Father Hapanowicz recalled as wonderful and dedicated priest

By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

The housemate applicant came knocking with welcome traits — joy, kindness, helpfulness.

In 2009, when Father Arthur R. Hapanowicz retired, he called Father Joseph S. Zareski asking if he could live at the St. John the Evangelist rectory in New Hartford, where Father Zareski was pastor.

“Since I had known Father Art for many years and I enjoyed his company, my answer to his request was an immediate ‘Yes!’” Father Zareski recalled.

Father Hapanowicz died at age 91 on March 7 at MVHS Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Utica, where Father Zareski visited him over the last couple of years.

“I would always kid him that he was the resident chaplain of the nursing home because … sometimes he would be asked to anoint the sick. He still had his oils!” Father Zareski said.

Father Joseph S. Zareski, homilist for the March 12 funeral Mass for Father Arthur R. Hapanowicz, says: “All of us here have some very special memories of Father Art. Maybe Father Art came to anoint your mother either in the hospital or at her home. Or maybe Father Art came to bless your house around the feast of the Epiphany. Or maybe Father Art went out of his way … to help you with something.” (Screenshot from funeral Mass)

President of the class

Father Hapanowicz was born on April 27, 1929, in Utica. He was baptized at St. Stanislaus in East Utica but the family then moved to the West Side; he received his First Holy Communion and was confirmed at Holy Trinity. In 1947 he graduated as the Senior Class President of Utica Free Academy. He studied for the priesthood in Michigan and was ordained on May 19, 1956, by Bishop Walter A. Foery.

He ministered in parishes in New York Mills, Syracuse, Rome, Utica, Taberg, Oswego, and Utica. Early assignments included the Priest Homiletic Committee and the Priests’ CCD Executive Committee, and he also served as a spiritual director and chaplain.

The March 12 livestreamed funeral Mass, attended by about 30 members of the clergy and others, was celebrated by Bishop Emeritus Robert J. Cunningham at the church where Father Hapanowicz served as pastor from 1992 until his retirement at age 80, Holy Trinity in Utica.

The readings were 2 Maccabees 12:43-46 (“He acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection in mind”); 1 John 3:1-2 (“Beloved, we are God’s children now); and John 6:51-58 (“‘I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.’”)

In the sanctuary with Bishop Cunningham were Fathers Nathan Brooks (the MC), Kevin J. Bunger, Arthur W. Krawczenko, John E. Mikalajunas, and Zareski; and Deacons Edward W. Kernan and George E. Spohr. The congregation included the Very Rev. Michael Bundz, of St. Volodymyr the Great Ukrainian Catholic Church, Utica; and Father Senior Walter M. Madej, retired from the Sacred Heart of Jesus-Holy Cross Polish National Catholic Church in New York Mills.

“We gather this morning in faith and friendship,” Bishop Cunningham said, “to commend to the tender and gentle care of God this wonderful priest, brother Arthur Hapanowicz; we ask God to comfort his family, and we ask him to send the angels to meet him.”

Visited the sick

“Certainly he was someone who made the world a better place,” said the homilist, Father Zareski.

Father Hapanowicz celebrated Mass and visited the sick in the four years that he lived with Father Zareski before the latter’s assignment to his current parish, St. Mary’s in Cortland.

“For the time we were together,” Father Zareski recalled, “he didn’t miss hearing confessions on Saturday afternoons even once. That was because Father Art knew how important this sacrament was to the people of the parish and to God’s people in general. …

“I would have to say that Father Art was a man of faith. His breviary or Liturgy of the Hours was never far from his side. Prayer was something that nourished him spiritually — and reading the Scriptures and preaching was something he truly enjoyed.

“Father Art truly believed in Jesus, he believed in his teachings, and he believed in the promises of Jesus. … Father Art not only knew about eternal life, but he was looking forward to it. … We will never forget his dedication — to God, to his family, to the priesthood, and to all his beloved parishioners.

“Father Art, our dear friend, rest in peace and enjoy the new life that you now have.” Father Zareski concluded by reading the poem “The Beautiful Hands of a Priest.”

Father Canon Mikalajunas, who visited Father Hapanowicz the Wednesday before he died, had succeeded his friend as the pastor of Holy Trinity.

“He was, I would say, the kindest pastor that I’ve ever succeeded,” Father Canon Mikalajunas said. “He was the most helpful, most gracious; and I always say to people, if I would ever say an unkind word about Father Hapanowicz, God should paralyze my tongue.”

He considered Father Hapanowicz “a true priest, a true gentleman, and a great friend. We will miss him and he gave key witness in his last couple years.”

Happy to ‘clock in’ 

“I don’t think Fr. Art had an unfavored time of day — morning, afternoon, or night — he could always be caught with a smile,” wrote Father  Bunger, Pastor of the Church of the Annunciation in Clinton.

“He was a ‘people person’ who loved the church and his Polish heritage. He was a student of church history and the lives of the saints. Fr. Art would always remember his deceased brother priests as listed in the ‘ordo’ for daily Mass.”

From Upper Nile State in South Sudan, where he is a Maryknoll missionary, Father Michael Bassano, formerly of the Diocese of Syracuse, wrote: “Sorry to hear of the death of Fr. Art Hapanowicz who was a remarkable priest who loved the people he served for so many years. He will be missed but always remembered by the people of the diocese.”

After the funeral, members of the clergy gathered for lunch in the Marian Room at Holy Trinity, courtesy of the Hapanowicz family and the parishioners who baked for the occasion.

“Even though he was retired and he wasn’t in the best of health,” Father Canon Mikalajunas said of Father Hapanowicz, “he still was a priest 24/7.”

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