Father Gerald J. Appelby; founded Pittsford parish

Posted: March 17, 2017

Last Updated: April 3, 2017

Father Gerald J. Appelby, founding pastor of Pittsford’s Church of the Transfiguration where he served for nearly two decades , died of cancer March 17, 2017, at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford. He was 82 years old.

Father Appelby grew up in Rochester’s St. John the Evangelist Parish (Humboldt Street) and attended the parish school. He went on to attend St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries and received a master’s degree in education from the University of Rochester. He was ordained a priest June 5, 1959, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
He served as assistant pastor at the cathedral (1959-66); chaplain at Rochester Institute of Technology (1966-83); diocesan director of campus ministry (1968-77); and director of the Diocesan Special Ministries Division, which included liturgy, black ministries, the Spanish Apostolate, campus ministry and ecumenism (1977-83). He also chaired the state board of diocesan directors and the Catholic Campus Ministry Association.

In 1983 he began his only pastorate, guiding Church of the Transfiguration from its first year of existence until 2002, when he reached senior-priest status.

“To that challenging task he brought many gifts. Central to those were two: a deep commitment to the foundational pastoral insights of Vatican Council II, and a remarkable gift for preaching. I think people who have been part of the history of the parish would agree that these gifts, so generously shared by Jerry, were deeply formative of them as individuals and of the parish community,” said Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark, who first knew Father Appelby when they attended St. Bernard’s Seminary together in the late 1950s.

Father Michael Bausch, current pastor of Church of the Transfiguration, noted that Father Appelby was commonly known as “Father Jerry” and liked to refer to the parish as “his baby,” having led it from its infancy when Masses were held in a barn.

“Thirty-four years later we have a 1,600-family parish, with a beautiful parish campus and numerous ministries,” Father Bausch said, crediting Father Appelby’s leadership for this significant growth.

Over 12 years as a senior priest, Father Appelby served as sacramental minister at St. Agnes Parish in Avon and then St. Marianne Cope Parish in Henrietta. He also enjoyed playing golf and was an avid reader.

“Father Jerry blessed and enriched the lives of every person he ministered to. He was mentor to many of us in ministry,” said Barbara Swiecki, a former pastoral associate under Father Appelby at Church of the Transfiguration. She later worked in tandem with him as a pastoral administrator, both at St. Agnes and in her current position at St. Marianne Cope.
Father Appelby is survived by his support-group members Father Thomas Statt and Father Albert Delmonte, as well as close friends Linda Underhill, Deacon Laurence and Margot VanEtten, and Wayne and Barbara Swiecki.

Bishop Salvatore R. Matano presided at vespers at Church of the Transfiguration March 21, 2017, with Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark celebrating Father Appelby’s funeral mass March 22, 2017. Interment was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.


Dan Dixon
Thank you Father Jerry for your leadership. I can honestly say you were a large part of bringing me to the Church along with Father John Kwiecien. You said what I needed to hear to keep me there. Rest easy, I wish to speak with you again. Please continue to look over me and my family as I complete my RCIA process. Ná lagadh Dia do lámh.
March 18, 2017, 12:14 AM
Dan Lill
One of the really good guys and one of the very good priests of our time. First met him when he was newly ordained and I was a 7th grade altar boy at SHC. He was with EZ, Mike Hogan, Jim Marvin and of course the Bishop, Lawrence B Casey. Years later we caught up and he had not aged a day in appearance or attitude -thank God. RIP , good Father. Job well done
March 18, 2017, 12:21 AM
Joanne Straub
Father Gerry was the most wonderful priest I ever knew. Loved him and his sermons. May he rest in peace.
March 18, 2017, 12:57 AM
Frank and Jane Botelho
Our family joined Transfiguration in 1988. I also later worked in the Religious Ed. Office in the late 1990s. In both areas I saw a man of great intellect, kindness and integrity. Fr. Gerry, you were an amazing gift to our Parrish. Rest in peace now.
March 18, 2017, 6:38 AM
Nora Carroll Elliott
I remember Fr. Appleby joining Sacred Heart parish right after his ordination. So glad that many of his ministries were with young people, where he seemed to be very comfortable. He was so very approachable. I remember when he left Sacred Heart in 1966, all the kids from Sacred Heart School were sad to see him go. Such a loss for the diocese.
March 18, 2017, 1:35 PM
Judy VahueCheng
I have many fond memories of Fr. Appelby. I attended Sacred Heart School K through 8'until 1969 and he always came over and was so much fun. May this precious shepherd of God Rest In Peace.
March 18, 2017, 3:47 PM
Barbara A. Dzialo
I remember Fr. Appelby very well from my days at Sacred Heart Cathedral September 1958 thru June 1967
March 18, 2017, 3:55 PM
Kyle Masters
This is a huge loss to our community. I hope the church saves all his hommelys that he has ever written and makes a book.
March 19, 2017, 12:37 AM
Eileen Keegan Bauer
Father Appelby was a dear friend during my preteen and teen years when he was at Sacred Heart. His energy and enthusiasm for the Church was contagious. I have always been grateful for knowing such a holy and generous priest. He was a true friend to me and my family, and could always make everyone around him laugh and have fun. Heaven must be celebrating his homecoming!
March 19, 2017, 7:11 AM
Floyd Dibble
Fr. Jerry will always be in my heart. Even though my meeting him took place following many years as a Catholic, he voiced the reasons why I needed to be a participant, not a bystander. His belief and the way he spoke of it made us all better for knowing him. The faith community he helped create is alive and well. He was never comfortable when given credit for his accomplishments, so I will thank him now for being who he was. He made a difference, and is very much Loved.
March 19, 2017, 9:21 AM
Anne Kriz
Dear Father Gerry, Of the top four priests in my "lifetime of knowing their blessed influence list," you are and will always be #1. You were what Chaucer had in mind when he described his "Goode Priest" in the Canterbury Tales. You were the chief inspiration for the work I have done over the past 20+ years and I will miss your intellect, humanity and hilarious Irish humor greatly. You were there for me so many times, which proved to be just the moments I needed you most. You deserve your rest and place in heaven among the saints. Thank you, well done good and faithful servant, and God bless.
March 20, 2017, 6:13 PM
Bonnie Weidert
I will always remember Fr. Jerry's homilies. Without raising his voice, he reached hearts and consciences. What I will remember the most about his homilies is Jesus' unconditional love for us. Rest in peace, Fr. Jerry.
March 21, 2017, 8:24 AM
Paul Coles
Fr. Jerry - you will be missed. I loved your homilies, which always hit home and met a lot to me. You also pulled me into the catholic church and closer to God - Thank you and God Bless.
March 21, 2017, 8:54 PM
Fr Appelby was my "boss" when I started working at RIT in the late 60's. Such a bundle of energy and compassion & concern for the students was obvious. He has a special place up in heaven along side Sr Tjeresa Daniel his assistant and my typing teacher at St Agnes.
March 22, 2017, 10:20 AM
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