John R. Fitzgerald, former executive vice president of Clark Supply Co., always wanted one of his sons to become a priest.
None did, but he did himself. Sunday, at the age of 68, he celebrated his first Mass of Thanksgiving in St. John's Catholic Church.
"Exciting" is the word Father Fitzgerald, a widower, chose to describe the experience.
Two of his 13 children died in infancy but most of the others, and 30 grandchildren, were on hand for the momentous occasion.
"It was a big moment of my life, a tremendous feeling, an overpowering feeling," the new priest said.
When his wife, Sara, died unexpectedly in 1984, he felt lost. He read an article about older men joining the priesthood and finally interviewed at Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Mass., the first seminary geared toward men considering the priesthood as a second career.
If "exciting" was the word for Sunday's first Mass, "fulfilling" was the word for four years of study. "We can all learn so much," Father Fitzgerald said. "I'm still looking forward to more schooling."
Ordained as a transitional deacon last December, he was ordained to the priesthood Saturday by Bishop Edward D. Head at St. Joseph's Cathedral in Buffalo. That was exciting too . . . "a big privilege for me," Father Fitzgerald said.
The new priest will serve in the Buffalo Diocese. His home parish is Our Lady of Lourdes in Bemus Point.