Deacon John Prave; served in Cayuga County - Catholic Courier

Deacon John Prave; served in Cayuga County

UNION SPRINGS — Deacon John Prave, who was a member of the Diocese of Rochester’s first class of permanent deacons, died Dec. 30, 2008, at the age of 76.

Deacon Prave had suffered for about two years from supranuclear palsy, a rare brain disorder, said Deacon Ray Defendorf, a longtime friend. Even with this condition, which impaired his ability to move and speak, Deacon Prave continued to give of himself however he could, Deacon Defendorf noted, adding that he was honored to give the homily during his friend’s Jan. 3 funeral Mass at St. Patrick Church in Aurora. Bishop Matthew H. Clark celebrated the Mass.

“His ministry continued even when he couldn’t do many things,” Deacon Defendorf said. “He would still be pastoral and listen. His sense of humor didn’t leave him. He was quite witty. … I called him a gentle spirit. He truly was a gentle spirit.”

“He was always there for anybody who needed anything,” agreed Deacon Prave’s wife, Karen. “He impacted many, many lives.”

Deacon Prave was born in Auburn. After graduating from Holy Family High School, he went on to graduate from Auburn Business School and Auburn Community College, where he received an associate’s degree in science. He worked at the Sears & Roebuck store in Auburn for 11 years until he joined U.S. Air Force in 1952 and fought in the Korean War. He was discharged in 1956, and in 1962 he began his studies at SUNY Oswego. This is where he met his wife, and the couple married in 1964.

That same year, he began teaching English in the Seneca Falls school district. In 1993, he retired as chairman of the English department. Deacon Prave also served five terms on the district’s school board from 1974-89 and served as board president for two years.

Deacon Defendorf said he and Deacon Prave studied together in the first class of permanent deacons beginning in 1978 and were ordained together in 1982. Their two families became close and spent time together camping and in other activities, he said.

Karen Prave said her husband felt called to serve as a deacon from the time he heard about the permanent diaconate from a Syracuse deacon during a Mass one day in Oswego. As part of his multifaceted ministry, the couple worked together in Marriage Encounter and marriage-preparation programs, she added. Deacon Prave retired from active ministry in 2003.

“He gave profound homilies that were really meaningful and people remembered … and which he related to their lives,” she remarked.

But he also was a simple man who loved to wear T-shirts and his fishing cap, Deacon Defendorf noted.

“Because of who he was and the care for his family and his great gentle spirit, he was quite extraordinary,” he remarked. “People really loved John.”

Deacon Prave initially served at St. Michael Church in Union Springs, where he presided at the wedding of his daughter, Michelle, and the baptisms of his grandchildren.

Tom Parsnick of Union Springs, whose family attends St. Michael, considered Deacon Prave a friend. The deacon had a special way with parishioners, Parsnick added, bringing them a sense of peace such as when Deacon Prave and his wife would visit the sick in hospitals.

“He was our shepherd,” Parsnick added. “He just brought something in him — his calmness, his quietness, his ability to listen — that changed the atmosphere from something frazzled to something peaceful.”

Deacon Defendorf noted that St. Michael was part of Good Shepherd Catholic Community, one of the first parish clusters in the diocese. It comprised six churches in southern Cayuga County.

“Being a resident of Union Springs himself with his family, he helped others in other communities to understand and see the value of what was happening. … John came to see that working with the other churches and parishioners was a life-giving way of continuing the work of Christ,” explained Father Bill Spilly, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hamlin, who worked with Deacon Prave from 1984-90.

Along with his wife, Deacon Prave is survived by a son and daughter-in-law, John and Patty; two daughters and a son-in-law, Kathleen and Mark Halley and Michelle; a brother, Anthony; a sister, Mary Pardee; six grandchildren; and several nieces and nephews.

He was buried at St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Fleming. Donations in his memory may be sent to the Good Shepherd Catholic Community Memorial Fund, 303 Main St., Aurora, NY 13026.

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