Sept. 21, 1931 – March 9, 2020
Rev. Donald Lawrence Measer, priest in residence at St. Amelia’s Catholic Church in the Town of Tonawanda, died Monday – the 57th anniversary of his ordination – in Kenmore Mercy Hospital after a period of declining health. He was 88.
Born in Buffalo, he attended Blessed Trinity School and Bennett High School, then earned an associate degree in sales and advertising from Bryant and Stratton Business Institute, now Bryant and Stratton College.
A movie lover, he worked as an usher for the Shea’s and Dipson theaters. He particularly enjoyed his duties at Shea’s Kensington and the North Park, where he was the manager.
He joined the Naval Reserve during the Korean War, then saw the truce declared on his first day of boot camp. He spent two years on active duty at the Naval Submarine Base in New London, Conn., where he befriended the Catholic chaplain, the Rev. Jim Sullivan.
According to a story he often recounted, Sullivan asked him if he ever considered becoming a priest.
“I don’t think I’m holy enough or smart enough,” Rev. Measer said that he replied.
“That is not for you to decide,” Sullivan told him. “The seminary decides that.”
After studying in the Seminary of Our Lady of Angels at Niagara University and at St. John Vianney Seminary in East Aurora, Rev. Measer was ordained March 9, 1963. He also did postgraduate work at Boston College.
He was first assigned as associate pastor at Holy Family Church in Machias and Mother of Divine Grace Church in Cheektowaga, served as chaplain at Bishop Neumann High School in Amherst, then was associate pastor at Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Buffalo and served in the campus ministry at Bryant and Stratton.
He went on to be campus minister at SUNY Fredonia for 14 years, then was campus minister at Daemen College.
In 1984, he was assigned as pastor of St. Lawrence Church in Buffalo, from which he retired in 1992. Since then, he had been in residence at St. Amelia’s, where he delivered sermons, officiated at weddings and provided spiritual direction.
He also enjoyed traveling, watching classic movies and supporting the ministries of the Sisters of St. Francis.
Known for his storytelling, he drew from his youth and his career in his sermons. One of them was featured during Lent in 2004 in The Buffalo News. He said, in part:
“A hundred years ago, when I was in grammar school, Lenten resolutions were seldom a private affair.
“On Shrove Tuesday, the nun turned on me. ‘What are you, Donald, giving up for Lent?’
“My answer: ‘Cauliflower.’
“For that quip I had to write 300 times ‘I will not act silly in class.’
“But the idea of giving up cauliflower seemed like a splendid idea. My best friend was giving up homework. The girl down the block was giving up her little brother. For six full weeks she did not talk to him or even acknowledge his existence.
“It was pointed out to me, with a long index finger, that this type of giving up was really self-serving and insincere. I had to give up something that I liked – and then I was told: ‘The more you love God, the more you will give up!’
“Well, I didn’t have to look far. On my dresser were enough Hershey bars to survive five years in a bomb shelter.
“And in a moment of insane generosity I promised God I would forgo Saturday movies! Just think, six weeks without a chocolate-smudge on my hands or a horror movie in my eye.
“Then, many, many years later, when I was in the Navy, I asked myself what was the logic of giving things up? Did God like you more when you were denying yourself things that you enjoyed? Was God always saying: ‘That’s a really great thing. Why don’t you give it up?’
“What was the purpose of being hungry, when being full was so great? And the deeper question, did I give things up, because deep down, I didn’t like myself?
“What is the reason for abstaining, doing without?
“Answer: Lent asks the question, who or what is in charge of my life? Lent asks the question of ownership.
“Do I smoke the cigarette or does the cigarette smoke me? Do I pursue wealth or does money lead me around by the nose? Is the bottle pouring itself, or is it in the hand of a free person? Do I drive the car or does the car drive me? Does one enjoy sex, or is one enslaved to our sexual drives? Do we pray to seek God’s will or to keep God off our back?
“The Lenten question is not as I had supposed: What things are good and what things are bad? The Lenten question is: How do good things go bad? How do the good things we have and enjoy become oppressive to ourselves and others?
“Lent calls us to take a hard, honest look at the choices we make and the values upon which we actually live our lives.”
Rev. Measer will lie in state in St. Amelia’s Church, 2999 Eggert Road, Town of Tonawanda, beginning at 3 p.m. March 12. A Mass of Christian Burial will be offered at 6 p.m.