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Archives Three priests hit 50th jubilee milestone

May 27, 2020

By Darcy Fargo

Three priests of the diocese are celebrating their 50th jubilees this year, Msgr. Robert H. Aucoin, Msgr. Dennis J. Duprey and Father Francis J. Flynn.

Msgr. Aucoin
A Massachusetts native, Msgr. Aucoin, now age 76, studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph’s Apostolic School in Watertown with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. He completed his novitiate with the religious order in Canada and attended Laval University in Canada and Gregorian University in Rome.

He was ordained March 14, 1970 as a Missionary of the Sacred Heart in Rome. In 1973, he was incardinated as a priest of the Diocese of Ogdensburg. He later earned a master’s degree in education from Ottawa University and has completed Ph. D. course work in theology at St. Paul University, Ottawa. He also holds a New York State Permanent Certificate in School Administration and in School District Administration, as well as one in guidance and teaching.

Msgr. Aucoin’s first pastoral assignment was as parochial vicar at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart Church in Watertown and as a teacher at Immaculate Heart Central School in Watertown. In 1975, he was appointed director of the Family Life Department and, in 1977, principal of IHC. He has also been a chaplain at Fort Drum, pastor in Evans Mills, administrator in Lake Placid and pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Watertown.

Msgr. Aucoin served as president of Mater Dei College from 1986 to 1988 until his assignment at St. Patrick’s, Watertown. In 1991, he moved back to Ogdensburg to serve as rector of St. Mary’s Cathedral and chancellor of the diocese. In the following year, he was named a monsignor and also served the diocese as Episcopal Vicar for Diocesan Services.

In 1994, Msgr. Aucoin was named pastor in Madrid and, two years later, was named rector-president of Wadhams Hall Seminary-College, a position he held until the seminary closed in 2002.

That year he was named Episcopal Vicar for Education, now Episcopal Vicar for Education and the New Evangelization, and also served as director of the permanent deacon formation program from 2001 to 2013.
During 2003, he served as administrator of Norwood. From October of 2003 until June 2006, he was pastor in Alexandria Bay and Redwood. He then served as principal at Seton Catholic. He became pastor in Potsdam and Colton in 2010.

He served at St. Anthony’s and St. Patrick’s in Watertown from 2015 to 2018 before becoming pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Evans Mills, St. Paul’s in Black River and St. Rita’s in Deferiet with missions of St. Theresa of Avila in Theresa and St. Joseph’s Church in Philadelphia in 2018.

In August 2019, he became pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Waddington and St. John the Baptist Church in Madrid. He remains Episcopal Vicar for Education and the New Evangelization.

Msgr. Aucoin said he’s been blessed to spend a significant portion of his priesthood in education.
“In my years in the schools, I’ve been able to see people continue to practice their faith and continue to achieve all they could achieve,” he said. “That’s been a blessing.”

He noted, though, that he’s seen changes in how parents approach their children’s education.

“Parents today expect that the schools will be perfect and provide everything for their children that they don’t provide,” he said. “That’s a change.”

Msgr. Aucoin said his parish assignments have also been a blessing to him.

“I’ve had many assignments as a priest,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed every one, and every one has been different. That’s been a blessing. I’ve had to adapt to each community and situation.”

He noted that serving people in some of their hardest moments has created lasting memories for him.

“Just about every funeral I’ve done has created a memory of some kind,” he said. “We’re dealing with people at vulnerable parts of their lives. It’s helping the living and learning more about the faith life of the deceased.”

Msgr. Duprey
Msgr. Dennis J. Duprey, 75, studied for the priesthood at Wadhams Hall Seminary, St. Bernard’s Seminary in Rochester and the University of Louvain in Belgium. He was ordained at Louvain June 27, 1970, by Archbishop Ignio Cardinale, papal nuncio to Belgium.

Msgr. Duprey’s first assignment was as assistant pastor at Notre Dame in Malone. In 1974, he was named associate diocesan director of the Religious Education Department and assistant pastor at Notre Dame in Ogdensburg. Five years later, he was appointed director of religious education, a position he held until 1986, the year he became director of Priest Personnel, a position he held until 1997. He has also served as Co-Vicar for Religious of Diocese from 1994 to 2004.

Msgr. Duprey also served as a prison chaplain from 1983 to 2003 first at the Ogdensburg Correction Facility, and at the Upstate Correctional Facility in Malone. Through the years, he has been an advocate for criminal justice issues of the state and local level, as well as a member of the New York State Catholic Conference Public Policy Committee on Criminal Justice Issues.

Msgr. Duprey noted that this ministry has been one of the most impactful of his time as a priest.

