Being a priest had been a dream of David S. Slubecky from childhood. He would celebrate a pretend Mass and hand out Necco wafers to his younger siblings as Communion. "I'd keep all the chocolate ones for myself," he said. "I was just drawn to the idea of being able to celebrate Mass and be involved with people in a parish." Among his many duties in the Diocese of Buffalo, he would go on the become a regular fixture on the Daybreak TV production "Daily Mass at St. Joseph Cathedral."
Less than a year after retiring, Msgr. Slubecky passed away on Feb. 12.
The son of the late Stanley and Maria Theresa (Zielonka) Slubecky was born Dec. 5, 1947, in Batavia. He attended Catholic schools right from the start with St. John the Baptist in Alden. The Sisters of St. Joseph who taught him claim that even in second grade he had talked about becoming a priest. "My parents actually encouraged me to go to a regular high school and I said 'No, I really want to do this," said Msgr. Slubecky. By age 14, he attended the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary, a high school for young men pursuing a vocation to the priesthood. There were 122 boys in his freshman class, but he was one of only two who went on to be ordained.
After studying philosophy for two years at St. John Vianney Seminary (now Christ the King in East Aurora), he went to Rome to study theology at the North American College. He was ordained on July 21, 1973, by Bishop Edward D. Head. His first assignment was at St. Mary Parish in Batavia, where he stayed for only four months before going back to Rome to finish his graduate degree in theology. After spending a few more months at St. Mary's, he went to St. Ignatius Renewal Center in Clarence to serve as the retreat master and to direct the formation team for the permanent diaconate.
When he retired last May, he spoke to the Western New York Catholic saying that that assignment remained close to his heart. "Many times I was really humbled by the quality of faith and the depth of faith of the people who came for retreats. In many ways, I gained more from them than I think they ever could've gotten from me."
In September of 1983, he returned to Rome to obtain a graduate degree in Canon Law. He eventually moved on to be judicial vicar of the diocesan Tribunal. "So, although I initially went with the idea that I would be working in a parish, I was not really in a parish for most of the first 22 years of my priesthood." In 1988, Pope John Paul II honored him with the title monsignor. The title is a pontifical honor designating a priest as Chaplain to His Holiness. In July 2008, he was elevated to Prelate of Honor to His Holiness by Pope Benedict XVI.
In 1994, he became pastor of Fourteen Holy Helpers Parish in West Seneca, a position he held until 2005, at which time he became moderator of the curia and vicar general for the Diocese of Buffalo.
In these roles, Msgr. Slubecky served as a chief operating officer for the Diocese of Buffalo. "I serve on every board that exists in the diocese," said Msgr. Slubecky, who loved parish work, but agreed to go where he was needed most. "In every instance I have to say I believed after the fact that it was supposed to happen. In each case, I gained a lot from it with regard to various parts of my life."
He considers one of the most moving moments of his priesthood to be in the final days of his grandmother's life in the late 1980s. "I anointed her and when I finished anointing her, she came out of the fetal position, had a clear mind for three days, talked to all the family and then she passed away. It was just very moving the power of that sacrament."
Msgr. Slubecky had been living at the Msgr. John J. Conniff Priest Retirement Home in Lancaster since his retirement.
He is survived by his siblings Daniel, Elaine Hudson, Rita Gibney and Donald. He had one other brother, the late Tommy Slubecky.
Visitation will take place Sunday, Feb. 17, from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. at Fourteen Holy Helpers Church, 1345 Indian Church Road, West Seneca. Msgr. Slubecky will lie in state on Monday, Feb. 18 at 9 a.m. at St. Joseph Cathedral, 50 Franklin St., Buffalo, where a concelebrated funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. with Bishop Richard J. Malone presiding.