Deacon James Fitch died Dec. 8, 2020, after 33 years of ministry to Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester. He was 84.
He was a blessing to all who knew him, noted longtime friend Deacon Dan Kinsky.
“I think of Jim as being a very gentle, kind soul, just a warm, friendly individual. That had kind of been his way all the way through,” Deacon Kinsky said.
Deacon Fitch grew up in an evangelical Protestant household but was introduced to Catholicism while still in high school when his future wife, Donna, invited him to accompany her to Mass at St. Michael Church in Newark. He eventually converted to Catholicism.
He was drafted into the United States Army in 1956 and served in Germany until 1958, when he returned to Newark. He and Donna were married that year at St. Michael, where the couple later taught religious-education classes.
Deacon Fitch and his wife also worked in the Diocese of Rochester’s Family Life Office, where they oversaw marriage preparation for the diocese. They also where very involved with Worldwide Marriage Encounter, which is how they first met and became friends with Deacon Kinsky and his wife, Sheila, before either of the men were ordained to the permanent diaconate. The two couples became fast friends and later worked together in the Office of Family Life as well as Fairport’s Church of the Resurrection, where they were founding members of the parish.
“I always think of both Jim and Donna as people of gratitude and faithfulness. They are true people of faith,” Deacon Kinsky said.
Deacon Fitch was ordained May 3, 1987, by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester. After his ordination, he was assigned to Church of the Resurrection, where he served until 1994. That year, he also retired from a 42-year career at Chase Manhattan Bank, where he’d been an assistant vice president and retail sales manager.
Deacon Fitch then served from 1994-2003 at Rochester’s Holy Rosary Parish, where he and his wife ran the parish’s pre-Cana program, and at St. Anne Parish in Palmyra and St. Gregory Parish in Marion, where the couple led the parish’s Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program.
He reached senior status in 2008 but continued his involvement with the Wayne County parishes’ Stephen Ministry and continued to bring Communion to sick and homebound parishioners. He also served as a volunteer chaplain at Wayne County Nursing Home in Lyons.
The man who’d spent so much of his life ensuring others would be able to receive Communion was himself able to receive the sacrament just hours before he died, said Deacon Kinsky, who with his wife brought Communion to the Fitches after attending a noon Mass for the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception Dec. 8.
“Here was the Lord’s plan working so he could have that food for the journey to bring him into the next life,” Deacon Kinsky remarked.
Deacon Fitch is survived by his wife, Donna; his sons Jim (Sharon Wesoky), Peter (Carrie Wiles), Christopher (Amanda Kain), Tom (Jeanine Ingrassia), John (Connie Shannon) and Michael (Jean Sudore); 13 grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Deacon Fitch’s funeral liturgy will be private, with only immediate family members present.
Contributions in Deacon Fitch’s memory may be made to Church of the Resurrection, 63 Mason Road, Fairport, NY 14450.