Priests in Rochester Diocese celebrate ordination anniversaries
Priests of the Diocese of Rochester, as well as order and extern priests serving locally, look back on their many decades of ministry as they celebrate their anniversaries of ordination in 2020.
A parish priest for nearly all of his active ministry, Father William J. Cosgrove said he doesn’t dwell on which assignments rank as his favorite — because they all do.
“People are good in every parish,” he stated.
Father Cosgrove grew up in Hornell’s St. Ignatius Loyola Parish. He attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries before earning his licentiate in sacred theology from the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he was ordained Dec. 17, 1955.
Father Cosgrove’s first parish assignment was as assistant pastor at Rochester’s Our Lady of Mt. Carmel (1956-61) where, he recalled, he would preach in Italian. He then was assistant pastor at Ss. Peter and Paul, Rochester (1961-65), and St. Michael, Penn Yan (1965-73), before serving as chaplain at Hornell’s St. James Mercy Hospital (1973-75).
From there, he was pastor of St. Francis Xavier, Rochester (1975-76), and St. John the Evangelist, Clyde (1976-83). He arrived at St. Dominic in Shortsville in 1983, leading the parish until reaching senior status in 2000. As a senior priest, Father Cosgrove continued in parish ministry — most notably at St. Jude in Gates — while also carrying on his chaplaincy ministry at the VA Medical Center in Canandaigua. He has lived at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford for the past nine years.
Father Thomas Erdle was close friends with several deaf people as a child, and this experience set the course of his future vocation.
Father Erdle grew up in Rochester, where he attended St. Boniface Parish and school, as well as Aquinas Institute. He completed his seminary studies at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries, also in Rochester, and Bishop James E. Kearney ordained him on June 4, 1955, at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Father Erdle was assistant pastor at Holy Redeemer, Rochester (1955-59); Holy Ghost, Gates (1959-66); and St. James, Irondequoit (1966-67). He had begun teaching at Rochester School for the Deaf as a seminarian and in 1961 took over the Diocese of Rochester’s apostolate for the deaf. In 1967, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen sent Father Erdle to New York University to take graduate courses in preparation for full-time ministry with the deaf, as it had been announced that the National Technical Institute for the Deaf would be opening at Rochester Institute of Technology in 1968. He was the first Catholic chaplain at NTID at RIT (1968-85), spent many years as chaplain and a board member at the Rochester School for the Deaf, helped create the National Catholic Office for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., and served as chaplain for the International Deaf Catholic Association.
In 1981, Father Erdle was founding pastor of Rochester’s Emmanuel Church of the Deaf and later was pastor at St. Mark, Greece (1985-2005). He lived at St. Margaret Mary in Irondequoit from 2005-10 and currently resides at The Legacy in Brighton, where he has been chaplain since 2010.
The assignments Father Daniel Tormey has held over the course of his 65 years as a priest are many and varied.
“I think the very diversity is what makes it unique,” he remarked.
Growing up, Father Tormey attended Rochester’s Holy Rosary Parish and school. He studied at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester, as well as Cathedral College in New York City. Bishop James E. Kearney ordained him on June 4, 1955, at Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral.
Father Tormey served as assistant pastor at St. Francis de Sales, Geneva (1955-61); St. Francis of Assisi, Auburn (1961-62); and St. John the Evangelist, Greece (1962-67). From 1967-72, he was a chaplain at Rochester General Hospital and spent the summer of 1971 as a chaplain on the floating hospital ship HOPE. Father Tormey worked with the poor in La Paz, Bolivia (1972-74), and as assistant to the director of the diocesan Office of Human Development back in Rochester (1974-76).
He served as chaplain at Elmira Correctional Facility and Reception Center (1976-79), director of the Pastoral Care Department at Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital (1980-87), director of Becket Hall (1987-89) and director of the diocesan Office of Ministry to Priests from 1987 until the mid-1990s. He then served as pastor at St. Mary of the Assumption, Scottsville (1989-96). He was spiritual director at the American College of the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium from 1996-98, later assisted for several years at St. Benedict Parish in Ontario County and currently resides at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford.
Among a wide range of ministries and activities for Father Albert Cylwicki, CSB, his tenure at St. John Fisher College stands out.
Father Cylwicki arrived there in 1995, spending more than 20 years in such roles as math professor, tutor, assistant campus ministry director, board of trustees member, and superior of the college’s Basilian priests’ residence. In 2015, a lecture hall was dedicated to Father Cylwicki and the late Father Leo Hetzler, CSB. One year later, Father Cylwicki was presented with the college’s President’s Medal for Service.
