Priests mark many decades of ministry - Catholic Courier

Priests mark many decades of ministry

The following diocesan priests are marking 25, 50 and 50-plus years in ministry in 2015.

65 Years

Father Otto Vogt grew up in Wayland’s St. Joseph Parish and attended the parish school. He studied at Rochester’s St Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries, and was ordained June 3, 1950, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. 

He  served as assistant pastor at St. Boniface, Rochester (1950-54); Immaculate Conception, Ithaca (1954-60); Holy Cross, Ovid, and Sacred Heart, Romulus (1960); St. Patrick, Elmira (1960-67); and St. Mary, Dansville (1967-68). Father Vogt was pastor of St. Joachim, Canisteo, and St. Mary, Rexville, from 1968-75, and of St. Paul of the Cross, Honeoye Falls, from 1975 until his retirement in 1995. While at St. Paul of the Cross he also was assigned as temporary administrator of St. Catherine of Siena, Mendon, in 1986. 
 
Father Vogt also served as chaplain at Elmira College, and for the Honeoye Falls fire and ambulance departments. He taught sacramental theology and medical ethics at Elmira’s St. Joseph School of Nursing and Hornell’s St. James Mercy Hospital, respectively; directed a weekly radio broadcast; and was involved in prison ministry. 
 
He currently resides at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford, is a judge of the interdiocesan tribunal of the Province of New York and occasionally presides at Mass at the Rochester Psychiatric Center. 
 
When asked about the highlights of his 65 years of priesthood, Father Vogt said he’s looking forward to the upcoming Synod of Bishops, which will focus on the vocation and mission of the family.
60 Years

Even with 60 years as a priest under his belt, Father Thomas Erdle said  he doesn’t feel like his work is done.</P>

"I’m happy, but still there’s a lot I want to do in ministry," he said. "I enjoy what I’m doing."
 
Father Erdle grew up in Rochester’s St. Boniface Parish, attending its school as well as Aquinas Institute before completing his seminary training at St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester. He was ordained June 4, 1955, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. 
 
Father Erdle served as assistant pastor at Holy Redeemer, Rochester (1955-59); Holy Ghost, Gates (1959-66); and St. James, Irondequoit (1966-67). He also was chaplain and board member at Rochester School for the Deaf. He helped create the National Catholic Office for the Deaf in Washington, D.C., and served as chaplain for the International Deaf Catholic Association.
 
From 1968-85, he served as the first Catholic chaplain at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at Rochester Institute of Technology and became the founding pastor of Emmanuel Church of the Deaf in 1981.
 
Father Erdle, 85, retired in 2005 as pastor of St. Mark Parish, where he had served for 20 years. He then became chaplain at The Legacy in Brighton, where he also lives. He also helps out at other parishes as needed, including celebrating Mass at NTID once a month.
 
His family is planning a private celebration for his jubilee, he said.
 

Father John Philipps grew up in Rochester’s Immaculate Conception Parish and attended the parish school. He went on to graduate from St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester and was ordained June 4, 1955, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. 

Following ordination, Father Philipps served as assistant pastor at St. Michael (1955-58) and Blessed Sacrament (1958-66), Rochester; and St. Louis, Pittsford (1966-73). In 1973, he was assigned as pastor of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Brockport, where he served for nearly 15 years.
 
In 1987, he became pastor of St. Bridget, East Bloomfield, and St. Joseph, West Bloomfield. The two parishes merged to form St. Bridget/St. Joseph in East Bloomfield in 1990. He remained at that parish until 1999, when he retired and moved to St. John of Rochester Parish in Fairport, where he helped out by saying Mass and hearing confessions.
 
He also served on the Priests’ Council and was a board member for Finger Lakes Social Ministry and the Catholic Courier.
 
Father Philipps, 86, moved to the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Pittsford more than four years ago. He concelebrates Mass there every day, he said.
 
"We have a very nice chapel here," he noted.

Father Edwin "Ted" Metzger said his Catholic faith has evolved in his later years, and he is grateful for the opportunity to share his insight as a senior through his preaching and writing.

Father Metzger, 85, said he concelebrates Mass on occasion at St. Charles Borromeo, Greece, and writes a regular catechetical column in the parish bulletin. He also attends Mass at Legacy at Park Crescent in Greece, where he has lived since August 2014. In recent years, he had provided sacramental assistance at Holy Name of Jesus Parish, where he found "hope and ministry," and Our Mother of Sorrows Church.
 
