By Tom Maguire | Associate editor

The bishop noted they were lined up as if they were in school. This was a lineup of the well prepared.

Thirteen candidates, seasoned by years of living and by two years of formation, listened to their final instructions Sunday. Then they proceeded into the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where they were commissioned as lay ecclesial ministers.

Bishop Douglas J. Lucia said that “sometimes in our lives we think: Well, haven’t I done enough? Haven’t I given everything already to God?”

He added: “And maybe if we’re thinking it’s time to coast, that’s when you say, no, you need to reclaim the vision!”

All are called to be visionaries by saying yes to God not only with their lips, the bishop said, but even more, with their hearts.

“The needs of the church are many,” Bishop Lucia said, “and God shows his goodness by sending pastoral workers to care for those in need.”

The newly commissioned 13 promised the bishop they would work together with their pastors and parish staff to promote a truly Christian spirit; continue to grow in their life of prayer; and proclaim with their lives the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Helpers in many ways

Their charitable acts include visiting the sick and homebound; promoting faith formation; leading youth; instructing those studying for Confirmation; putting together gifts and cards for people in nursing homes and hospitals; and helping with the program of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults.

Among the newly commissioned was Andrew C. Putrello, Jr., from Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Utica. Ever beaming, he radiates a natural cheerfulness. His ministry revolves around visiting the sick.

Asked about what he offers, he said: “I think I impart inspiration, confidence, the willingness to continue, creativity, perseverance, drive, not to be defeated.”

Putrello has invented air-filtration devices, fluid pumps, electronic microscopes, and survival gear. A pilot, he has also sung in a rock band. He said he has followed his intuition “and it’s worked out pretty good.”

Bishop Lucia greets Andrew C. Putrello, Jr. Both ministers are from Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Utica. (Sun photos | Chuck Wainwright)

Bishop Lucia felt his own life had worked out pretty well after 30 years in the priesthood. He told Sunday’s gathering that he thought he was going DOWN the other side of the mountain, but then he was named the bishop of Syracuse.

He remembered that as he was taking up his bishop’s crosier for the first time, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan reminded him that he was to be a “lamp among the people.”

He is not the only one holding the crosier, Bishop Lucia said: “It’s all of us holding the crosier.”

The day’s Scripture readings shared the theme that all have a duty to serve.

“To whomever I send you, you shall go” (Jeremiah 1:7).

“I delight to do your will, my God” (Psalm 40:9).

“Put on … heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12).

“You are the light of the world. … Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds” (Matthew 5:14,16).

Performing good deeds at Pope John XXIII Church in Liverpool is the newly commissioned youth minister, Dawn-Marie Rau, who delivered the Reflection for the Class of 2019.

The youth group meets every other week, she said. Coming up is a bake sale that the group does before Thanksgiving every year.

“It’s refreshing to see a new bishop come in with such a positive energy about everything,” she said, “and I felt very welcomed …, just blessed that he is so supportive of us as lay ministers.”

Lifelong friendships

In her Reflection, she said classes for the lay ecclesial ministers included the spirituality of leadership, the sacraments, Scripture, collaborative ministry, church history, and morality.          

There were also workshops with speakers and retreats “where lifelong friendships and prayer buddies were formed.”

Rau credits her retired pastor, Msgr. James T. O’Brien, as “truly an inspiration and I am grateful for him every day.”

During their formation, some of the lay ecclesial ministers saw one of their colleagues as a guide, for she was already serving as a nun: Sister Mary Jane Florence Athieno, of the Little Sisters of St. Francis. A native of Uganda who came to this country as a scholarship student in 2006, she said it has been a privilege to get to know the culture of this country.

The eldest of eight children, Sister Mary Jane Florence learned a lot from her mother, and that’s why she wanted to share her faith in this diocese “among the faithful in the church community.”

She worked at Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton for eight years and now serves in pastoral care at St. Patrick Church in Binghamton. She visits the homebound and those in nursing homes.

With her new commission, she “will continue serving God day by day, listening to the voice of the Lord and … being compassionate and being loving.”

Her compassion goes especially to “those who do not know the Lord.” She assures them that God loves them and will always be with them.

New minister Putrello is awaiting official acceptance of his application to study for the permanent diaconate. He said his wife, Lisa, is 100 percent behind his goal and she has a very strong spiritual life as well.

Putrello’s colleague William A. Smith, Jr. also has submitted his application for the permanent diaconate, and his committee review is set for Nov. 11. An assistant principal at JFK Middle School in Utica, Smith previously taught mathematics, science, chemistry, and technology.

‘A part of their church’

Like Putrello, Smith serves in parish ministry at Our Lady of Lourdes, where he and his wife, Kim, are the co-coordinators of the faith formation program.

“We work with the sixth- through 10th-graders and get them ready to go through their Confirmation,” Smith said. Also, he was recently invited to be part of Sister Lois Mary Paciello’s RCIA program as a teacher for the Ten Commandments session.

The Confirmation students put together gifts and cards for people in nursing homes and hospitals. The students end up being choir members, lectors, Eucharistic ministers, and teachers following their Confirmation, Smith said: “We spread God’s word and have them be a part of their church.”

As Bishop Lucia said: “We can’t hide our light.”

The new ministers’ two-year study program is over, but the bishop reminded them of their continuing challenge:

“To be men and women of vision — God’s vision.”


2019 Class

Lay Ecclesial Ministers


Sister Mary Jane Florence Athieno, LSOSF
St. Patrick, Binghamton
Msgr. John P. Putano, sponsor
Danita Fiacco, supervisor

Kurt Robert Behrenfeld
St. Anthony, Cortland
Rev. Joseph S. Zareski
sponsor and supervisor

Nick Caputo
Sacred Heart, Cicero
Rev. Richard P. Prior, Jr., sponsor
Deacon Ken Money, supervisor

Dale G. Grey
St. Bartholomew, Norwich
Rev. Ralph A. Bove, sponsor
Deacon David Kirsch, supervisor

Matthew J. Karp
Most Holy Rosary, Maine
Rev. Clarence F. Rumble, sponsor
Deacon Gary DiLallo, supervisor

John J. MacGaffick, DPA
St. Mary–St. Peter, Rome
Rev. Sean P. O’Brien, sponsor
Rev. Philip A. Hearn, supervisor

Maureen Nash
St. Paul, Rome
Rev. Robert L. Kelly
sponsor and supervisor

Andrew C. Putrello, Jr.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Utica
Rev. Joseph Salerno
sponsor and supervisor

William A. Smith, Jr.
Our Lady of Lourdes, Utica
Rev. Joseph Salerno
sponsor and supervisor


Susan C. Howland
Christ the Good Shepherd, Oswego
Rev. John W. Canorro, sponsor
Frances Lanigan, supervisor

Glen M. Lozier
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Baldwinsville
Rev. Joseph M. O’Connor
sponsor and supervisor


Elizabeth Ruoff
Our Lady of Sorrows, Vestal
Rev. John P. Donovan, sponsor
Jacqueline Adams, supervisor


Dawn-Marie Rau
Pope John XXIII, Liverpool
Father Zachary K. Miller, sponsor
Msgr. James T. O’Brien, supervisor

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