By Tracy Kinne
Father Joseph M. Larkin was a straightforward, modest servant of the Lord whose generosity and talent brought his parishioners close to Jesus.
“Well Joe, you went and did it,” began Father John J. Smegelsky in his homily at Father Larkin’s funeral Mass Monday evening at Our Lady of Perpetual Help, in Minetto. “You graduated from this life into the eternal.”
“He was one of a kind,” Father Smegelsky recalled. “We’ll never see the likes of him again.” Father Smegelsky described Father Larkin as an exceptionally talented pianist, an avid chess player and a man who loved doing crossword puzzles.
“He didn’t wear his religion on his sleeve. He was an ordinary guy. Tonight he would say, ‘What’s all the fuss about?’” Father Smegelsky said. “Wherever he was, the people loved him. He always gave great homilies. … He didn’t go on and on. … He wasn’t long-winded, but you got something out of it.”
Father Larkin, or Father Joe, was ordained in 1957 and served parishes in Syracuse, Oneida, Utica, Hannibal and Minetto. He retired in 2017. Father Larkin, 90, died Nov. 3 at The Commons on St. Anthony, in Auburn.
“Joe’s priesthood was a blessing to the Diocese of Syracuse,” Father Smegelsky said. “He gave everything away. … He gave his car away toward the end of his life. He would say, ‘So and so needs this.’”
Father Joe was proud of his Irish heritage, Father Smegelsky remembered, as he recited the Irish blessing for his friend: “May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back. May the sun shine warm upon your face. …
“And, until we meet again—and no doubt we will meet again,” Father Smegelsky interjected, “may the eternal high priest hold you in the palm of his hand.”
Father Smegelsky concluded his homily, “So let your hearts not be troubled.”
Father Larkin had requested to have no wake or Mass because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but, Bishop Douglas J. Lucia said, he touched so many lives that his parishioners and fellow priests needed to say goodbye. “I want to honor his request in one way,” Bishop Lucia said, “but I know how important it is to say goodbye. A funeral is also for the living, to thank God for the gift of Father Joe.”
The bishop said, “I just want to take a moment to say thank you to his friends and parishioners who have so faithfully taken care of Father Larkin.”
Bishop Lucia recalled being appointed bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse in 2019 and receiving a note from Father Larkin. “His notes were like his homilies—always to the point,” the bishop said.
“He said, ‘You’re so young.’ My reply was, ‘I hope I stay that way.’”
Bishop Lucia repeated the words of the late Bishop James M. Moynihan, who served as bishop of the Syracuse Diocese from 1995 to 2009. Father Larkin, the late bishop wrote in 1997, was known for his musical talent, his wit and his way of ingratiating himself with others. In this way, he brought people close to the Lord. “I can only begin to imagine the hearts you have touched,” Bishop Moynihan wrote.
“Father Joe,” Bishop Lucia prayed, “you always have a place in our hearts. Father Joe, we ask you to pray for us that we will stay on the right path as you did.”
As the 80 or so mourners left the church, the bishop took each person’s hand and offered blessings and a smile. The mourners stepped out into a dark night, lit only by a sliver of crescent moon.