Asked what made his St. John Fisher tenure so enjoyable, Father Cylwicki credited his cohorts’ high academic standards.
“You get to know the faculty because it was a small college — great minds, very professional,” he said.
Father Cylwicki, a Detroit native, was ordained in 1960 at St. Basil Church in Toronto after studying at St. Basil’s Seminary. He earned bachelor’s degrees from Assumption University in Windsor, Ont., and the University of St. Michael’s College in Toronto, as well as a master’s from the University of Detroit Mercy.
He held several teaching positions before arriving at St. John Fisher, including stints at Aquinas Institute, where he taught math and religion. He also has had two books published, run 22 marathons and been chaplain of a national auto-racing circuit. Father Cylwicki has resided at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse since 2015.
Although Father Thomas Dugan, CSB, grew up in Rochester and currently resides there, he has spent most of his priestly life — 50 years in all — as a Basilian missionary in Mexico. There, he pioneered a successful family catechetical program that spread throughout much of the country; he also placed a special emphasis on ministering to the sick.
“I was just content working with the people. They were wonderful,” he said of his longtime attachment to the Mexicans.
Father Dugan is a native of Rochester’s St. John the Evangelist (Humboldt Street) Parish and a graduate of Aquinas Institute. He attended Toronto’s St. Basil’s Seminary and earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of St. Michael’s College. He was ordained in 1960 at St. Basil Church.
In 1965, after teaching at Aquinas and doing missionary service in Texas, Father Dugan was approached about serving in Mexico.
“And that was it,” he remarked about the ministry that would occupy his next 50 years, with returns to Rochester each summer. He has resided full time at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse since 2015.
In 2017, Father Dugan was awarded St. John Fisher’s President’s Medal for Service. This past June 29, to note their 60th priestly anniversary, he and his 1960 classmate, Father Albert Cylwicki, were honored with a visit by and gifts from Gerard Rooney, president of St. John Fisher, and Father Kevin Mannara, CSB, campus minister.
Father William Graf is as busy as ever at St. John Fisher College, where he remains a full-time professor and the religious-studies department chair.
He grew up in Brockport’s Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish, attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries, and was ordained June 4, 1960, at Sacred Heart Cathedral by Bishop James E. Kearney. His academic achievements include several advanced degrees in theology, education and pastoral counseling.
Father Graf was assistant pastor at Holy Family, Rochester (1960-65), and Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception (1965-66), and served at Ithaca College (1965-71). He then was assistant pastor at St. Thomas More, Brighton (1971-72); professor at St. Bernard’s Seminary (1972-77); and chaplain at Nazareth College (1977-78).
In 1978, he became associate pastor, then pastor, at Rochester’s Church of the Annunciation. From there, he was pastor of Most Precious Blood in Rochester (1987-98). He served from 1998-2005 at Perinton’s Church of the Resurrection, the final six years as pastor, before reaching senior status. He has taught at St. John Fisher since 1982 — full time since 2001 — and als0 has formerly served as diocesan archivist as well as coordinator of a diocesan ministry to priests.
“You know, it’s been a good run,” said Father Graf, who resides at Legacy at Fairways in Victor. “I’m very happy doing what I’ve been doing.”
Father Daniel Holland believes the priests that served at Rochester’s St. Monica Parish and its parochial school, which he attended, most likely served as the inspiration for his own vocation.
“I think there were nine of us out of my eighth-grade class that went to the seminary. Three were ordained,” he recalled.
Father Holland completed his own seminary studies at Rochester’s St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries and was ordained by Bishop James E. Kearney on June 5, 1965, at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester.
After ordination, he was associate pastor at Sacred Heart Cathedral for a year before serving from 1966-72 as first assistant director, and later director, of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Religious Education Office. From 1972-73, he was diocesan director of the Year of Renewal, and from 1973-79, he was associate pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Irondequoit.
He later served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Elmira (1979-92); St. Theodore Parish, Gates (1992-2002); and St. Pius Tenth Parish, Chili (2002-09). He reached senior status in 2009 and went to St. John the Evangelist Parish in Spencerport. He lived in the rectory and helped out there and at neighboring parishes until 2017, when he moved to St. Ann’s Community at Chapel Oaks in Irondequoit. He currently is part-time chaplain for St. Ann’s Community and occasionally assists at neighboring parishes.
He’s always served as a parish priest, and Father John Reif has a simple explanation for what’s appealed to him about that particular role.
“I consider myself a people person,” he said.
Father Reif is a native of Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish. He attended Aquinas Institute and St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries before being ordained at the cathedral June 5, 1965, by Bishop James E. Kearney. He went on to serve as assistant pastor at St. John of Rochester, Fairport (1965-70); St. Michael, Rochester (1970-74); and Our Mother of Sorrows, Greece (1974-78).
