The Rev. John G. Sturm, a Jesuit priest whose colorful reflections on life and spirituality endeared him to Catholics from various backgrounds, died Saturday in Sisters of Charity Hospital. He was 95.
Father Sturm was well-known in Buffalo as the "downtown priest" who gave folksy homilies during Masses at St. Michael Church on Washington Street for many years.
The Buffalo native grew up in Buffalo's Schiller Park neighborhood and was a 1935 graduate of Canisius High School.
He played football at Canisius College, entered the Jesuit Seminary at St. Andrew-on-Hudson in 1937 and was ordained into the Jesuit order in 1950.
In 1952, Father Sturm was appointed prefect of discipline at Canisius High School, a post he held for 18 years.
The late Tim Russert, the Canisius High School graduate who went on to fame as the moderator of NBC-TV's "Meet the Press," used to enjoy relating the story of how Father Sturm caught him in the hallway one day when Russert wasn't supposed to be out of the classroom.
Russert, the story goes, appealed to Father Sturm for mercy, and the priest responded by saying, "Mercy is for God. I deliver justice."
After doling out discipline, Father Sturm moved into marriage counseling, and he directed hundreds of weekend retreats for married and engaged couples.
He served as associate pastor of St. Michael parish for more than 20 years, and he had a following of Catholics who commuted into downtown for his homilies or to have him hear their confessions.
His columns for the parish bulletin over the years became such a popular read that Father Sturm compiled them into a series of three books, featuring his philosophical and often-humorous musings on any number of topics.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in St. Michael Church, 651 Washington St.