Lilly Parish Celebrates Former Pastor’s 60th Anniversary of Ordination

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By Tony DeGol
Proclaim!

Gratitude and joy filled Our Lady of the Alleghenies Parish in Lilly in honor of a former pastor’s remarkable milestone.

A Mass of Thanksgiving was celebrated on June 2 to mark Monsignor John Sasway’s 60th anniversary of priestly ordination.

“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, Monsignor Sasway is the longest serving pastor of Our Lady of the Alleghenies. He led the faith community from its founding in 1995 until he retired from active ministry in 2018.

Joining Monsignor was every priest who served the parish, including former pastor Father Kevin Queally, TOR, former temporary administrator Father Timothy Harris, TOR, and the current pastor Father Matthew Reese, who was the celebrant and homilist of the Mass.

Father Reese noted that just months into Monsignor Sasway’s ministry as a priest, Pope John XXIII convened the Second Vatican Council.

“Therefore, the Church you knew growing up was about to change significantly,” pointed out Father Reese. “You, being ordained at the time you were, would become one of the priests that would be charged with the duty of seeing the Church through that time of change. You remained steadfast and sturdy through it all.”

Father also reminded the faithful that Monsignor remained in active ministry beyond the normal priestly retirement age of 75.

“Your zeal and love for the priesthood motivated you to continue your ministry above and beyond the call of duty,” Father Reese said. “Your witness is something that all priests can aspire to and thank you for, as well.”

A native of Saint Edward Parish in Barnesboro, Monsignor Sasway was ordained on May 19, 1962, and served as parochial vicar at Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish in Altoona; Saint Aloysius Parish in Cresson; and Saint Matthew Parish in Tyrone. He was also a Religion instructor at Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School in Altoona and Bishop Carroll Catholic High School in Ebensburg.

His first pastorate was at Saint Matthew in Tyrone, followed by service as pastor at Assumption Parish in Portage and then Our Lady of the Alleghenies.

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

Monsignor Sasway served for 20 years as the dean of the Allegheny Deanery.

Beyond his extensive assignments and impressive titles, Monsignor is most grateful for the simple blessings he has received, not the least of which was his time at Our Lady of the Alleghenies. He describes those years as among the happiest of his life, and he credits the parishioners and their commitment to the Catholic faith.

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

[Photos: Monsignor John Sasway flashes a happy smile following a Mass of Thanksgiving in honor of his 60th anniversary of priestly ordination. (Inset) Joining Monsignor Sasway (center) for the Mass were (left to right) Father Kevin Queally, TOR; Deacon Sam Albarano; Father Matthew Reese; and Father Timothy Harris, TOR.]