Priests celebrate decades of service - Catholic Courier

Priests celebrate decades of service

65 Years

 Father Anthony Calimeri, who is the last surviving member of his ordination class, has served in a variety of ministries over the course of his 65 years as a priest.

An Auburn native, Father Calimeri grew up in St. Francis of Assisi Parish and attended Holy Family High School in Auburn before going on to Rochester’s St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries. Bishop James E. Kearney ordained him on June 13, 1947, at Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Church. After ordination, he served as assistant pastor at St. Francis of Assisi and St. Patrick in Rochester, St. Jerome in East Rochester and St. Anne in Palmyra.

In 1957 he became pastor at St. Patrick, and during his tenure there he learned Spanish in order to better minister to Rochester’s growing Puerto Rican population. In 1965 he left St. Patrick and returned to St. Jerome, where he served as pastor for nearly 20 years. He also served as director of the diocesan Spanish Apostolate from 1967-69, and taught Spanish for several years at St. Bernard’s Seminary. He left St. Jerome in 1983 to become pastor of St. Francis in Phelps, and in 1991 he took on leadership of St. Felix in Clifton Springs as well.

Before retiring in 1993, Father Calimeri also served on the diocesan Priests’ Council and as chaplain of the Monroe County Catholic War Veteran unit. He spent two decades as chaplain for Rochester’s Sisters of Guadalupe missionaries. After retiring, he helped out for many years at St. Patrick in Cato, St. John in Port Byron and St. Joseph in Weedsport. He currently resides at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford.

55 Years

Though he served in settings ranging from rural to urban, Father Raymond Booth found a constant among the people he met.

"To me they have been warm and welcoming, and it’s been a joy ministering to them," he said.

A Rochester native, Father Booth grew up in St. John the Evangelist Parish on the city’s Humboldt Street. He attended St. John the Evangelist School, Aquinas Institute, and studied for two years at Villanova University before attending St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries.

He was ordained June 8, 1957, in Sacred Heart Cathedral by Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence E. Casey.

Father Booth served as assistant pastor of St. Mary of the Lake, Ontario, (1957-60); St. Joseph, Penfield (1960-66) and Holy Family, Rochester (1966-70). He then became copastor of Mt Carmel, Rochester (1970-75), and also served as director of the diocesan Cursillo Program for spiritual renewal in the 1970s and 1980s. He served as pastor of St. Christopher, North Chili (1975-88); and St. Paul, Webster (1988-99).

Father Booth retired in 1999 and has been living in the rectory at St. Louis Parish, where he assists at daily Mass and as needed. He enjoys playing golf several times a week and walking along the Erie Canal. He said he has enjoyed using an iPad tablet computer that he recently bought.

"I’m a bit of an antiquarian in terms of computers and things, but it enables me to do things I’ve never been able to do before," he said.

 Which diocesan priest lives out of state, and yet only a couple of miles from his childhood church? That would be Father Thomas Watts, who resides in Sayre, Pa. — just over the state border from St. James Church in Waverly.

For several years of his retirement Father Watts assisted regularly in Blessed Trinity/St. Patrick parishes in Tioga County, of which St. James is a part. Despite being slowed by arthritis these days, he continues to take part in a Scripture-study group made up mostly of folks from St. James; offers a monthly Mass and social gathering at his home for area deacons, their wives and friends; and makes an occasional appearance at St. James. "I still do things," he said.

Father Watts attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries before being ordained June 15, 1957. He was assistant pastor at St. Mary, Corning (1957-61); St. Rita, Webster (1961-65); St. Charles Borromeo, Elmira Heights (1965-67); St. Patrick, Mount Morris, (1967-70); and St. Patrick, Owego (1970-73). He became St. Patrick’s copastor in 1973 and its pastor in 1985. He was pastor of St. Benedict, Odessa, and St. Pius X, Van Etten (1987-89); and served from 1989 until his 2001 retirement as pastor of St. Pius X along with his native St. James in Waverly.

Father Watts said the continued highlights of his 55 years as a priest have been ministering to folks via the sacraments and other key spiritual moments.

"Being a part of their lives has been a great experience," he said.

50 Years

 At the time of his 2007 retirement, Father Robert Bradler asserted that he wasn’t likely to drop out of sight.

He’s made good on that promise, and then some.

"For the past five years I have assisted at 65 different faith communities," he stated.

That’s not all. After 30 years Father Bradler remains diocesan director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, which supports worldwide mission work. In addition, the congenial Father Bradler works at the Irondequoit Farmers Market in the summers as a greeter and attendance taker.

"I recommend that you don’t really retire," he said. "I’m a people person; I would be going crazy not doing anything at all."

Father Bradler, a native of Rochester’s Holy Redeemer Parish, attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries and was ordained June 2, 1962. He served as assistant pastor of Holy Family, Rochester (1962-64); Immaculate Conception, Ithaca (1964); St. Anne, Rochester (1964-71); St. Augustine, Rochester (1971-73); and Holy Rosary, Rochester (1973-79).

