Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
On August 18th I received a phone call from Father Paul Tomasso telling me that Father John O’Connor had died. He also informed me that Father O’Connor asked that I preach at a Vesper Service at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Brighton, on the evening before his funeral Mass. I was greatly honored to do so! Father O’Connor was the pastor of Lourdes when I was assigned by Bishop Clark to serve there as a transitional deacon. Father O’Connor was my Supervisor and mentor as I made my final preparations to be ordained to the Priesthood. Looking back at my time with him I truly, appreciate the help and guidance he gave me. The lessons I learned from him have helped me to be a better priest. I pray that Father O’Connor is experiencing the rewards of eternal life.
When Father Tomasso called me, he also mentioned that Father O’Connor’s death was the first death of a priest in our diocese in 2022. The previous year there had been many priests who died. But since the passing of Father O’Connor, two more priests of our Diocese have died; Father Thomas Statt and Father William Barrett.
Father Statt was the new Rector of Becket Hall, the college seminary that was located on St. John Fisher College, when I began my studies for the priesthood. In fact, if it wasn’t for Father Statt’s acceptance of me to enter Becket Hall I might never have been a priest. I had an interview scheduled with him at Becket Hall in July. I was coming from across town from my job as a Produce Manager. When I got to Becket the doors were locked! I wondered if this was a sign from God; locking me out! There was a bench nearby so I sat down and began to pray. I remember saying to God if you want me to be a priest, you have to “open the right doors for me and close wrong ones.” Well after I had some time in prayer, Father Statt showed up. He was very apologetic for being late, but there was nothing he could do. He had been visiting someone in the hospital and the fire alarm went off and the fire-doors in the hospital closed and he couldn’t leave! He was locked in! We then began the interview process. I shared with him my background and the events in my life that I thought were leading me to consider the priesthood. I shared with him about my prayer life, and I told him that I see Becket Hall as the next stage for me to discern if I am being called to the priesthood. To my surprise he said to me, “well I don’t know if you can get everything done before the school begins in the last week of August; but as far as I am concerned you can enter this semester.”
Well I had about a month to apply to St. John Fisher, take a psychological examine, give notice at work, and to my landlord, figure out the finances, find a place to store my belongings, as well as tell my family and friends. It was a whirlwind but everything fell into place! When I met the Spiritual Director of Becket, Father Gerry O’Connor, he told me he would not have let me enter Becket so quickly. He would have had me discern for 6 months to a year before entering. Father Statt being new to the job as rector he said had ‘jumped the gun’. But since Father Statt had given the approval and since God had opened the right doors and closed the wrong ones, my journey as a seminarian began! Thank you Father Statt, I think you chose wisely. May you rest in peace.
I never served with Father Bill Barrett, but our assignments as priests had some strange connections. The first time I applied for a pastorate, I applied for Holy Cross parish in Dryden. I had just finished my first assignment at St. Patrick Church, Seneca Falls, and being a fairly new priest I figured the only way I would get the assignment was if no one else applied. Well at least one did; Father Barrett was appointed pastor of Holy Cross. Years later, I applied for the pastorate of St. Michael Church in Lyons. Once again I was not appointed pastor, Father Barrett was appointed. With Father Barrett leaving Dryden for Lyons it created an opening at Holy Cross, Dryden. I applied again for that pastorate, but Father Joe McCaffrey, who was the pastor of St. John the Evangelist in Newark Valley, and St. Francis of Assisi in Catatonk, was appointed pastor in Dryden. With an opening then in Newark Valley & Catatonk, I had a strong feeling I would be asked to be pastor there. Sure enough I was right and for the next twenty one years was pastor there. God has a way of opening the right doors and closing the wrong ones. May you rest in peace, Father Barrett.