columbus.
Upon retiring in 2005, Father Baehr relocated to Florida and served as Assisting Priest at Sacred Heart Church in Bradenton and, most recently, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini in Parrish, while also serving as Spiritual Director for the Legion of Mary Curia.
He is survived by Sister Marianne Baehr, CSJ, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet who resides in Sarasota, and several cousins.