Beloved Senior Priest Remembered for His Joy for Ministry

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By Tony DeGol
Proclaim!

The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is mourning the passing of a beloved Senior Priest.

Monsignor John Sasway passed on March 1, 2023, at John Paul II Manor in Cresson.

Born on August 18, 1935, the son of the late John and Anna (Tinnick) Sasway, Monsignor Sasway was a native of Saint Edward Parish in Barnesboro. He attended Saint Vincent College in Latrobe and Saint Vincent Seminary in Latrobe.

He was ordained to the priesthood on May 19, 1962, and served as Assistant Pastor at Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Altoona, Saint Aloysius Parish in Cresson, and Saint Matthew Parish in Tyrone.

During his early years as a priest, Monsignor Sasway was also a Religion instructor at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School in Altoona and Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg.

He was Administrator of Saint Matthew Parish in Tyrone from 1973-1978 and Pastor of the parish from 1978-1981. From 1981-1995, he was Pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Portage. He served as Pastor of Our Lady of the Alleghenies Parish in Lilly from its founding in 1995 until his retirement and appointment to Senior Priest status in 2018.

Monsignor Sasway was named a chaplain to His Holiness Pope John Paul II with the title “Monsignor” in 1994.

Beyond parish life, Monsignor served for 20 years as the Dean of the Allegheny Deanery, was a regional vocations director, and held seats on the Presbyteral Council and Priests’ Personnel Board.

His retirement came well after he was 75, the usual age at which priests retire. At the time, he publicly stated that as long as the Lord blessed him with good health, he was willing to continue in active ministry serving the people of God.

Monsignor Sasway’s example and dedication were an inspiration to his brother priests.   

“There was something joyful about Monsignor Sasway’s demeanor and priestly ministry,” said the Very Reverend John Byrnes, JCL, JV, Rector of the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel in Loretto and Judicial Vicar for the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. “He enjoyed being with his brother priests and always talked about his happiness with the heart of priestly ministry, celebrating Mass and hearing confessions. For many years, he placed tropical calla lilies near the altar for Easter. He took great care with the holidays.”

Last year, Monsignor Sasway marked the 60th anniversary of his ordination with a special Mass at Our Lady of the Alleghenies.

“I want to begin by thanking almighty God for the 86 years of life He has given me, and I cannot thank Him enough for giving me 60 of those years to minister and serve in the priesthood – to serve God’s people, my brothers and sisters,” commented Monsignor during the beautiful liturgy. “How can I not thank Him for giving me 23 years of pastoral service to the good people of this parish?”

In fact, during an interview with Proclaim! TV following the Mass, he described his years at Our Lady of the Alleghenies as among the happiest of his life, and he credited the parishioners and their commitment to the Catholic faith.

“They lived it, they practiced it, and they spread it,” he added. “What a wonderful thing to be pastor of this parish here in Lilly.”

A funeral Mass for Monsignor Sasway was celebrated on March 7 at Our Lady of the Alleghenies Parish in Lilly with Bishop Mark presiding.