Father Hearn recalls 53 years as priest, spiritual leader and community stalwart


Looking back on his 53 years as a priest, spiritual leader and community stalwart, Father Philip Hearn of St. Peter’s/St. Mary’s says his career has been “joyful.”

Father Hearn will remain on the job until July 1, according to the Syracuse Diocese.

“I loved my time here in Rome, it’s been very, very special,” he said Monday. “A lot of wonderful times working with marvelous people for funerals and weddings and different things, in their sacred times of life ... Rome is very special.”

Father Hearn continued: “The people of Rome are wonderful, and it’s been such a joy serving the community. I think it’s a good thing to retire because I’m giving another priest the opportunity of the joys I’ve had all these years.”

His replacement at St. Peter’s/St. Mary’s has not yet been named. Father Hearn said the Diocese would make that decision, likely in late May or early June.

In retirement, Father Hearn said he would assist with matters at a new parish in his hometown. “Well, I’m going to be assisting with other pastors, so I’m going to be doing pretty much what I’ve been doing, except I will not be doing administration.”

“I’m going to be in Syracuse ... East Syracuse is my home,” he said.

It was there, at his childhood parish of St. Matthew’s, where his “love and service of people” and “the faith (he) had at the time” compelled Father Hearn to pursue the priesthood, he explained.

Father Hearn was ordained in 1966, and his tenure in Rome began in 1970, when he was assigned to St. John the Baptist Church at 200 E. Dominick St.

“When I came to St. John’s, I was replacing Father Nicholas Meo, who had been there for 18 years,” he explained.

“So of course you have Father Hearn replacing Father Meo, so some of the older Italians started calling me ‘Pater Hernia’ to make me feel very Italian,” he laughed. “It was very, very nice.”

After a year at St. John’s, Father Hearn was assigned to Rome Catholic School, where he offered guidance to students, taught religion classes, and helped with the school’s musical program, culminating in a performance at the Capitol Theatre in 1975.

He also served as Vocation Director for the Diocese “in the ‘70s and the early ‘80s,” counseling aspring priests and acting “sort of like the recruiter for the priesthood,” he said.

While Rome has changed superficially since that time, he says the community’s spirit has endured.

“Of course, Rome was a much bigger community when I came in 1970. We had the base ... Downtown was still intact. The fort was not here, and the two garages were not here. It was a different kind of community,” he explained.

“There’s been a lot of changes.”

“But the one thing that has been constant has been the marvelous people in Rome,” he said of his home of more than four decades.

“Rome’s an exception with the people, and their generosity, and their kindness, and their willingness to help one another and to work with the poor.”

“I’ve really enjoyed my time in Rome,” he added.

A story that ran on page 1 of the April 12 edition of the Daily Sentinel reported that Father Thomas Servatius of Utica’s St. John’s Church would retire. The Syracuse Diocese has since clarified that Father Servatius will not retire, but will assume Father John Buehler’s duties effective July 1.


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