Coming and goings in Tier are numerous - Catholic Courier

Coming and goings in Tier are numerous

When she was 14 years old, Muriel Bartlett was approached by Father William Hayes, her pastor, with a small request.

"He said, ‘Would you play the organ until I can find somebody else?’" she recalled.

She willingly complied, except it hasn’t been until now — some 58 years later — that she’s getting around to relinquishing that supposedly temporary role at St. Anthony Church in Groton.

Bartlett is among many longtime staff members at Southern Tier parishes and schools who have recently been in transition. In fact, at St. Anthony alone, Bartlett is being joined in retirement by Kathy Curry, faith-formation director, while Margie LaFrance has stepped down as choir director. Meanwhile, Father Scott Kubinski is leaving as cluster pastor of St. Anthony as well as Holy Cross in Dryden and All Saints in Lansing.

A Cortland resident, Bartlett is a lifelong parishioner of St. Anthony. She noted that when she began playing the organ "the Mass was in Latin and there were no English hymns at all." Whatever the language, she said that serving as organist and vocalist has always been fulfilling.

"I enjoy doing it, I enjoy it being a part of my life. I had to be there anyway, so why not play? It’s going be kind of hard to give it up, but I know it’s time," she said, explaining that she wants to have less of a commitment. She said that in the past she’s had to leave early from ball games and Christmas parties to attend to her duties.

"It wasn’t easy," she remarked, although she said she’d still be interested in substituting.

Another recent retiree with a longtime devotion to her parish is Sister Elise Quigley, RSM, who has spent the last 27 years wearing several hats for Immaculate Conception in Ithaca. She was pastoral assistant there from 1983-98, and then served as parish secretary and receptionist. She also has filled such roles as Resurrection Choir director and Booster Club coordinator.

"I like the Southern Tier to begin with. The people down here are very caring, very generous, very supportive. They’re just wonderful people," Sister Quigley said of her long tenure at Immaculate Conception.

Prior to arriving there, Sister Quigley taught and ministered at St. Andrew and St. Charles Borromeo schools in Rochester; St. Joseph, Penfield; St. Michael, Newark; St. Patrick, Owego; and St. Rita, Webster.

Sister Quigley remarked that she was touched by the "beautiful reception" given for her on June 6.

"I was amazed at the number that came. Somebody at one point laughed and said, ‘You know, we’re over the fire code,’" she said.

The Sister of Mercy added that she plans to remain in Ithaca for at least the next year, and will likely do some volunteer projects for Immaculate Conception.

A classmate of Sister Quigley’s, Sister Leona Didas, RSM, is one person who enjoys blowing her own horn — as in the trumpet.

Sister Didas has retired after spending close to a half-century as a music teacher, with assignments at several Catholic elementary schools in Elmira and Notre Dame High School taking up the latter part of her career. She also taught at Holy Family, Auburn; St. John the Evangelist and St. Andrew, Rochester; St. Rita, Webster; and St. Ann, Hornell.

Sister Didas’ teaching specialties are trumpet, saxophone, clarinet, trombone and tuba. As far as performing goes, her instrument of choice is the trumpet and she still plays it in the Corning Community Band.

She will continue to live in Elmira, carrying happy memories of having helped many children progress in their musical skills.

"You start them out in fourth grade and they squeak and squawk," Sister Didas remarked, acknowledging that children that age generally aren’t too wild about practicing. "Then it comes May, and they play beautifully. It’s hard to believe."

Sister Didas was feted during a luncheon on June 9 at Holy Family Middle School along with Elizabeth Berliner, who has retired as that school’s principal. Berliner has worked with junior-high students nearly her entire career.

"I thought they’d be difficult, but they weren’t. There was a certain maturity. I didn’t want to go anywhere. It’s really exciting — middle-level kids are so great, they’re so enthusiastic about things, they’re still kind of open to everything," she said.

Berliner served for three decades overall as a Catholic-school teacher and principal in Chemung County. In 1992 she became principal of Holy Family Junior High, a position she would hold for the next 18 years. The junior high was reclassified as a middle school in 2009 with the addition of a sixth grade. Berliner said she opted for retirement now that the transition is complete, and also because there are "just a lot of things I want to do and I haven’t had time to do them."

That’s in part because Berliner has thrown herself so hard into her job, promoting student involvement in liturgical roles at school Masses and as soup kitchen volunteers, public-policy advocates and environmentalists.

"I’ve really enjoyed it — to be there whenever they go anywhere, to see what they see, experience what they experience," she said.

Though his tenure wasn’t nearly as long as Bartlett, Sister Quigley, Sister Didas or Berliner, Father Boniface Ewah still considers folks from these parts to be like family.

"Well, it’s a home. The diocese is a home. It was a very fruitful ministry for me in the Diocese of Rochester," said Father Ewah, who is returning to his native Nigeria after five years here — two as parochial vicar of Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County, and the past three in the same role at All Saints Parish in Corning/Painted Post.

Father Ewah hails from the Diocese of Ogoja, where he was ordained in 1998 and became founder and coordinator of a ministry for those with HIV/AIDS in 2004. Here, he has become well-known for conducting youth soccer clinics, healing Masses and Bible studies.

He said he especially likes working with youths and is especially gratified when they ask him about vocations: "I was amazed that so may of them said they’d like to become priests because of my relationship with them. I was really touched."

In other Southern Tier comings and goings:

  • Father Kubinski is moving to the pastorate of Christ the Redeemer in Elmira after six years in northern Tompkins County. Father Kubinski replaces Father Jeremiah Moynihan, who has retired and was profiled in the May 2010 Catholic Courier.

  • Father Ewah has been replaced at All Saints Parish by Father Fred Asuming, who had been at St. Catherine of Siena in Ithaca since February 2010. Father Asuming, ordained in 1989, is from Ghana and served in the Archdiocese of New Orleans during and after Hurricane Katrina.

  • Father Joseph Marcoux is the new pastor at St. Catherine in Ithaca. He was ordained a diocesan priest in 2001 and had served since 2007 as sacramental minister at St. John the Evangelist, Clyde; St. Patrick, Savannah; and St. Michael, Lyons. This is his first pastorate.

  • Replacing Father Kubinski as pastor in Groton, Dryden and Lansing is Father Malachy "Eloo" Nwosu, who was pastor of St. Helen Parish near Rochester the past two years. He previously served at the Tigoa County churches for a few months in 2001.

  • An additional change in parish leadership is at the newly formed cluster of St. Gabriel, Hammondsport, and St. Mary, Bath. Deacon David LaFortune has become pastoral administrator for both churches after having served in that role at St. Mary beginning in 2009. Because of the clustering, the position held by Maureen O’Neill, pastoral administrator since 2006 at St. Gabriel, was eliminated. She was honored with a reception at the church on June 27.

  • O’Neill has moved to Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County, serving as pastoral associate. She replaces Ann Argetsinger, who has retired after four years in the position. Argetsinger has been active in Stephen Ministry and adult faith formation, and helped develop a satellite site for St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry.

  • Father Jeff Tunnicliff has moved on to a new assignment after three years as parochial vicar of St. Mary Southside Parish in Elmira. He now assumes the same role at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community in the Finger Lakes. Father Tunnicliff was ordained in 2007 and St. Mary was his first priestly assignment.

  • Father Paulinus Okpala is the new assisting priest at Our Lady of the Valley Parish (St. Ann, Hornell, and St. Mary, Rexville). The Nigerian priest was ordained in 2001 and is the cousin of Father Nwosu.

  • Grace Kunzinger has retired after 26 years as cook at the rectory of Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Elmira.

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