Bishop Robert J. Cunningham celebrates a vigil service for the late Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Costello Feb. 21, 2019. (Sun photo | Chuck Wainwright)


By Katherine Long | Editor

Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Costello lived well the episcopal motto he chose for himself more than four decades ago: “as one who serves.”

Bishop Costello, “champion of the underdog,” was “eager to accompany those who were searching for peace and healing,” said Bishop Robert J. Cunningham in his homily at the Feb. 21 vigil service for the late auxiliary bishop.

“He was always ready to be where the wound was,” Bishop Cunningham said. “Tom Costello showed us the way.”

Bishop Costello, whose priestly ministry in the diocese spanned nearly 65 years, died Feb. 15 at the age of 89.

Bishop Costello’s body was received at the Cathedral earlier that afternoon, accompanied by the plaintive music of a single bagpipe. Msgr. Timothy Elmer, vicar general of the diocese, played traditional Scottish and Irish pieces “Dawning of the Day,” “When the Battle is O’er,” and “The Mist Covered Mountains” as Bishop Costello was brought into the church.

Friends and colleagues bowed their heads as Bishop Cunningham sprinkled the casket with holy water. “In the waters of baptism, Bishop Thomas Costello died with Christ and rose with him to new life. May he now share with him eternal glory,” he prayed.

Following a brief service, friends, colleagues, brother priests, and community members paused to pay their final respects to a man known throughout and beyond the diocese for his commitment to peace, justice, and service to God’s people.

About 300 people celebrated Bishop Costello’s life at the vigil service later that evening.

His cousin, Sister Ruth Dowd, CSJ, proclaimed a reading from Ephesians that seemed to encapsulate the way Bishop Costello strived to live his life and ministry.

“I, then, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

Bishop Costello’s Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at the Cathedral Friday, Feb. 22, at 11 a.m. Burial will follow at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Rome, N.Y., at 2 p.m.

Watch video of the service below, courtesy Syracuse Catholic Television:

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