Local Parish Priest Stories
APRIL 2017 PRIEST OF THE MONTH - REV. ROBERT MOCK
Every man’s experience of the priesthood is a combination of what he brings to his vocation and the opportunities his vocation brings to him. Father Robert Mock has had an abundance of experiences and opportunities that have so far enriched his priesthood and his life.
Young Robert Mock grew up along with two brothers at Christ the King Parish in Snyder. He attended public school and graduated from Amherst Senior High School in 1964. He attended Canisius College briefly, graduated from Bryant and Stratton College and went to work for The W. T. Grant Company – more commonly known as the Grants Stores. He was drafted, joined the Navy and was stationed in Rhode Island for four years doing general administrative work. The government provided servicemen the opportunity to attend college so Robert spent three or four semesters at Providence College where he became familiar with the Dominicans. He decided to enter the order of the Dominicans but ended up leaving after eight months and going back to work for a Grants Store in Syracuse.
Thoughts of the priesthood remained on his mind even after leaving the Dominicans. He left Grants and accepted a position at WKBW (Channel 7) where he worked for five years in the sales and business offices. While he was working there, the Diocese of Buffalo began promoting vocations to the priesthood through the use of billboards. Father Mock recalls, “One was conveniently located right across from my office window so when I stood up, I couldn’t look out my window without seeing that billboard.” Upon hearing that Father Philip Berrigan, a civil rights activist he admired, was speaking at Buffalo State College he decided to attend. He recalled Father Berrigan saying, “If you’re going to do something with your life, do something that’s meaningful for you and makes a difference for others.”
That billboard, coupled with the inspirational message from Father Berrigan was enough to convince him he should at least take another look at priesthood. In 1977, he entered Wadhams Hall Seminary College to begin his studies. He graduated from Christ the King Seminary and on March 16, 1984, Father Robert Mock was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Buffalo. He served in the early years of his priesthood at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Kenmore, Mother of Divine Grace, Nativity in Orchard Park, and was then assigned to help Father Chuck Slisz at Saint Mary and Saint Mark in Holley and Kendall. While he was there he noticed an article in the local paper asking for volunteers to read for the print handicapped at WXXR Reach Out Radio. After he auditioned, he waited to hear back from them but they never contacted him. He recalled, “Finally, I called them and they said they never call, but rather wait to hear from those who auditioned to be sure that they were really interested.” For a year and a half he traveled to Rochester once a week to read the Canandaigua Daily Messenger Newspaper in the studio. While he was in the area he would visit parishioners who were in the Rochester area hospitals. He really enjoyed it and commented, “I met some great people in that whole experience!”
After serving at Queen of Heaven Parish in West Seneca, Father Mock was then assigned to his first pastorate at Saint Mary of the Assumption Parish in Portageville and Saint Mary, Canaseraga. After that he spent six years as pastor of Saint John the Evangelist in South Buffalo. The last two of those years he also served as Pastor of Saint Teresa Parish – just down Seneca Street. Around that time the Journey in Faith and Grace began. With the condensing of parishes there was actually an excess of priests for a short time. Father Mock was invited to apply to become Academic Dean at Trocaire College. He had already been teaching there for 19 years as Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies. He then served as Associate Dean and then Dean of Health and Human Services for five years.
In 2013 Father Mock was not sure if he wanted to be the pastor of another parish again. He thought he might stay at Trocaire until he retired but when the opportunity became available to lead the flock at Saint Benedict Parish in Amherst, he decided to apply. He thought about what a 21st century parish should look like and he came up with two main objectives. One was to offer multiple opportunities for faith formation for people in the parish and the other was to become involved in outreach opportunities within the surrounding community. Having spent so much time teaching young adults at the college level, Father Mock felt very comfortable engaging that age group at Saint Benedict by offering them faith formation and social opportunities as well as involvement in outreach ministry. He has worked diligently to implement lifelong faith formation programs for people of all ages at his parish. He is very fond of teaching and preaching and mentioned, “I have a magnificent staff who really handle everything, so I am able to do more of the things I want to do like focus on Young Adult Ministry.”
Father Mock has held several positions of service and leadership within the diocese. He was Executive Secretary for the Priests’ Council of New York State, charter member of the Board of Directors of the Saint Joseph Investment Fund, corporate member and treasurer of South Buffalo Catholic School, a member of the Strategic Planning Commission for the Journey in Faith and Grace, served on the College of Consultors, Chair of the Council of Priests and on the Advisory Council for Upon This Rock.
A big fan of live theatre, Father Mock is a member of the Advisory Board of the Kavinoky Theatre which is located on the campus of D’Youville College. He said of the experience, “It’s been an interfaith and ecumenical experience in that there are some Catholics on the Board but not all. I get to interface with Jewish people, Protestants and people of little or no faith.” He also enjoys attending many other theatre venues as well.
In advising men considering the priesthood, Father Mock said, “You have to be very flexible and able to roll with a lot of different things. You have to be attentive and savvy enough to understand the administration side of the parish and yet sensitive enough to be able to handle all the pastoral things. You have to learn to be a little tough on the administrative side and at the same time be much softer on the pastoral side.”