He grew up in St. Michael Parish and attended the parish school, as well as Aquinas Institute and St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries, all in Rochester. He also has a master’s degree in sacred theology from Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
 
He was ordained June 4, 1955, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. He was assistant pastor at St. Mary, Auburn  (1955-57); Christ the King, Irondequoit (1957-63); and St. Anne, Rochester (1963-68). He served as field-education director at St. Bernard’s Seminary from 1968-75, then was pastor at Holy Redeemer, Rochester, for five years, and Geneva’s St. Francis de Sales for eight years.
 
Beginning in 1988, he served for a decade as a Maryknoll Associate priest in Kenya, then was assisting priest for six Cayuga County churches. He retired in 1999, although he stayed on at the Cayuga churches and also assisted in the Archdiocese of San Antonio, Texas. In 2002, he began a one-year assignment as sacramental minister for Rochester Institute of Technology’s Newman Community.

Father Daniel Tormey grew up in Rochester’s Holy Rosary Parish and attended the parish school. He studied at Cathedral College in New York City and St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester and was ordained June 4, 1955, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. 

He was 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). He served as chaplain at Rochester General Hospital from 1967-72, and during the summer of 1971 served as chaplain of the floating hospital ship HOPE. 
 
Father Tormey worked with the poor at a parish in La Paz, Bolivia (1972-74), before being assigned as assistant to the director of the diocesan Office of Human Development (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 became pastor of St. Mary of the Assumption, Scottsville, in 1989 and, upon his retirement in 1996, spent two years as spiritual director at the American College at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium. He currently assists at St. Benedict Parish in Canandaigua and East Bloomfield, and plans to celebrate his jubilee with a Mass. 
 
"I think it’s a time to be just incredibly grateful for all the assignments I’ve had, the work I’ve done and the people I’ve met," Father Tormey said. 
55 Years

A Maryknoll priest’s book titled You Can Change the World certainly changed the life of Father Albert Cylwicki, who will celebrate 55 years as a Basilian priest.

He said Father James Keller’s book talked about how a career in teaching, politics, media or ministry could influence a great many people.
 
"In all those careers, you can somehow be the Lord’s instrument to change the world," he said. "Obviously, a priest filled that picture perfectly."
 
While attending Catholic Central High School in his native Detroit, he was asked to consider joining the Congregation of St. Basil. He was ordained in 1960 in Toronto following a decade of preparation at St. Basil’s Seminary.
 
The following year, he came to Rochester to teach math and religion at Aquinas Institute. In 1963, he received a grant to complete his master’s degree in math at the University of Detroit, then returned to Toronto to teach at the University of St. Michael’s College. 
 
From there, he taught at high schools in Indiana and Texas. He then returned to Catholic Central, and afterward to Aquinas. In 1992, he took a break from teaching and worked at Holy Rosary Church in Toronto.
 
He then taught at Archbishop Walsh High School in Olean before coming to St. John Fisher College in 1995. At Fisher, he served for six years as the order’s superior, and he now works as a math tutor and an assistant campus minister.
 

A Utica native, Father Ralph Fraats attended Church of the Sacred Heart as a child and later studied at Niagara University and St. Vincent Major Seminary in Latrobe, Pa. He was ordained by Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle on May 28, 1960, at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington, D.C. 

 
He served the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., for 11 years before becoming assistant pastor at St. Anne in Rochester in 1971. He was incardinated as a priest of the Rochester Diocese on April 9, 1973, subsequently serving as assistant pastor at St. Patrick, Seneca Falls (1973-74); associate pastor at St. Lawrence, Greece (1974-76); St. John the Evangelist, Clyde, and St. Patrick, Savannah (1976-79); Rochester’s St. Philip Neri (1979-80); and Auburn’s Holy Family (1980-82). 
 
Father Fraats became pastor of St. John the Evangelist, Newark Valley, and St. Francis, Catatonk, in 1982, and in 1986, he became chaplain at Auburn’s Mercy Health and Rehabilitation Center and Auburn Hospital Ministries/Cayuga Nursing Home. He left Auburn in 1989 to become parochial vicar at St. Thomas the Apostle, Irondequoit, where he remained until his retirement in 2001. He then briefly served as sacramental minister at St. Michael, Lyons, and later resided at St. Francis of Assisi, Auburn.
 
He currently lives in New Hartford, N.Y., where he helps out at St. John the Evangelist Parish. He enjoys being able to celebrate the Eucharist and hear confessions, which he considers the highlights of his 55 years in the priesthood.
 
"It passed very quickly because I enjoy being a priest," he said. 

Father William Graf remains a full-time professor and religious-studies department chair at St. John Fisher College. He offers Mass at The Legacy in Victor, where he resides, as well as other locales as needed.

