Father DeSocio gets new post in Belgium

By Mike Latona, Staff Writer / Catholic Courier    |    03.13.2002
Category: Local News


After nearly nine years of ministering to young men preparing for the priesthood, Father John DeSocio was exploring a return to parish duty the summer of 2002.
 
Yet his work with seminarians was deemed so valuable that he has remained in that ministry - across the Atlantic Ocean.
 
On July 1, 2002, Father DeSocio began as vice-rector of the American College of the Immaculate Conception at the Catholic University of Louvain, Belgium. There he works with major seminarians for a five-year period.
 
Father DeSocio had served since 1993 as the Rochester Diocese's assistant to the bishop for vocations and priestly formation. He is also vice president of the National Conference of Diocesan Vocation Directors.
 
The 55-year-old priest said he was "surprised, totally" when he was approached by officials from The American College, saying, "It was a great honor just to be considered."
 
Father DeSocio received notification of his appointment in late January. He was selected for the position by Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Lake Charles, La., who chairs the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee for The American College.
 
Bishop Matthew H. Clark agreed to release Father DeSocio from his diocesan assignment. However, Father DeSocio remains a priest of the diocese.
 
"While our local church will miss John, I know that his talents will be put to good use preparing the seminarians at the college for a future of ministering to the Catholic people of the United States," Bishop Clark said in a statement.
 
As vice-rector at The American College, Father DeSocio works closely with students who are in the final stages of training for the priesthood. "For me it seems logical to be in a major seminary for five years. I can follow a class through, from the first year of theology to ordination," Father DeSocio said.
 
The American College was established in 1857 and is owned by the USCCB. Father DeSocio noted that several diocesan priests have studied in Louvain, the most recent ones being Father Joseph Marcoux (ordained in 2001) and Father Patrick VanDurme (ordained in 2000.)
 
Father DeSocio, who has visited The American College numerous times, said he's excited about his new role: "I think I'm just going to flow right into it. I'll bring all my knowledge and experience."
 
Father DeSocio has a long history of ministering to young people in the Rochester Diocese. Prior to his work with seminarians, he was chaplain at Ithaca College from 1984-93.
 
Ordained in 1978, Father DeSocio is a native of St. Anthony Parish in Elmira. His other assignments have been at Immaculate Conception Parish, Ithaca (1978-80); and St. Charles Borromeo, Greece (1980-84).
 
Upon Father DeSocio's departure, Father William Donnelly will become diocesan director of pre-theology and rector of Becket Hall while maintaining his pastorate at St. Mary's Church in Rochester. In addition, Father James Schwartz, pastor of St. Louis Parish in Pittsford, will become director of the diocese's seminarian formation program. The new positions for Fathers Donnelly and Schwartz are both currently held by Father DeSocio.
 
As he prepares for his new assignment, Father DeSocio says he will carry fond memories to Belgium.
 
"The hard part is going to be leaving behind the people I've worked closely with; I will miss them a lot. They will always be a part of my life. I'm so happy they've chosen what God has called them to do," Father DeSocio said of Becket Hall's past and present seminarians.
 
Father DeSocio noted that seven seminarians currently reside at Becket Hall, compared to two when he began his position there as rector. Another significant development, he said, was the formulation of the diocesan Office of Vocations Awareness in 1999.
 
"I'm very proud of the bishop putting money and personnel in that area, so that it's not just speaking about the call to vocations," Father DeSocio remarked.
 
Patricia Finnerty, director of the Office of Vocations Awareness, said she considers Father DeSocio a close friend, commenting, "He's made so many contributions to vocation ministry. There's been a wonderful warmth about his caring attitude and love of the priesthood, and that will be a real asset to those he'll minister to in Belgium."

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