“I didn’t really want that job,” he said. “I told Bishop Brzana I didn’t want to go. I went into it with a bad attitude. Now, I sometimes think it was the most important single assignment I received. All the other assignments have been important, but God taught me a big lesson in the prisons. I didn’t think there would be faith in the prisons, but God taught me that He’s always ahead of you and there when you arrive. I wasn’t there to bring God to the people, but to discover God in the world in which they live.”

From 1992 to 1994, Msgr. Duprey was administrator in Hammond and Rossie. In 1997, he was named pastor at Notre Dame Church in Malone, later being named pastor of the Malone Catholic Parishes, now St. André Bessette Parish.

In 2010, he became pastor of St. Peter’s Church in Plattsburgh. He will become administrator of St. Augustine’s Parish in Peru later this year.

Msgr. Duprey said the most rewarding part of his priesthood has been accompanying people.

“The most rewarding part has been being introduced to the most sacred parts of peoples’ lives,” he said. “When you’re a priest, people tell you things they’ve never spoken out loud before. It’s almost shocking to have that privilege, and to know they’re sharing with me not because of who I am personally, but because I represent the Church and God. Sometimes people are sharing the worst things you can think of, sometimes they’re sharing their deepest joys. It’s stunning to me. I know other people are in positions in which people bear their souls to them sometimes, but it’s a pretty regular thing for a priest. We don’t receive direct preparation for that. I don’t think there is a way to prepare for it. When someone tells us something, we’re holding something very delicate. It’s a treasure.”

Father Flynn
A native of Massena, Father Francis J. Flynn studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph¹s Seminary in Yonkers and at the North American College at Rome. He was ordained in December of 1969 at St. Peter¹s Basilica in Rome.

In 1970, he received an STL degree from the Gregorian University in Rome.

Father Flynn¹s first assignment was as an assistant pastor at St. John’s in Plattsburgh. In 1973, he joined the Ogdensburg Peruvian Apostolate, serving in Mollendo, Peru, until 1981.

His time in Peru had a lasting impact on him.

“My years in South America made a mark on me,” he said. “It’s lasted right up to this day. When I first came back, my body was here, but my heart was there. It took a long time to get them back together again.”

While he noted it was difficult to pinpoint exactly why the experience was so impactful, Father Flynn said part of it was the character of the people in Mollendo.

“You’re welcomed; you’re the stranger,” he said. “I think part of the reason they’re so welcoming is that family is very important to them. The fact that you’d leave your family to be with them said it all and showed them how important they were. The people there took you under their wings, and you were kind of dependent on them in a way.”

Upon his return to the United States, Father Flynn was associate pastor at St. Joseph’s in Malone. In 1982, he was named pastor in Lake Clear and campus minister at Paul Smiths College.

Father Flynn left the diocese in 1984 to work with the Maryknoll order for two years. Upon his return, he was assigned to North Bangor where he served as pastor until 1995 when he was assigned as parochial vicar at St. Augustine’s in Peru. For several months in 1996 he took part in a sabbatical program in Jerusalem.

Upon his return in June 1996, he was named pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Campus Parish in Potsdam. In 1999, he was named pastor in Bloomingdale and Gabriels where he continued in campus ministry at Paul Smiths College and served as a part-time prison chaplain at Camp Gabriels until moving to Constable in 2002. He served as pastor of the Catholic Community of Constable, Westville and Trout River until 2012.

Father Flynn was named pastor in Elizabethtown and Westport in 2012, taking on the responsibilities as pastor of the Catholic Community of St. Philip Neri and St. Joseph in Willsboro in 2015. He retired in January 2020.

Father Flynn said the multi-parish configurations were something he didn’t’ foresee when he became a priest 50 years ago.

“When I was ordained, I never thought I would end my last years as a parish priest almost like a circuit rider,” he said. “I never imagined having two or three parishes. When I was growing up in Massena, there were three priests. My experience of priests wasn’t that they were alone.”

In fact, Father Flynn said he initially considered joining an order as a missionary priest.

“Honestly, I didn’t know what I was doing when I went into seminary,” he said. “I wanted to be a missionary. When I talked to my pastor, he convinced me I wanted to be a diocesan priest. In the end, I was able to be a diocesan priest on mission.”

Father Flynn was able to celebrate his jubilee in Mollendo in February and early March, just barely escaping the country before its borders were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was supposed to leave March 17 to come home,” he said. “There were no rumors of a lockdown – no talk of anything like that. I had a thought to leave early. Through a friend, I was able to get a seat on a plane for the 15th. When I was arriving in Montreal, the president of Peru was issuing a statement closing the borders and imposing a curfew. I wouldn’t have been able to leave if I had waited.”

The jubilees will be celebrated in conjunction with the Chrism Mass, which will likely be a private celebration.

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