Recently he gave a retreat, preaching five times at Mass in one day and presenting a talk that night. When it was over, he recalled, "I was amazed at how really alive I felt."
 
Father Graf, who turned 80 years old on March 26, grew up in Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Brockport. He attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester and was ordained June 4, 1960, at Sacred Heart Cathedral by Bishop James E. Kearney.
 
He was assistant pastor at Holy Family, Rochester (1960-65), and Ithaca’s Immaculate Conception (1965-66), and served in various roles at Ithaca College (1965-71). Father Graf 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). In 1998, he became priest administrator of Perinton’s Church of the Resurrection. One year later he was named pastor there and remained in that role until his 2005 retirement.
 
He has served since 2001 as coordinator of a diocesan ministry to priests and was the diocesan archivist from 1988-2000.
50 Years

Father Daniel Holland grew up in Rochester’s St. Monica Parish. He attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester and was ordained June 5, 1965, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. 

He was associate pastor of the cathedral (1965-66), assistant director and later director of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine Religious Education Office (1966-72), diocesan director of the Year of Renewal (1972-73), and associate pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle, Irondequoit (1973-79). 
 
He logged three pastorates: St. Patrick, Elmira (1979-92); St. Theodore, Gates (1992-2002); and St. Pius Tenth, Chili, from 2002 until his 2009 retirement. 
 
Father Holland noted that the late Auxiliary Bishop Lawrence Casey, Msgr. Albert Schnacky and Msgr. Richard Burns were all highly influential in his ministry. Regarding his parish assignments, his most pleasant memories are of "the people you worked with," he said. "I had great staffs and teams everywhere, and never had an unhappy living arrangement." 
 
Father Holland currently resides at St. John the Evangelist Church in Spencerport, assisting there and at neighboring parishes.
 
To mark his anniversary, he will celebrate the 4 p.m. Mass at St. Monica in Rochester on June 6 with a small reception afterward. The following day, he will concelebrate the 11:15 a.m. Mass at St. John the Evangelist with Father John Loncle, pastor, who is celebrating his 10th anniversary as a priest. A reception will follow there as well.

Father John Reif has been a parish priest throughout his 50-year ministry — and he said that has worked out perfectly for him, thanks to  deep love for his parishioners that has spawned numerous friendships.

"Priestly activity finds expression in being with people on all levels of their lives," Father Reif said, adding that the parish is where "the cutting edge" of the church’s life can be found.
 
Father Reif is a native of Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish. He attended Aquinas Institute and St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries, all in Rochester, before being ordained at the cathedral June 5, 1965, by Bishop James E. Kearney. 
 
He served as assistant pastor at St. John of Rochester, Fairport (1965-70); St. Michael, Rochester (1970-74); and Our Mother of Sorrows, Greece (1974-78). He then logged more than 20 years at St. Rita, Webster, first as copastor from 1978-81 and then as pastor until late 1998. In addition, Father Reif has been active in pro-life initiatives in the Rochester Diocese, "mostly behind the scenes," he said.
 
In 1999 he moved to Holy Cross in Rochester as parochial vicar. He has remained at Holy Cross since his 2008 retirement, keeping involved in parish life while also providing sacramental assistance to many other parishes.
 
Father Reif’s golden jubilee celebration will take place June 14 during the noon Mass at Holy Cross, with a reception to follow on parish grounds.

Father Walter Wainwright has been quite busy since his 2009 retirement — and that has been strictly by design.

"My thinking was to retire from administration but to keep doing the priestly thing," said Father Wainwright, who resides in his Elmira home and assists at area parishes with Mass coverage, writing bulletin articles, preaching and giving talks.
 
An Elmira native, Father Wainwright attended St. Mary Southside School and in 1957 was part of the second graduating class at Notre Dame High School. He attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries in Rochester and was ordained June 5, 1965, by Bishop James E. Kearney at Sacred Heart Cathedral. 
 
He served as assistant pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle, Irondequoit (1965-71); associate pastor at St. Joseph, Penfield (1971-72); and copastor at St. Joseph (1972-76). 
 
He then became pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas/St. Lucy in Leicester and Retsof (1976-81); Immaculate Heart of Mary, Painted Post (1981-90); and St. Mary, Canandaigua (1990-2000). In 2000, Father Wainwright became pastor of St. Anthony and St. Patrick parishes in Elmira, which later came to include Ss. Peter and Paul as Blessed Sacrament Parish (St. Anthony closed in 2008). 
 
