Msgr. George A. Cocuzzi, 78; served diocese in numerous capacities - Catholic Courier

Msgr. George A. Cocuzzi, 78; served diocese in numerous capacities

Msgr. George A. Cocuzzi, who performed a broad range of ministries in his 53 years as a diocesan priest, died Aug. 27, 2002, at Rochester General Hospital following a long illness. He was 78 years old. Msgr. Cocuzzi, a Rochester native, grew up in St. Patrick’s Cathedral Parish. He attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries and was ordained by Bishop James E. Kearney in 1949. Following ordination, he served for two years as assisting priest at St. Jerome’s Parish in East Rochester. From 1951-54 he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome and obtained a doctorate in canon law. He was named notary of the Rochester Diocese in 1954 and vice chancellor in 1955. Pope John XXIII made him papal chamberlain in 1959, and Pope Paul VI confirmed him in this rank in 1963. He was named a monsignor in 1966.
 
In 1964 Msgr. Cocuzzi was promoted to diocesan chancellor. He served in that position for two years before taking his first pastorate, at Rochester’s Holy Family Parish, where he served for eight years. Following a sabbatical leave at the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs in Washington, D.C., Msgr. Cocuzzi returned to the Rochester Diocese in 1975 to become vicar of urban ministry. In 1978 Msgr. Cocuzzi became founding director of the diocesan permanent diaconate program. "That was terrifically important," said Father James Doyle, a classmate of Msgr. Cocuzzi’s. Father Doyle said the diaconate program can trace its present success to the pioneering work of Msgr. Cocuzzi and Sister Mary Hilaire Gaelens, a Sister of Mercy who died in 1997.
 
In 1983 Msgr. Cocuzzi became pastor of Rochester’s St. Francis Xavier Parish. Beginning in 1985 he served in supporting roles at the combined Holy Redeemer/St. Francis Xavier Parish, as well as at St. Michael in Penn Yan, St. Columba/St. Patrick in Caledonia and Mumford, Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, St. Christopher in North Chili, Immaculate Conception in Ithaca, and again at Holy Redeemer/St. Francis Xavier.
 
Msgr. Cocuzzi retired in 1992. During his later years he also served at St. Lucy’s Parish in the Bronx, and for several years as administrator of St. Raymond’s Parish, also in the Bronx. He moved back to the Rochester Diocese in 1999 and had resided until recently at Church of the Assumption in Fairport. Father Doyle remarked that Msgr. Cocuzzi was successful in whatever role he undertook. "Because of his personality, and being blessed with intelligence, he was able to manage all situations. He fit in very well, and the people loved him. He was very considerate of everyone," Father Doyle commented. "He was greatly talented," agreed Father Edward Steinkirchner, another classmate, who remained close friends with Msgr. Cocuzzi over the years.
 
Father Richard Brickler, a good friend who was Msgr. Cocuzzi’s longtime assistant at Holy Family Parish, said urban ministry was nearest and dearest to the monsignor’s heart. "He did a lot of different things, but he always seemed to go back to that," said Father Brickler, pastor of Rochester’s St. Boniface Parish, who served as homilist at Msgr. Cocuzzi’s funeral Mass. Father Brickler added that the monsignor learned Spanish so he could better relate to the St. Francis Xavier/Holy Redeemer community, and was a vocal advocate for the rights of the underprivileged. Msgr. Cocuzzi’s funeral Mass was held Aug. 30 at Church of the Assumption, with Bishop Matthew H. Clark presiding. Interment was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
 
Msgr. Cocuzzi’s brother, Father Bruno Cocuzzi, a Discalced Carmelite priest, died July 21. Msgr. Cocuzzi is survived by a brother, D. John Cocuzzi; sisters, Agnes (Abelo) Tomasso and Anne (Christopher) Renda; and several nieces and nephews.

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