The seemingly constant smile of Father R. Richard Brickler has been greatly welcomed by those in need — folks in ill health; the poor who have knocked on the door of his city parish; people struggling with troubled marriages.
Father Brickler, 75, has touched many lives in his 50 years as a diocesan priest, and he plans to continue doing so after retiring this June from his 28-year pastorate at Rochester’s St. Boniface Church.
"You can do more of the things you thought you were ordained to do," he said of retirement, noting that he has enjoyed administrative duties but his first love is "religious and spiritual type things, helping people."
Father Brickler grew up in Greece’s Our Mother of Sorrows Parish. As a boy he worked on his grandparents’ farm near the church; that area has now become a large residential neighborhood. He credits the late Father Daniel O’Rourke, then Mother of Sorrows’ pastor, for influencing him toward the priesthood while he was altar serving.
"He would ask me about it a few times; he kind of put the thought in my mind," he recalled. "Father O’Rourke was always a great inspiration."
Father Brickler attended Aquinas Institute and St. Bernard’s Seminary before being ordained June 3, 1961, at Sacred Heart Cathedral by Bishop James E. Kearney. He served as assisting priest at Corpus Christi, Rochester (1961-65), and Holy Family, Rochester (1965-69 and 1970-74); theology and Latin teacher at Kings Prep (1969-70); and as secretary and vice officialis in the diocesan Tribunal (1974-83). He also lent weekend assistance at St. Pius Tenth Parish in Chili and was chaplain at Monroe Community College.
His first and only pastorate has been a lengthy one, beginning at St. Boniface in 1983 and continuing to this day. Father Brickler said it’s ironic that he’s spent so much of his priesthood at city churches since "I always thought I would like a country parish because I grew up in the country." But he said his time at St. Boniface, located in Rochester’s South Wedge section, has been excellent.
"The people have been very supportive, very helpful, very generous. They volunteer for many things," he said.
Father Brickler has served in many other ministerial roles. He is a familiar face at area hospitals, nursing facilities and senior residences, and has continued to assist part time in the Tribunal over the years.
"These people have gone through a lot and suffered a lot," he said about his Tribunal work. "We have to follow canon law, but you try to be as pastoral as you can."
Father Brickler has been highly active among his brethren, serving lengthy tenures over the years on the diocesan Priests’ Council, Priest Personnel Board, Clergy Relief Society and as director of Ministry to Priests.
The longtime pastor also is celebrating 50 years in the priesthood this June. Plans are in the works for a party in his honor on June 26; call St. Boniface Church at 585-473-4271 for more information.
Father Brickler said he has relished all aspects of the priesthood over the past half-century — "good assignments, working with all different types of people — a lot of good priest friends and lay friends."