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home : more top stories : news

4/27/2017 8:30:00 AM
SPECIAL SECTION
PRIESTS' ANNIVERSARIES
TOP ROW: Fathers Bradley, Ingemie and Schweigardt. Bottom row, Fathers Gerken, O'Neill and DeGiovine.
TOP ROW: Fathers Bradley, Ingemie and Schweigardt. Bottom row, Fathers Gerken, O'Neill and DeGiovine.
Father St. John still goes ‘off to the missions’
BY KATHLEEN LAMANNA

Rev. George St. John retired from active priestly ministry in 2003. Since then, he has seen more of the Albany Diocese than he did in his younger days.

"Every week, he goes out and helps out," said Rev. Donald Rutherford, moderator of the curia for the Diocese. "He comes down the stairs with his little bag and says, 'I'm off to the missions!'"

Father St. John, who is 89, has been traveling around to parishes filling in for Masses, the sacrament of reconciliation or anointing of the sick. "Mostly it's reconciliation," he remarked.

These days, the Diocese has more retired diocesan priests than active ones -- 88 vs. 85, at last count. When he retired, Father St. John knew his help was needed.

"I had my health," he said, "and I thought I would like to get around and visit the Diocese. I had mostly been up in the Hudson Valley. I thought I could get around and visit some of the other parishes."

"He may be 'retired,' but he's not retired," Father Rutherford told The Evangelist.

In recent years, Father St. John has stayed closer to his home at Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany, covering Albany County parishes. He still drives, but says he doesn't have as much stamina.

Father St. John will sometimes get calls to help out at a parish three months in advance. Sometimes, it's just days before. He isn't able to accept every request, but says yes as often as he can.

Recently, he told The Evangelist, he had to turn down someone who was asking him to fill in for reconciliation and celebrate a Mass, back to back. It's hard for him to stay out for that long, he explained.

At Blessed Sacrament in Albany, Father St. John offers some Masses. He also likes getting to know the younger priests and seminarians who serve at the parish. He said it reminds him of his own youth: His first assignment, from 1952-53, was at Blessed Sacrament.

Rev. John Bradley, pastor, noted that Father St. John concelebrates daily Mass at Blessed Saacrament. If Father Bradley is handling a funeral Mass, Father St. John takes care of the daily Mass at noon.

Father Bradley attested to Father St. John's busy schedule, telling The Evangelist that the priest in residence had heard confessions almost every day of the previous week: "He is most willing and gracious to do what he can."

Having lived together for the past 15 years, Father Bradley told the Evangelist that Father St. John's sweet spirit carries through the rectory and its residents.

Father St. John, in turn, said the priests and parishioners at Blessed Sacrament bring him great joy.

Growing up as a boy in Troy, the priest said, he never thought he'd be able to travel throughout the Diocese. In fact, he didn't even really know what "the Diocese" was: "My perspective was Albany, Troy and Schenectady for the most part."

Now, before heading out to serve, Father St. John makes sure to pack his white alb and a stole. It's exciting, he said, to be able to walk into a different parish and meet a congregation that's new to him.

"They're always happy to see you and you're happy to meet with them," he told The Evangelist. "It's always good to see what's going on around the Diocese."

Father Bradley noted that his colleague and friend is an inspiration to everyone he meets.

"He has a tremendous love for the priesthood."

65 YEARS OF PRIESTLY LIFE

REV. GEORGE ST. JOHN was born in Troy. He has been an associate pastor at Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany and St. Margaret of Cortona in Rotterdam Junction and chaplain at the Albany motherhouse of the Sisters of Mercy and Albany Medical Center. He was diocesan director of religious education and Catholic radio and television, then principal of St. Patrick's High School in Catskill. He became pastor of St. Patrick's parish in Catskill, then St. Mary's in Glens Falls and, finally, Holy Spirit in East Greenbush. After 22 years there, he retired in 2003. (See separate story for more details.)

QUOTE: "Sixty-five years of experiencing priesthood have been a joy and blessing through my service under the bishops, together with my brother priests, deacons, religious, lay ministers and the people of God, who have supported me throughout," Father St. John declared.

"The opportunity to exercise the ministry of God's love and mercy exists over many different avenues," added the veteran of a host of different ministries. "God is calling others to fulfill one or more of these for the benefit and the salvation of many, with the joy of striving to be Christ-like for and to others.

"God may be calling the reader of this article."

(Father St. John will celebrate his jubilee with a Mass of thanksgiving at Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany, where he resides, June 25 at 1:30 p.m.)


60TH JUBILEE FOR TWO PRIESTS

REV. THEODORE GERKEN, a native of Whitney Point, N.Y., served in Rhode Island, Nebraska, the Fiji Islands and Syracuse before being incardinated into the Albany Diocese. Here, he has been an associate pastor at St. Joseph's/St. Michael's/Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish in Amsterdam, Assumption parish in Schen­ectady and St. Mary's in Ballston Spa. In 1988, he was named pastor of Resurrection parish in Germantown. Father Gerken, who is retired, has not announced plans to mark his jubilee.

REV. JAMES O'NEILL, who hails from Lancaster, N.Y., has been associate pastor at St. Patrick's parish in Albany; administrator of St. Mary's in Stuyvesant Falls; and associate at St. Joseph's in Rensselaer and St. Patrick's in Johnstown. He was founding pastor of St. Bonaventure's parish in Speigletown, where he served for 16 years; he calls the happiest experience of his priesthood the day that parish (now called Transfiguration parish, with worship sites in Speigletown and Schaghticoke) was dedicated. He then served as pastor of St. Joseph's parish in Green Island and, finally, St. Peter's in Stillwater.

