Father James T. Spenard, OSA, 74, of the National Shrine of St. Rita’s Church and former, longtime pastor of St. Augustine’s Church in Lansingburgh, died on Oct. 8 in Philadelphia.

Father Spenard was born in Waterford on Oct. 4, 1946, the beloved son of the late John (Ben) and Alma Baillargeon Spenard. He attended St. Mary’s School in Waterford and was an active member of the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and, eventually, the Explorer Scouts. He achieved the highest honor in the Boy Scouts of America, the Eagle Scout Award.

While in high school at La Salle Institute in Troy, Father Spenard was continually active. He was on the rifle team, the manager of many sports, and editor of his high school yearbook. He attended “mixers” (dances) at both La Salle and Catholic Central High School. He dated, went to proms, and he and his Explorer Troop, of which he was president, planned and accomplished a weeklong canoe trip rounding Lake George.

At La Salle in those days, all seniors participated in a multi-day retreat. At this prayerful event, all participants spent a half hour, face-to-face with the Blessed Sacrament. During his time, while praying to the Blessed Sacrament, Father Spenard decided to offer his life to the service of God and become a priest.

He entered Good Counsel Novitiate in New Hamburg on Sept 9, 1964, and professed simple vows on Sept. 10, 1965. Following the novitiate, he attended Villanova University and professed solemn vows on Sept. 14, 1968. He graduated from Villanova in 1969 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. He did his theological studies at the Washington Theological Coalition from 1969-72, and received a master’s degree in theology. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 17, 1972 at St. Mary’s Church in Waterford by Bishop Edward J. Maginn. His assignments included: St. Rita’s Shrine Church, Philadelphia; St. Augustine’s Church, Lansingburgh; St. James Church, Carthage; and Immaculate Conception in Hoosick Falls.
When Father Spenard was assigned to St. Augustine’s Church, the parish school was having difficulties with declining enrollment. When a friend retired from teaching at a public school, Father Spenard asked him if he wanted to become principal at St. Augustine’s. Under their partnership, enrollment doubled at the school.

Father Spenard was devastated when he was moved from St. Augustine Church to St. Rita’s Shrine in Philadelphia. He had hoped and prayed that he would “age out” at St. Augustine’s, however, this was not to be. But he never complained about his Philadelphia assignment. As a priest, Father Spenard never forgot his roots. He would make it back to the Waterford area whenever he could and enjoyed visits with his mother, other relatives (especially his many cousins), and a good friend for a boat ride, some fine wine and maybe even a Manhattan. He enjoyed the water, whether sailing his sunfish, traveling the intracoastal waters or vacationing on the St. Lawrence.

He is the beloved brother of John “Jack” Spenard; devoted uncle of Andre (Allison) Spenard and Tony (Patti) Spenard; great uncle of Olivia and Claire Spenard; and is also survived by several cousins, friends and his Augustinian family.

A Funeral Mass was held on Oct. 16 with interment at St. John’s Cemetery in Troy.