Father Reif to continue strong people connections

By Mike Latona/Catholic Courier    |    12.20.2009
Category: Vocations

Those wishing to discover the essence of Father John T. Reif's priesthood need only watch him in action following a Sunday Mass at Holy Cross Church. Week in and week out, Father Reif provides smiles, hugs, laughs and handshakes for churchgoers of all ages while trying in vain to keep numerous conversations going simultaneously.

Although his status is changing to "retired," Father Reif -- who celebrated his 70th birthday on April 5 -- views the move as more of a formality than anything else, saying very little will change regarding his responsibilities at the Charlotte parish where he has resided for nearly a decade and enjoys many friendships. He plans to continue celebrating daily and weekend Masses at Holy Cross in his role as parochial vicar, while also providing sacramental assistance at other diocesan parishes as needed.

All of Father Reif's priestly assignments have been in parish settings. When asked what he's enjoyed most about the priesthood, Father Reif quoted one of his former pastors, the late Father Benedict Ehmann: "The parish is the cutting edge of the church's life."

"I have found that to be true in all my assignments -- that the parish mirrors the larger church," Father Reif said.

Father Reif is a native of Rochester's Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish. He attended Aquinas Institute, St. Andrew's and St. Bernard's seminaries, and was ordained a diocesan priest on June 5, 1965, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

His 43-year priesthood has been conducted entirely at Monroe County parishes. He served as assistant pastor at St. John of Rochester, Fairport, from 1965-70; St. Michael, Rochester, from 1970-74; and Our Mother of Sorrows, Greece, from 1974-78. From there he moved on to his only administrative role, and it was a lengthy one: He served for more than 20 years at St. Rita, Webster, first as copastor with Father James C. Burke from 1978-81 and then as pastor until late 1998. During that time Father Reif oversaw construction of a new church building that opened in 1984, followed by a new parish center that opened in 1996 for the quickly growing parish.

Following a sabbatical in early 1999, Father Reif moved to Holy Cross -- only a few miles north on Lake Avenue from his childhood neighborhood. Father Reif said that he's blessed to minister with Father Thomas Wheeland, the longtime pastor of Holy Cross; in fact, they could be viewed as fixtures for area Catholics in the same way that Ontario Beach Park, the Charlotte Lighthouse and Abbott's Custard are highly regarded in this part of Rochester where the Genesee River meets Lake Ontario.

Father Reif has long been a passionate supporter of pro-life causes. These days he is involved in the Adult Stem Cell Initiative, a Rochester-area advocacy group that formed in 2005.

"Beyond parish boundaries, I have welcomed the challenge of outreach to the larger community, which I plan to continue," Father Reif said.

And within those Holy Cross boundaries, Father Reif is looking forward to extending his hand and his heart to the parish community for several years to come.


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