QUOTE: "I substituted as long as I was able and my health permitted," Father O'Neill told The Evangelist. "I rejoice in all that has been, is now and, prayerfully, will be.

"I thank God I responded to my vocation," he continued. "It's been a joy to work in God's vineyard. I have never been unhappy. Candidates! Listen to His voice. Never were you so badly needed. Be not afraid!"


Father O'Neill will mark his jubilee "simply, with my remaining siblings and whatever family -- 100-plus -- may be gathered."


THREE GOLDEN JUBILEES

REV. JOHN BRADLEY, a native of Albany, has served as an associate pastor at Sacred Heart parish in Albany; as chaplain at Memorial Hospital in Albany and its School of Nursing; and as associate pastor at St. Luke's, Schenectady. Since 1976, he's been pastor of Blessed Sacrament parish in Albany; he's also on the coordinating team for the city's Sister Maureen Joyce Center, which operates a food pantry, soup kitchen and other services.

QUOTE: "I am grateful for my call to the priesthood. Initially, I was not sure it was for me," Father Bradley remarked. "After inquiring and then entering the seminary, I became sure that I should continue. To those who may feel that you are being called, I would say, 'Please try it.'

"As I look back over 50 years, I do not know where they have gone. I never imagined them being so exciting, joyful and fulfilling. During these years, I have been privileged to be a special presence of Christ to people in every phase of life. They have all touched me and enriched my life: people at weekly Masses, baptisms, First Communions, weddings, anointing of the sick, reconciliation and the many private sessions for every reason imaginable. The schoolchildren and youth are a joy to work with. I have been part of many funerals and I am grateful and humbled to share our faith with these families and to offer sympathy. I thank everyone who has supported me along the way: family, friends, fellow priests, bishops and the thousands of people who have been part of my ministry have been and remain a gift to me."


Father Bradley will mark his jubilee at his parish with a Mass of Thanks­giving at Blessed Sacrament May 21, 1:30 p.m., followed by a reception in the school hall.

REV. DOMINIC INGEMIE, a native of Albany, was a teacher, vice-principal and principal at Catholic Central High School in Troy. He also taught at St. Patrick's High School in Catskill and Maria College in Albany and had a stint as acting superintendent of diocesan schools. His priestly ministry included St. Francis de Sales parish in Troy, St. Henry's in Averill Park and St. Patrick's in Catskill (while chaplain for Greene County Jail). He has served as pastor of St. Anthony's parish in Schenectady, St. James in Albany and St. Peter's in Saratoga Springs, retiring in 2014. He still serves as sacramental minister for Transfiguration parish in Speigletown/Schaghticoke.

QUOTE: "I thank God for the privilege I've had over almost 50 years to serve as an ordained priest in many different roles, especially to be a minister of the sacraments in wonderful communities. I also thank God and countless others for all the care, love, support, encouragement and challenge I have received from family, friends, coworkers and communities in which I have served. The years have been wonderful. They have had their very difficult times, but, with the love and care of our loving God, His Son our Lord Jesus Christ and their Spirit, and of all the people, those times became growing and new life experiences.

"If anyone even has an inkling of a vocation, I would recommend you pursue it. When our loving God calls, He always gives all that is needed - and the joy is immeasurable."

As Father Ingemie's jubilee is not until Dec. 21, he has not yet made plans for a celebration.

REV. ERWIN SCHWEIGARDT, a native of Albany, served as an associate pastor at Our Lady of Victory parish in Troy and St. John the Evangelist in Rensselaer before going to The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., to obtain a doctorate. Upon his return, he became director of educational research and a district superintendent for the diocesan Catholic Schools Office. He was also chaplain at Union College in Schenectady. As a pastor, he served at St. Patrick's parish in Watervliet for 25 years, then St. Margaret Mary in Albany. He retired in 2009.

QUOTE: "Having studied theology during Vatican II," he said, referring to the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s that made major changes to the Catholic Church, "it is a joy to be a priest during Pope Francis' pontificate."

Father Schweigardt will celebrate a Mass for his jubilee May 28, 2 p.m., at St. John the Evangelist parish in Schenectady.


FOUR DECADES A PRIEST

REV. CHRISTOPHER DEGIOVINE, whose hometown is Greenville, began his priestly ministry serving at St. John the Baptist parish there. He has been associate pastor at St. Paul the Apostle parish in Troy and Our Lady of the Assumption in Latham, diocesan director of vocations and chaplain to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Kenwood Convent in Albany. He spent 25 years as campus minister and dean of spiritual life at The College of Saint Rose in Albany before being named pastor of St. Matthew's parish in Voorheesville in 2014.

QUOTE: Remarking on his 40th anniversary of ordination, Father DeGiovine said, "Working, praying and being with the people of God in our Church and from many other Christian and other faith traditions has made my life rich beyond telling. I am grateful to God."

Father DeGiovine has not made plans for observing his jubilee.


25 YEARS, TIMES TWO

Two non-diocesan priests are also celebrating significant anniversaries of ordination:

REV. JOSEPH GRASSO, chaplain at Stratton Veterans Administration Medical Center in Albany, who has not made plans to mark his anniversary; and

REV. JAMES SIDOTI, O.Carm., administrator of St. Joseph's parish in Troy. Father Sidoti will celebrate his jubilee after the three regular Sunday Masses at St. Joseph's May 21 with a party at the Franklin Terrace Ballroom in Troy, 3-7 p.m. For tickets, call (518) 274-6720.





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