It’s been more than 15 years since Maurice "Moe" Tierney moved to Charlottesville, Va., but his legacy in the Rochester area remains.
Mr. Tierney, who passed away April 25, 2013, at the age of 84, played a major role in the evolution of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Rochester and along the way built a larger-than-life reputation, according to friends and colleagues.
"I believe that Moe embodied the very heart of Catholic Charities," explained Father John Firpo, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Greece.
A Massachusetts native, Mr. Tierney earned a bachelor’s degree from Boston College before joining the U.S. Marine Corps and serving as a platoon leader during the Korean War. He earned the Navy/Marine Corps Combat Action Ribbon and the Korean Service Medal before returning to school and earning his master’s degree from Boston College Graduate School of Social Work in 1955. He then served as executive director of United Way chapters in Fargo, N.D. (1955-59); Ashtabula, Ohio (1959-63); and Evanston, Ill. (1963-68), before becoming campaign director for the United Way of Onondaga County.
He led the Syracuse area’s United Way campaign until 1976, when he became diocesan director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Rochester. He helped establish regional Catholic Charities offices in Elmira in 1980 and Geneva in 1982, noted Jack Balinsky, the current director of diocesan Catholic Charities.
Mr. Tierney also played a role in the restructuring and revitalizing Camp Stella Maris in Livonia and in the evolution of services for people with developmental disabilities, laying the foundation for what today is known as Catholic Charities Community Services, Balinsky said.
In 1985 Mr. Tierney became associate director of Catholic Charities, which at that time was under the umbrella of the Office of Social Ministry. Father Firpo was appointed director of the Office of Social Ministry in 1985, and worked closely with Mr. Tierney to weave together the diocese’s works of charity and justice.
"People were his first priority — the people that we served as well as the staff. Moe always kept his eyes on how this is going to affect the people we serve and the staff," Father Firpo said.
Mr. Tierney had a contagious smile and a quick wit that always helped lighten the mood, he recalled.
Mr. Tierney retired in 1991, a year before Balinsky joined diocesan Catholic Charities. Yet Balinsky had worked for Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Syracuse from 1971-84, so he knew Mr. Tierney from his days with the United Way of Onondaga County. Balinsky said he admired Mr. Tierney’s work in Syracuse and Rochester, so he asked Mr. Tierney to come out of retirement in 1994 to help establish Catholic Charities of Livingston County. Mr. Tierney agreed and was instrumental in that effort, Balinsky said, noting that Mr. Tierney went back into retirement in 1996.
"He was just a warm, generous, loving Christian servant," Balinsky remarked.
Father Edward Palumbos, pastor at Church of the Assumption in Fairport, said he met Mr. Tierney and his first wife, Jessie, in the 1980s, when the couple belonged to Good Shepherd Church in Henrietta, where Father Palumbos was pastor at the time.
"He was a gentle giant of a guy. He was a very big man physically, kind of a giant type, but he had a wonderfully gentle nature," Father Palumbos said. "He’s the kind of guy that makes a pastor happy to know him."
Mr. Tierney was always very supportive of parish activities and was a great collaborator, Father Palumbos recalled. He was an extremely talented man who possessed great tact, diplomacy and determination, as well as great love and concern for the poor and marginalized, he noted.
Mr. Tierney was a wonderful man who always made others feel better about themselves and about the world, added Father John Mulligan, assisting priest at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester.
"He was just a wonderfully positive, caring individual who always was deeply interested in you, and it was just a pleasure to meet him and be greeted by his wonderful smile," said Father Mulligan, who was diocesan vicar general and moderator of the diocesan Pastoral Center during many of Tierney’s years in diocesan Catholic Charities.
After retiring, Mr. Tierney moved to Charlottesville, where he was involved with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and volunteered as a driver for disabled veterans. He also volunteered with the American Red Cross for 15 years and belonged to St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Charlottesville.
Mr. Tierney is predeceased by his first wife, Jessie Olszewski Tierney. He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Stewart; children Maurice, Mark (Lada), Michael (Allison) and M. Tracy Tierney; stepchildren Shannon (Scott) Enold and Bonnie Rebecca (Anthony) Stewart; and nine grandchildren.
Mr. Tierney’s funeral was celebrated April 30, 2013, at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Charlottesville. Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark will celebrate a memorial service for him May 6 at 4:30 p.m. at Church of the Transfiguration, 50 W. Bloomfield Road in Pittsford.