Auburn native Father John Dillon died June 2, 2011, at the age of 77.
As a child, he attended Auburn’s Holy Family Parish, as well as the parish’s grammar and high schools. He made his confirmation in Holy Family Church in 1944, and 15 years later Bishop James E. Kearney ordained him there on June 6, 1959. Prior to his ordination, Father Dillon also had studied at Rochestesr’s St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries, where he was known for his photographic memory, according to seminary classmate Father Bill Barrett.
After ordination Father Dillon served as assistant priest at St. Thomas More Parish in Brighton from 1959-64; St. Boniface Parish in Rochester from 1964-69; and St. Mary of the Lake Parish in Watkins Glen from 1969-71. After leaving Watkins Glen he became director of the diocesan Spanish Apostolate. He also served as priest in charge of pastoral ministry for the Brown Square Spanish-Speaking Community in Rochester.
The Diocese of Rochester sent Father Dillon to help out temporarily in the Diocese of Syracuse in 1976, and when he returned to the Rochester area in 1979 he became associate pastor at St. Michael Parish in Rochester. He served at St. Michael for several months before becoming associate pastor at St. Mary Parish in Elmira later in 1979. In 1980 he returned to St. Michael as pastor of the parish.
In 1982 he left St. Michael again and became associate pastor at St. Mary Parish in Waterloo. Two years later he became administrator and later pastor of Church of the Epiphany in Sodus and St. Rose of Lima in Sodus Point. His former classmate Father Barrett also was in Wayne County, serving at St. Michael Parish in Lyons, so it was easy for them to keep in touch, Father Barrett said.
"He had a very wry sense of humor, and he made all sorts of comments and puns," the priest recalled. "His bulletin was full of little reminders of funny things that happened, kind of folksy things a lot of people liked to read."
Father Dillon also used to moonlight as a substitute teacher at parochial schools on his days off, Father Barrett added. He would jump in wherever he was needed, sometimes teaching in the primary grades and sometimes teaching eighth-grade math. One time he even filled in for the shop teacher, Father Barrett said.
"He was a man of all kinds of talents, kind of a Renaissance man," he said.
Father Dillon remained in Wayne County until 1991, when he took a sabbatical and studied at McGill University in Montreal. When he returned in 1992 he served for six months at Holy Cross Parish in Charlotte while its pastor was away on his own sabbatical.
Father Dillon became chaplain at Auburn Correctional Facility in 1993 and served there until 2000, when he became chaplain at the Cayuga County Correctional Facility in Moravia. He retired from that position in 2002.
Father Dillon will lie in state June 6 from 4 to 7 p.m. and June 7 from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. at Holy Family Church, 85 North St., Auburn. His funeral will be celebrated by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at the church on June 7 at 10:30 a.m.