In 1978, Father Reif began a tenure of more than 20 years at St. Rita Parish in Webster, first as copastor from 1978-81 and then as pastor until 1998. In 1999, he settled in for a similarly lengthy stay at Holy Cross Parish in Rochester/Charlotte, initially as parochial vicar. He remained at Holy Cross after reaching senior status in 2008, continuing to be highly involved in parish life while also providing sacramental assistance to other parishes. In addition, Father Reif has been active in many local pro-life initiatives over the years.
Father Reif relocated to the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in 2019. He was recognized this past Oct. 25 during Holy Cross Parish’s 10 a.m. Mass, for which he served as concelebrant. The liturgy was followed by a drive-by parade in his honor through the church parking lot.
Father Walter Wainwright has called Elmira home since 2000, just as he did when he was a child. A native of the Southern Tier city, he attended St. Mary Southside parish and school, as well as Notre Dame High School, before heading to Rochester to attend St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries. He was ordained June 5, 1965, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Rochester.
After ordination, Father Wainwright served as assistant pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Irondequoit (1965-71), before heading to St. Joseph Parish in Penfield, first as associate pastor for a year and then as copastor with Father William Gordinier. He later served as pastor at St. Thomas Aquinas/St. Lucy, Leicester/Retsof (1976-81); Immaculate Heart of Mary, Painted Post (1981-90); and St. Mary, Canandaigua (1990-2000).
In 2000, Father Wainwright returned to Elmira to become pastor of St. Anthony and St. Patrick parishes, which later came together with Ss. Peter and Paul Parish to form Blessed Sacrament Parish. He reached senior status in 2009 but still lives in Elmira and occasionally helps out at Blessed Sacrament. He also writes a weekly column for Blessed Sacrament’s bulletin.
One of the highlights of his vocation, Father Wainwright said, has been the opportunity to serve on a number of diocesan committees, as well as the Catholic Courier’s board of directors.
Although Father John “Jack” Healy, OCarm, retired from McQuaid Jesuit High School in 2012, he continues thriving in a variety of ministries.
“I’m busy. But it comes easy when you like people,” the Carmelite priest remarked.
A native of the Bronx, Father Healy was ordained to the priesthood in November 1970 at St. Simon Stock Church in the Bronx. He earned a bachelor’s degree from Catholic University of America, master’s degrees from Columbia University and General Theological Seminary, and a doctorate in theology from Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College.
Upon arriving in Rochester, Father Healy taught at the former St. Bernard’s Seminary for seven years before moving on to a stay of 30-plus years as a teacher and counselor at McQuaid.
He has served since 1972 as spiritual director of the Rochester-area Lay Carmelites. In 1984, he became a cofounder of Mount Carmel House in Hilton, a home for the dying, and has served as its chaplain ever since. Additionally, he has held chaplaincies with the Catholic Medical Association’s Finger Lakes Guild and the St. Thomas More Lawyers’ Guild.
Father Healy, who resides in Irondequoit, regularly celebrates Mass at Monroe Community Hospital, Hilton’s St. Leo Parish and the Carmelite Monastery in Pittsford as part of his active schedule. He also is an adjunct teacher at St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry and assists at St. John Bosco Schools.
Father Michael Twardzik has enjoyed performing what he calls “an incredibly wide variety of ministries.”
A native of Pittsfield, Mass., he graduated from Saint Mary’s College in Orchard Lake, Mich., and attended seminary at the American College in Louvain, Belgium. He was ordained a priest of the Diocese of Springfield on July 12, 1970, in Pittsfield.
From 1970-73, he served in parishes and at Smith College in Northampton, Mass. From 1973-75, he taught at Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary in Orchard Lake. He returned briefly to parish ministry before serving as campus minister at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, from 1976-80; and secretary to Bishop Joseph Maguire of Springfield from 1980-83.
From 1983-87, Father Twardzik was academic dean of Ss. Cyril & Methodius Seminary. He went on to serve as pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in South Deerfield, Mass. (1987-97); and St. Francis Notre Dame and Our Lady of Mercy parishes in North Adams, Mass. (1997-2005). He also was Springfield’s diocesan director of liturgy and chairman of justice and peace.
In 2006, following a sabbatical at Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, Livingston County, Father Twardzik became parochial vicar at Holy Family Catholic Community in Dansville-Perkinsville-Wayland-Cohocton, remaining in that role until reaching senior status in 2020. He now resides in Geneseo and continues to assist at Holy Family.