Msgr. Adolph Kantor rejoices in the drama, and humor, of life
By Jennika Baines
SUN associate editor
Msgr Adolph Kantor made his way around the mementoes and gifts from parishioners that line his living room. There are delicate painted eggs that open to reveal the Madonna with Child, intricate music boxes that play “How Great Thou Art” and hand-carved statues of religious figures.
Then he comes to the stuffed chipmunk wearing a football helmet with “Msgr. Kantor” written on it. When squeezed, it sings “Bad to the Bone.”
At 94 years old, Msgr. Kantor is the second oldest priest in the Syracuse Diocese. Despite being retired from the priesthood for nearly 20 years, Msgr. Kantor fills his days with work, prayer and laughter.
“I love people, I always did,” he said.
He still celebrates daily Mass, visits the sick and elderly, sings at community gatherings and takes part in the rosaries said for the troops overseas, rain or shine, by the grotto of St. Mary’s Church in New York Mills.
If it’s rain, rather than shine, Msgr. Kantor said he occasionally says the rosary while seated in his car. “I am 94, you know.”
Msgr. Kantor was born in 1914 in New York Mills to parents who had emigrated from Poland. His family moved to the house he still shares with his 96 year-old sister, Millie, when he was 12 years old.
It was at about that time that he first started to realize he wanted to become a priest. He loved attending Mass at St. Mary’s Church and would ask his father to walk with him to the evening Masses during Advent.
As the fifth of 10 children (one brother died in the 1917 flu pandemic), Msgr. Kantor had to work for three years at the local Dunlop Tire and Rubber plant to earn the money to enroll at St. John Kanty College in Erie, Pa. From there, he entered St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester and was ordained by Bishop Walter Foery on June 5, 1943.
He celebrated his first Mass at St. Mary’s the next day.
“When you’re first ordained you get nervous. But after a while, you keep on praying to the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit gives you guidance,” he said.
Msgr. Kantor’s first assignment was as associate pastor at Sacred Heart Parish in Syracuse. In 1948 he was transferred to Holy Trinity Parish in Utica, where he also served as chaplain to the Utica Police Department.
Eight years later, he moved to Blessed Sacrament in Syracuse.
In 1960, Msgr. Kantor was assigned to St. Mary’s Church in New York Mills. Along with being associate pastor, he also taught religion at Utica Catholic Academy and was Chaplain of the Newman Club at Utica College.
His first assignment as pastor was in 1962 at St. Joseph’s Church in Oriskany Falls. Two years later he moved to St. Stephen’s Church, Syracuse. He became pastor of Transfiguration Church in Rome in 1967 and then moved to Sacred Heart Parish in Syracuse in 1970. While there, he helped organize the Knights of Columbus Sacred Heart Council #6282.
On Dec. 8, 1971, Msgr. Kantor was elevated to Honorary Prelate to His Holiness and became a monsignor.
A month before his retirement on Oct. 31, 1989, Msgr. Kantor received an “Appreciation Award” from the Mayor of Syracuse.
After decades of service throughout the diocese, after trips to the Vatican and Medjugorje, after municipal awards and honorary celebrations, Msgr. Kantor says the best part of his life is still the Masses he used to enjoy attending as a boy.
“Sometimes I like to do a little preface before the Mass. I come out and I say, ‘Remember, my good people, this is something special, this is something very awesome. It’s the mystery of faith, founded not by some saint, but founded by Christ at the Last Supper. Now,” he said smiling, “let the curtain go up. And now we have the drama.’”