by PATRICK J. BUECHI
Father Charles Zadora has a pretty low-key outlook of his 50 years as a priest.
“Nothing spectacular here,” he said over the phone, but agreed to an interview nonetheless.
His story is admittedly common. He grew up in a Catholic family in South Buffalo, attended St. Stephen School there, followed by Father Baker High School in Lackawanna, before attending the Diocesan Preparatory Seminary in Buffalo, where he graduated in 1959.
“I used to be attracted to go and help out at the parish with the parish priest and the school. Stuff like that. Just naturally fell into something that I liked to do, so eventually I entered the seminary. That’s all,” he said.
He attended St. John Vianney Seminary (now Christ the King) in East Aurora, then ordained May 20, 1967, at St. Joseph Cathedral in Buffalo by Bishop Stanislaus Brzana.
The group being ordained was so large at the time, 14 men, that the ordinations took place in three locations – Bishop James McNulty served at St. Joseph New Cathedral, Auxiliary Bishop Brzana was present at St. Joseph Cathedral, both in Buffalo, and Bishop Pius Benicasa handled the duties at Our Lady of Victory Basilica in Lackawanna.
“They decided around that time, I think the year before we were ordained, they decided that they would break up the classes into three different churches,” Father Zadora explained.
Having spent his diaconal year at the old cathedral, Father Zadora chose to be ordained there, along with his cousin Stanislaus Chwalinski.
“Both I and my cousin were ordained in the same place. We decided we would go to the old cathedral in part because I had worked there one summer as a deacon.”
His first priestly assignment took him to East Otto and St. Isidore’s, at the time part of the Buffalo Missionary Apostolate. It was a common practice at the time to send newly ordained priests to serve as administrators in the missionary parishes for their first year.
He followed that assignment with pastoral associate positions at St. Bernard, Buffalo; St. Adalbert, Buffalo; St. Mary, Lockport; St. Patrick, Salamanca; Our Lady of Victory Basilica, Lackawanna; St. Bernadette, Orchard Park; and Most Precious Blood, Angola.
In 1984, he received his first pastorate at St. Isaac Jogues, Sherman and St. Thomas More, Ripley. A 10-year assignment at St. Aloysius, Springville, followed. His final assignment took him to St. Joseph Parish in Fredonia.
He has also spent time as chaplain for the Great Valley New York State Division for Youth Camp, administrator of St. Nicholas Parish in North Java, and canonical administrator for Northern Chautauqua Catholic School.
Despite a half-century serving in a dozen parishes, he is hard-pressed to come up with any stories from his years in ministry.
“Hmm. It’s hard to tell. I’m not too much to talk about myself,” he said. “I enjoyed being at Salamanca. My pastor (Father Francis Hogan) was very helpful, very good at giving me lots of nice opportunities to do things. I worked with the people in the community, with the community youth and things like that.”
He retired in August of last year at the age of 75 and moved to the Bishop Head Residence in Lackawanna. He helps out at some parishes, celebrating Mass when the pastor is unavailable. He also spends time going to doctor visits. A couple years ago, he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a type of cancer that causes bone marrow to produce too many lymphocytes, cells used to fight infection.
“It’s no big deal to me because it’s not something that’s going to kill me or anything like that. If you have that kind of leukemia, it’s not the worst thing in the world,” he said, in his typical unassuming way. “I have been doing a lot of doctoring things. It calls for chemotherapy. I’ve just been reading and things like that. I’ve been helping out in the parishes. I was helping out a little bit at Blessed Sacrament in Tonawanda and a couple other parishes, just helping out saying Mass when the pastor couldn’t be doing anything.”
A member of the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of St. John, Fathr Zadora also served on the media committee of the diocesan Office of Communications, and served as a member of the Springville Ecumenical Association.
Father Zadora also belonged to the Interfaith holocaust Commemoration Commitee of Dunkirk and the Springville Clergy Association.
Although he doesn’t say much, he does have a lot of warm feelings for the past half-century.
“I love being a priest,” he said. “I love doing what I do, and I’m good, particularly, at the liturgy. I like caring for people and visiting the hospital, which is a big thing in my life.”