By Katherine Long | Editor
The life and ministry of Father John Roock were remembered at St. Matthew’s Church in East Syracuse Dec. 2 as family and fellow clergy gathered in his home parish to celebrate his Mass of Christian Burial.
A priest of the diocese for more than 60 years, Father Roock, 89, died Nov. 26.
“Our Christian faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and what happens after death,” Bishop Douglas J. Lucia, principal celebrant, said in his homily. “Only in the light of our faith can we begin to understand what has happened to our brother John and how this Eucharistic table, this holy altar of thanksgiving that we gather around, is the foretaste of the heavenly banquet. A banquet that Father Roock would show his desire for every time he approached the altar of the Lord, from a young, newly ordained [priest] right here in this very church to the days of growing infirmity.”
Father Roock graduated from St. Vincent de Paul High School in Syracuse, going on to study at St. Jerome in Canada, St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester, and Christ the King Seminary at St. Bonaventure in Olean, N.Y.
He was ordained May 23, 1959, at Blessed Sacrament Church in Syracuse because the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was being restored; he celebrated his first Mass at St. Matthew’s, according to Sun archives.
Father Roock’s years of ministry included service at St. Michael’s Church in Syracuse, St. Mary’s Church in Baldwinsville, St. Joseph the Worker in Liverpool, Most Holy Rosary Church in Syracuse, St. Patrick Church in Taberg, St. Helena in Sherrill, and Our Lady of Angels Church in Endwell. He retired in 2008.
The people to whom Father Roock ministered provided inspiration. “What keeps you going is the encouragement of the faithful. The goodness of the people motivates you,” he told the Catholic Sun on the occasion of his 50th jubilee in 2009.
Bishop Lucia read from a letter Bishop James M. Moynihan (1932-2017) wrote to Father Roock to mark that same anniversary. Noting Father Roock’s ministry among so many faith communities, Bishop Moynihan offered his praise: “You have been witness in their midst and you have earned their gratitude. Please know I deeply appreciated the dedication and fidelity with which you served. Again John, thank you for being a good priest.”
“What better could be said about a priest than ‘thank you’ — thank you for giving their life in service of the Gospel in the name of Jesus,” Bishop Lucia said.
Referencing Father Roock’s appreciation for the symphony, the bishop closed with a story about composer Giacomo Puccini. Stricken by cancer while working on his opera “Turandot,” Puccini directed his students to finish the piece after his death. They did, and the opera premiered with Puccini’s student Arturo Toscanini directing. “Everything went beautifully until the opera reached the point where Puccini had been forced to put down his pen,” Bishop Lucia said. “He stopped the music, put down the baton, turned to the audience, and cried out, ‘Thus far the master wrote, but he died.’ A vast silence filled the opera house. Then Toscanini picked up the baton again, smiled through his tears, and exclaimed, ‘But the disciples finished his work.’
“Thank you, Father John, for continuing the Master’s work. For living a life of beatitude in your own priestly ministry,” Bishop Lucia said. “May your reward be great in heaven and now hear the author of all life saying, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; come share your Master’s joy.”