By Deacon Tom Picciano
Sun contributing writer
BINGHAMTON — Hundreds of people gathered at St. Patrick’s Church on Saturday, June 12 for the funeral Mass of Father John “Jay” Booth. The pastor of St. Patrick’s and St. Thomas Aquinas died last week after a long illness. Bishop Robert Cunningham was the principal celebrant. More than 30 priests and six deacons were in attendance.
The homily was delivered by Father Robert Ours who serves at Seton Catholic Central High School. Father Ours had known Father Booth for more than 30 years. The two first became friends as they drove together to St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore.
As Jay Booth prepared for ordination in 1982, he asked Father Ours to be homilist at his first Mass. But Father Ours said he didn’t expect to preach at the funeral of his friend more than 20 years later. At Father Jay’s first Mass as at the funeral Mass, Father Ours focused on the sacraments as taken from the Baltimore Catechism.
“A sacrament is an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace,” Father Ours said. He asked people to think about the outward signs that Father Jay used during his 28 years as a priest. “Like water and oil in baptism and bread and wine in the Eucharist. The oil used in confirmation, holy orders and anointing of the sick.”
“In a very real way, Father Jay became an outward sign — an outward sign of the presence of Jesus Christ in the world. Father Jay brought Jesus to others in his calm and gentle ways. He brought Jesus to others as a minister of the sick and dying. He brought Jesus to others as he celebrated the Eucharist and the other sacraments. He was an outward sign with compassion,” Father Ours said.
Father Ours referred to Henry Nouwen’s concept of a wounded healer. “Men who took that hurt in life,” he said, ”and allowed it to work though them and so in the name of Jesus Christ they became healers from this.
“Father Jay did certainly suffer his share of hurts in his life. And yet for many years during his life, especially during these last five years of his illness, he took his own hurt, his own woundedness and continued ministering. He continued to minister to people with great compassion, kindness and gentleness.
“Here it is only a few days following Father Jay’s death and I really miss him. And I am missing who I am and who I was when I was around him. Think about that. Who were we when we were around Father Jay?” Father Ours asked.
Father Ours spoke of Father Jay’s support for Seton Catholic Central. He noted that it was the second death of a priest with strong ties to SCC this school year. The other was Msgr. Giblin. “I am missing a part of myself so until we meet again my dear friends, Msgr. Giblin and Father Jay, until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.”
At the end of the Mass, Bishop Cunningham mentioned how he’d spoken with Father Jay several times in the last few months about his desire to continue to serve the people of his parishes. He thanked the parishioners for their support for their pastor.
“He was an outstanding priest of this diocese. So many of us feel that his life was cut short. He now enjoys eternal life with God,” the bishop said.
Father John “Jay” Booth was a native of St. Andrew’s Parish in Binghamton. He served several parishes as an associate: Holy Family, Syracuse, Our Lady of Angels in Endwell and St. Rose of Lima in North Syracuse. Appointed pastor of St. Joseph’s in Deposit in 1995, he took on additional duties as administrator of Our Lady of Lourdes in Windsor in 2000. He was named pastor of St. Patrick’s and St. Thomas Aquinas in August of 2008. Father Booth also served several years as a Chaplain at Wilson Memorial Hospital and the Binghamton Psychiatric Center.
He is survived by his sisters and brothers-in-law, Mary S. Booth, Binghamton, Elizabeth and Daniel Conte, Hilton, Martha Booth, Binghamton, Rita and Joseph Soblesky, Johnson City; his uncle, Joseph F. Mollen, Jr.; several nieces and nephews; and very dear friends, Sandra Westgate and family