"I have never once regretted having become a priest," Father Wainwright stated. "I’ve enjoyed every bit of it."
 
For his 50th-anniversary jubilee, Father Wainwright will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving June 7 at 12:30 p.m. at St. Mary Southside, his home parish. A reception will follow there.

 

25 Years

The pathway to priesthood was circuitous for Father Victor Bartolotta Jr., who grew up in Fairport. 

He pursued seminary studies twice during his high-school and college years, but ultimately discerned a call to marriage instead. He had only been married for seven years, however, when his wife, Maxie Bartolotta, passed away. He again discerned a call to the priesthood and completed his seminary training at St. Bernard’s Institute in Rochester. He was ordained June 30, 1990, by Bishop Matthew H. Clark at Sacred Heart Cathedral.
 
Father Bartolotta then served as a priest intern at St. Joseph, Penfield, from 1990-92. He worked in campus ministry at Nazareth College in Pittsford from 1992-93 and served as parochial vicar at St. Pius Tenth, Chili, from 1993-96. In 1997 he moved to Texas, where he worked for 15 years as a theology teacher and campus minister at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas. 
 
He returned to the Rochester Diocese in October 2012 and assisted at St. Lawrence, Greece, until July 2014. At that time Father Bartolotta, who has two daughters, moved back to Texas to take on his current position as parochial vicar at St. Jude Parish in Allen. 
 
Father Bartolotta, who plans to mark his jubilee with a quiet celebration in Texas, said he’s grateful for the opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives through his vocation.
 
"The most fulfilling thing is the opportunity to help people, and I’m given that every day. That’s what keeps me staying a priest," he said.
 

Father Felicjan Sierotowicz grew up in a Catholic family in Mogilno, Poland. There were no Catholic schools in Poland during his childhood, as the country was then under communist rule. Yet even as a child he knew he wanted to become a priest. He entered the seminary after high school, joined the Congregation of the Order of St. Philip Neri and was ordained Nov. 24, 1990.

Father Sierotowicz served at a parish for several years before moving to Krakow, where he taught religion to children at a youth shelter. In the late 1990s, he met a Rochester woman who told him about the local need for more priests. In 2000, he took what was supposed to be a one-month vacation to the United States, and he’s been here ever since. 

Father Sierotowicz received permission to stay in the Rochester Diocese in August 2000 and assisted at Church of the Assumption, Fairport, until 2001. Over the next 13 years, he served as sacramental minister at Good Shepherd Catholic Community in southern Cayuga County; St. Michael, Lyons; Sacred Heart, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Hyacinth, Auburn; and St. Ann, Owasco. He also served at Auburn’s Mercy Health and Rehabilitation Center from 2001-14 and as chaplain at Butler, Cayuga, Five Points and Willard correctional facilities. He currently is parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Lakes Catholic Community in the Finger Lakes.
"I’ll always go wherever the bishop sends me. I came to serve the people, and wherever they need me, I will go and do my best. I like to teach about Jesus and bring people closer to God," he said.
 
 
More priestly milestones noted

EDITOR’S NOTE: Space limitations only allow us to highlight anniversaries of 25, 50 and 50-plus years, but the following priests also are marking ordination jubilees this year:

Forty-five years: Father Michael Twardzik, parochial vicar, Holy Family Catholic Community, Wayland/Perkinsville/Cohocton/Dansville.

Forty years: Father William F. Laird, pastor, St. Katharine Drexel, Macedon/Palmyra; Father Stephen R. Kraus, pastor, St. Theodore, Gates; and Father Theodore J. Auble, assisting priest, St. Columba/St. Patrick Caledonia; St. Mary of the Assumption, Scottsville; and St. Vincent DePaul, Churchville.

Thirty-five years: Father Michael J. Schramel, pastor, St. Jude the Apostle/Holy Ghost/St. Helen, Gates; Father Symon Peter Ntaiyia, pastor, St. Maximilian Kolbe, Ontario/Sodus/Sodus Point; and Missionaries of the Precious Blood Father John A. Colacino.

Thirty years: Father Jesus Flores, diocesan coordinator of migrant ministries; Basilian Father Paul English, pastor, St. Kateri Tekakwitha, Irondequoit; Father Stanley G. Kacprzak, pastor, St. Benedict, Canandaigua/East Bloomfield; Jesuit Father Edward Salmon, McQuaid Jesuit High School; Father Alexander H. Bradshaw, who retired in 2012.

Fifteen years: Father William F. McGrath, pastor, St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, Rochester.

Ten years: Father John F. Loncle, pastor, St. John the Evangelist, Spencerport.

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