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The Rev. Francis J. Cusimano, a missionary in Africa who began his clerical career in Western New York, died Wednesday (Nov. 18, 1998) of a heart attack in Lagos, Nigeria, where he had served for 17 years. He was 61.

A Buffalo native, Father Cusimano was pastor of Christ the King Catholic Church in Lagos. He also served as pastor of two mission parishes in rural areas, where he built the churches of St. Francis Mission in Idimu and St. Peter Mission in Ejgbo.

Father Frank, as he was called, was known in Western New York for his work during the early 1970s establishing and administering the Marriage Encounter Program for the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

His missionary work began in 1976, when he accepted an assignment to the Jesuit Horizons for Justice Program, designed to help developing nations.

Father Cusimano was ordained a priest June 13, 1968, in Christ the King Chapel at Canisius College. He celebrated his 25th anniversary in the priesthood there in 1993.

As a youth, he was a member of St. Aloysius Gonzaga Catholic Church in Cheektowaga. He graduated from Cleveland Hill High School and attended Canisius College until entering the novitiate of the Jesuit order in 1955 at St. Andrew's on the Hudson.

He earned a bachelor of science degree in biology and a master's degree in philosophy from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., and master's degrees in divinity and sacred theology from Woodstock (Md.) College.

He was a professor of biology at Canisius High School from 1962 to 1965.

Survivors include a sister, Jeanne P. Kennedy of Buffalo, and a brother, Dr. James J. of Bethlehem, Pa.

A Mass of Remembrance and Thanksgiving will be offered at 5 p.m. Wednesday in Canisius' Christ the King Chapel, 2001 Main St.[hjons]

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