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OCTOBER 2017 PRIEST OF THE MONTH - REV. CHARLES SLISZ

Fr Charles Slisz.jpgRecalling his earliest thoughts of becoming a priest, Fr Chuck Slisz remembers at the age of five years old, “sitting in a little chair all by myself and saying, ‘God, could I be a priest when I grow up?’ I saw priests at church but didn’t know anything about how that happens.” Whenever people asked what he wanted to be when he grew up he would respond – a priest. It was always there in the back of his mind.

He was the only one of his siblings to be born in a hospital. When he came into the world his oldest brother was 18 years old, his next brother was 15 and his sister was 10. He attended St. Mary Magdalene Parish Elementary School and made his First Holy Communion and Confirmation there as well. A member of the first class to go through Bishop Turner High School, he graduated in 1963. Young Chuck enjoyed high school. He had lots of friends, went to dances and had a steady girlfriend. Accepted at three colleges he planned to get a degree in History, graduate, get married and teach history. He recalled sitting at a desk at home doing homework during his senior year and hearing a voice in his head say, “I thought you wanted to be a priest.” Fr. Chuck recalled, “It just wouldn’t let go! I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I was a mess!” So he went to see the guidance counselor at Turner High School who happened to be a diocesan priest. He set young Chuck up for the Diocesan Seminary entrance exam and the rest, as they say, is history!

Ordained in 1971, Fr. Chuck said his first Mass on the anniversary of his First Communion at his home parish, St. Mary Magdalene. His began his priestly ministry at Holy Spirit in North Buffalo. From there he was assigned to St. Amelia Parish in Tonawanda, St. Vincent de Paul in North Evans, Immaculate Conception in East Aurora and SS. Peter and Paul in Hamburg. He was then assigned as pastor for the first time to St. Mary and St. Mark in Holley and Kendall. He was there for 8 or 9 years and then moved on to become pastor of St. Josaphat in Cheektowaga for 6 years, St. Andrew in Kenmore for 8 years and St. Christopher in Tonawanda for 9 years.  Fr. Slisz retired two years ago from St. Christopher and then “un-retired”, as he put it, this past July to become Rector of St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo where he currently resides. He shared, “For retired priests there are always places to go. Priests need help all the time. I’d be gone all over the place. Saved a lot of gas since I’ve been here!” 

Father Chuck enjoys the theater. He and his friend, Fr. Jim O’Connor, attend shows in Stratford, New York City and the Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo, to name just a few.  When St. Christopher and St. Edmond Parishes merged they wondered what they would do with the worship space at St. Edmond. A group came along and asked if they could rent the space. It became the Ellicott Creek Play House and Fr. Chuck has had the opportunity to do some acting there as well.

Some of the best moments of priesthood occur, in Fr. Chuck’s opinion, “whenever you’re able to facilitate someone’s reconnection with or new awareness of God in their lives. You get a call to a hospital emergency room, you may have no idea who they are but they let you come in and share this most intimate moment.” Preaching is also something he enjoys very much.

The priesthood has its difficult moments as well such as, “dealing with expectations and demands of people that are often times quite unrealistic. I don’t like conflict so when there are staff conflicts, when you have to confront someone with something or, God forbid, fire somebody, that’s the kind of stuff that is really tough.”

For men considering priesthood, Fr. Chuck recommends…Pray! “Pray real hard! Get together with a priest you know to get a sense of what he does in the course of the day.” Fr. Chuck believes it is sometimes possible to have a kind of idealistic view of priesthood that might not be quite accurate and spending time with a priest could clear up any misconceptions. 

As far as his priesthood is concerned, Fr. Chuck exclaimed, “I love it! I never regretted it a day in my life. It’s a joy dealing with people. I praise God for the grace he has given me to be understanding and compassionate, to meet people where they are and not place any unrealistic expectations on anyone.” To quote an old Jimmy Stewart movie, “It’s a wonderful life!” 

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