Classmates from '67 pay tribute to Father Guy Siracuse

by PATRICK J. BUECHI
Wed, Jul 26th 2017 08:00 am
Staff Reporter
Father Guy Siracuse eats lunch with seminary classmates, including Father William Bigelow, at Brothers of Mercy Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Clarence. Father Siracuse has lived at Brothers of Mercy since having a stroke in 1999. (Dan Cappellazzo/Staff Photographer)
Father Guy Siracuse eats lunch with seminary classmates, including Father William Bigelow, at Brothers of Mercy Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Center in Clarence. Father Siracuse has lived at Brothers of Mercy since having a stroke in 1999. (Dan Cappellazzo/Staff Photographer)

The Diocese of Buffalo's ordination class of 1967 recently shared a 50th anniversary Mass, paying special honor to Father Guy Siracuse, a classmate, a fellow priest, a friend who has spent the last 18 years at the Brothers of Mercy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Clarence following a stroke. Now, with limited mobility and speech, he remains a much-loved brother of his class.

Born and raised in Buffalo, the only child of Frank and Betty Siracuse attended Holy Angels, Immaculate Conception and St. Francis of Assisi elementary schools, before entering the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary and then St. John Vianney Seminary in East Aurora. He later studied theology at the American College at the University of Louvain, Belgium. While in Belgium, he learned to speak French and developed a fondness for French food and movies.

After his June 24, 1967 ordination, Father Siracuse's first assignment took him to Sacred Heart Parish in Angelica, part of the Missionary Apostolate. He then was named the assistant pastor at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Buffalo from 1968 until 1974, followed by three years as the assistant pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish, also in Buffalo.

In 1985, he became the pastor of St. John Fisher Parish in South Dayton and St. Elizabeth Parish in Cherry Creek. Two years later, he had the additional responsibility of being administrator of St. Joan of Arc Parish in Perrysburg and St. Paul of the Cross Parish in Dayton. Father Siracuse also taught at Baker Victory High School in Lackawanna and became a chaplain at Mount Mercy Academy in Buffalo. His final assignment was as pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Lovejoy, a position he began in 1991.

He was a member of Marriage Encounter and the diocesan Cursillo Movement. He also wrote "Homily for the Week" in the 1960s and "The Gospel Truth" in the 1970s for the Magnificat, the diocesan newspaper of Buffalo.

Father Siracuse was known for his athleticism, and his love of tennis and skiing. "He was the healthiest guy in class," said Father Mark Wolski, a fellow member of the class of 1967,who noted Father Siracuse didn't smoke.

In 1999, his pacemaker failed during the night as he slept in the rectory of St. Agnes. When he didn't show up for Mass, parishioners found him in the rectory, too late for medication to be effective. Aphasia, the inability to formulate language, set in. He also lost muscle control on the right side of his body. He has lived in the Brothers of Mercy Nursing and Rehabilitation Center ever since. He has a good presence about himself. He scoots along in his wheelchair using his left foot to propel him. If you ask him how he's doing, he'll smile and say, "Okey-dokey."

Father William Bigelow had heard his family members praise Father Siracuse's preaching skills. "He was a marvelous minister of the Gospel. They loved him. He was very effective," Father Bigelow said.

He studied in Innsbruck, Austria, while Father Siracuse studied in Louvain. During free time the two traveled to Rome. "He always had a book with him. If we had to wait in line to get into a museum, he's reading. He had a marvelous mind," Father Bigelow recalled.

Father Wolski recalled being emotionally drained after visiting him in rehab shortly after his stroke.

"I would just be leaving there practically in tears every time I left him. It just seemed like such an ironic situation for someone seemingly that healthy." Father Wolski got emotional thinking about it. "He was just through with rehab and I just sat there and I said, 'Guy, I realize what this is doing, but you're a strong man. You really have to listen and work really hard with them.' He had just come out of speech therapy, I guess." After rolling him to his room. Father Siracuse put up his hand as if to say, "Hold on."

"Then he stared. He was like a little kid. 'A E I O U.' Like a little kid. But, he wanted to show me that he could do this and he was working at it. It was so touching. I'm so proud of him that he never seems to be down. He is just this amazing guy."

The staff at Brothers of Mercy thinks highly of Father Guy as well. In December 2015, they named him resident of the month.

 

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