Father Billotte returns home
Whoever believes in the saying “you can never go home again” might think differently after learning of Father Philip Billotte’s recent move. In late January Father Billotte returned to his first family house, in the hills of central Pennsylvania, to begin retirement after serving as a priest of the Diocese of Rochester for more than 41 years.
“I got the old homestead,” Father Billotte said, noting that the house is located on a dirt road.
A retirement Mass and reception in Father Billotte’s honor was held in early January at St. Mary Church in Corning. He had served as sacramental minister for All Saints Parish — of which St. Mary is a part — since 2002. Father Billotte, who will be 69 on June 17, said he had originally planned to retire upon his 70th birthday. But he suffered a mild heart attack last August, and although he “came back in good shape,” he said he felt it best to retire earlier in order to protect his health.
Although Father Billotte has returned to his original home town of Frenchville, Pa., the greater part of his childhood was actually spent in Corning, where his family moved when he was 3 or 4 years old so his father could take a job with the old New York Central Railroad. He also has logged three priestly assignments in Corning totaling 16 years.
Father Billotte attended Corning’s St. Vincent de Paul School and Northside High School, and later graduated from St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester. He was ordained June 4, 1966, at Sacred Heart Cathedral by Bishop James E. Kearney. He went on to serve as associate pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral (1966-70); Sacred Heart Parish, Auburn (1970-74); Holy Family, Rochester (1974-78); St. Patrick, Corning (1978-85); Holy Trinity, Webster (1985-90); and Corning-Painted Post Roman Catholic Community (1990-93).
In 1993 Father Billotte served as temporary administrator of St. Patrick, Owego. The following year he became pastor of the St. Januarius, Naples/St. Patrick, Prattsburg, cluster. In 1999 that pastorate grew to six churches with the addition of St. Michael, Penn Yan; St. Andrew, Dundee; St. Theresa, Stanley; and St. Mary, Rushville. Father Billotte left that position in 2001 and returned the next year in his current role at All Saints.
Father Billotte said he has always favored personalized ministry over administration, as evidenced by his 25-year involvement with the Family Camp summer program at Camp Koinonia in Yates County. More recently, he has been a spiritual assistant for the Secular Franciscan group at All Saints Parish.
Father Billotte said he plans to remain active in Frenchville, assisting at the nearby Bethany Retreat Center and St. Mary of the Assumption Church. “My grandfather built the church there,” he said.
Upon exiting this diocese, Father Billotte said he felt satisfied with his priestly ministry here.
“It’s fulfilled all the things I really thought a priesthood should be. There’s been difficulty, but I knew it would be there. Everybody’s been fantastic to me — from the bishop to all the people right on down the line,” he remarked. “It’s a fulfilling life. It’s what I chose, and I’m glad it’s what I chose.”