In 1979 he became pastor at St. James Parish in Irondequoit. After 16 years he moved to St. Thomas the Apostle, also in Irondequoit, to begin a 12-year pastorate.

Over the years, he has served as diocesan regional priest coordinator; Rochester Fire Department chaplain; and president of the Irondequoit Ministerial Association.

Father Bradler will observe his 50th jubilee on June 10 with a 2 p.m. Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, the site of his ordination.

 One of the highlights of Bishop Matthew H. Clark’s time as pastoral leader of the Rochester Diocese was the warm greeting thousands gave him when he entered Rochester’s Community War Memorial on June 26, 1979.

That day actually marked Bishop Clark’s second arrival in Rochester. A native of Waterford, near Albany, he had studied for two years at St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester, in addition to schooling at Catholic Central High School in Troy, Holy Cross College in Worchester, Mass., and Mater Christi Seminary in Albany. He finished his studies at the Pontifical North American College and Gregorian University in Rome, earning licentiates in sacred theology and canon law. He was ordained a priest at the Church of Christ the King, Rome, Italy, on Dec. 19, 1962. He noted that it was customary in Rome at the time to ordain priests during Advent.

Father Clark taught at Vincentian Institute in Albany, served at Our Lady of Mercy Parish in Albany (1963-64), studied at Gregorian University (1964-66), was vice chancellor of the Diocese of Albany (1966-67) and was assistant pastor at St. Ambrose Parish in Latham (1967-72). He was assistant spiritual director (1972-74) and spiritual director for seminarians (1974-79) at North American College in Rome when Pope John Paul II appointed him eighth Bishop of Rochester on April 23, 1979. He was ordained bishop May 27, and installed here on June 26 of that year.

Among the many highlights since that day, Bishop Clark singled out the diocesan synod in 1993.

"It dug deep into the spirits and hopes of the faith community at the grassroots level," he said.

Bishop Clark will submit his resignation July 15 upon his 75th birthday and plans to stay in the area after retiring. He will celebrate his 50th jubilee as a priest during the annual Jubilarian Mass May 15 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Look for more on Bishop Clarkin the Catholic Courier’s September issue, which will contain a special section celebrating his 50 years of priesthood and 33 years as Eighth Bishop of Rochester.

 Learning didn’t stop for Father Michael F. Conboy upon his ordination June 2, 1962, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

For instance, the opening just a few months later of the Second Vatican Council taught him a new way to meet and respond to people as a priest.

An Auburn native, Father Conboy had grown up in St. Mary Church. He attended St. Mary School and Holy Family High School in Auburn and St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester.

After ordination, he served as assistant pastor at Holy Trinity, Webster (1962-67); St. Charles Borromeo, Greece (1967-68); and St. Margaret Mary, Irondequoit (1968-69).

He served as secretary to Bishop Joseph L. Hogan (1969-78), pro-synodal judge (1975-77) and diocesan consultor for several terms.

His service as Bishop Hogan’s secretary came at a time of great social upheaval.

"There were all these challenges coming before the church, in particular should the bishop speak out about human rights and war," Father Conboy recalled.

He was pastor of St. Patrick, Seneca Falls (1978-84); St. Margaret Mary, Irondequoit (1984-91); St. Joseph, Penfield (1991-96); Corning-Painted Post Roman Catholic Community (1996-99); and St. Jerome Church, East Rochester (2000-05).

He serve as director of the Department of Priest Personnel (2000-10) and rector of Becket Hall, the diocesan discernment house (2005-10).

After retiring in 2010, he was parochial administrator of Holy Family Parish in Auburn, and now assists at the St. Francis/St. Hyacinth parish cluster in Auburn. He will celebrate his jubilee with a 10:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, June 3, at St. Hyacinth, with a reception following sponsored by the parishes.

 Father Gerard Hafner’s parents probably were not too surprised when he decided to become a priest. His parents longed to have a child, and they visited Toronto’s Brother Andre Bessette, who was canonized in 2010. The future saint had prayed with the Hafners and encouraged them to develop a devotion to St. Gerard. The next year young Gerard was born.

Father Hafner grew up in Irondequoit’s St. Thomas the Apostle Parish and attended the parish school before going on to Aquinas Institute, St. John Fisher College, and St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries. Bishop James E. Kearney ordained him on June 2, 1962, at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. After ordination Father Hafner served as associate pastor at Holy Apostles, Rochester (1962-68); St. Francis of Assisi, Auburn (1968); Holy Spirit, Penfield (1968-71); Holy Family, Auburn (1971); Our Lady of Mercy, Greece (1971-74); St. John the Evangelist, Clyde (1974-76); St. Joseph, Penfield (1976-78); Church of the Annunciation, Rochester (1978-79); Sacred Heart Cathedral (1980-82); and St. Boniface, Rochester (1982-84).

Father Hafner later was pastor at St. Benedict, Odessa and St. Pius X, Van Etten (1984-87) and St. Columba-St. Patrick in Caledonia and Mumford (1987-96), and temporary pastoral administrator at St. John the Evangelist, Spencerport (2001-02). He also served on the diocesan Tribunal for several years. He retired in 2002 and moved to Florida for health reasons. He currently assists at Parkland’s Mary Help of Christians, where he is affectionately known as "the grandfather priest" and enjoys not having to deal with parish finances.

He plans to return to Rochester to celebrate his 50th jubilee May 15 at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

 Father Eugene Weis is back on his home turf, having returned to Rochester March 1 after nearly eight years in Florida.

He has assisted at area parishes while residing at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse, and on June 10 will keynote the 20th-anniversary celebration of the perpetual-adoration chapel he helped found at Elmira’s St. Casimir Church.

"I’m starting to spread my wings here," he said.

Father Weis grew up in Rochester’s Blessed Sacrament Parish. He attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries and was ordained June 2, 1962. He assisted at Our Mother of Sorrows, Greece (1962-68); Holy Apostles, Rochester (1968-72); St. Salome, Irondequoit (1972-74); and St. John the Evangelist, Greece (1974-77).

He was pastor at St. John the Evangelist, Newark Valley/St. Francis of Assisi, Catatonk (1977-82); St. Anne, Palmyra (1982-86); St. Casimir, Elmira (1987-94); St. Patrick, Owego (1994-97); and St. Mary, Waterloo, from 1998 until his 2004 retirement. He then resided and assisted at St. Timothy Parish at The Villages, a retirement community in central Florida.

The energetic priest was for many years involved with Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Cursillo; has answered 1,000 calls as a volunteer firefighter; and played softball until he was 60.

Reflecting on his 50 years of priesthood, he said, "It is a special treat that God only allows certain people to do, and I feel very privileged."

Father Weis’ jubilee celebration is set for Our Mother of Sorrows Church on May 20 with a 1 p.m. Mass and reception.

 Father Edward Zenkel is a Rochester native but has spent more years in Livingston County and the surrounding areas than he has in the city. Forty-four of his 50 years as a priest have been spent in that area, he noted.

He grew up in Rochester’s Holy Apostles Parish and attended the parish school as well as St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries. Bishop James E. Kearney ordained him on June 2, 1962, at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral. After ordination he served as assistant pastor at Guardian Angels in Henrietta and St. James in Waverly before becoming chaplain at the State Industrial and Agricultural School at Industry in 1968.

Father Zenkel served there until 1981, when he became pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in Leicester and St. Lucy in Retsof. While there he also served as chaplain at Groveland Correctional Facility. In 1994 he left those parishes and became pastor of St. Mary in Honeoye, where he remained until his 2003 retirement.

Although he stayed in one portion of the diocese for most of his priesthood, Father Zenkel said his various pastorates and chaplaincies provided more than enough variety for him.

"All the assignments were different. I’ve enjoyed it," said Father Zenkel, who lives in Livonia with his golden retriever, Mister.

Father Zenkel plans to celebrate his jubilee with a May 15 Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral, a June 2 Mass and reception at St. Mary in Honeoye, and a June 9 Mass at St. Lucy in Retsof. St. Matthew Parish in Livonia also will celebrate his jubilee with a May 20 picnic at Camp Stella Maris.

25 Years

 "It honestly does not feel like 25 years have gone by already," remarked Father John Hayes. "My priesthood has been nothing short of adventurous. It has been a journey of growth in faith and a relationship with an incredibly loving God and his son."

Father Hayes grew up in Rochester’s Holy Rosary Parish and attended Aquinas Institute, the University of Cincinnati and Immaculate Conception Seminary at Seton Hall University. He was ordained May 9, 1987, at St. Catherine of Siena Church in Mendon, where he also served his transitional diaconate and first year of priesthood.

He assisted from 1988-90 at Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Greece, and from 1990-95 at what is now known as All Saints Parish in Corning/Painted Post. From 1995-99 he was administrator at Holy Cross Parish in Dryden; he also attended Syracuse University during that time to earn his master’s degree in counseling.

Father Hayes’ first pastorate began in 1999 at St. Joseph/St. William parishes in Livonia and Conesus, which in 2004 were combined into St. Matthew Parish with Father Hayes remaining pastor. He served concurrently as administrator of St. Mary Parish in Honeoye from 2005-07, and since 2007 has been pastor of both St. Matthew and St. Mary.

Father Hayes has served on the board of Catholic Charities of Livingston County and received the agency’s Father William Trott Award this past year.

A celebration for him and Father Edward Zenkel, former pastor of St. Mary who’s noting his 50th anniversary, is set for May 20 at Camp Stella Maris.

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