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Archives Father Hart remembered as ‘humble man’

Aug. 31, 2022

By Darcy Fargo

“He was a humble man. He was quiet and deeply spiritual.”

That was how Father John L. “Jack” Downs remembered his friend, Father Rolland A. Hart.

Father Hart died August 13 in Williston, Vermont, where he had been residing in retirement. He was 85 years old.

Father Downs said he first became acquainted with Father Hart when Father Downs was assigned to Sacred Heart in Massena for his first assignment after ordination.

“He was a senior in high school when I came to Sacred Heart in 1955,” Father Downs said. “I kept in touch with him after that.”

Father Hart attended Sacred Heart School in Massena through grade 8 and graduated from Massena High School, entering Wadhams Hall Seminary after graduation. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 23, 1964.

Father Downs noted that Father Hart’s family spoke French in the home.

“His mother wouldn’t allow English to be spoken in the home. He had to learn to speak English,” Father Downs said, noting his friend participated in an intensive English immersion program and worked hard to master the language. “And his English was flawless.”

While the two priests didn’t cross paths frequently for many years, they were reunited in 1990 when they both participated in a “Post Emmaus study group” that met regularly.

“It was a group of eight of us,” Father Downs said. “We’d meet and spend most of a day together. It would be two meals. We’d take turn hosting.”

Through that group, Father Downs got to know Father Hart a bit better.

“He was very self-effacing and sincere,” Father Downs said. “He had a depth of spirituality that was significant. He was very quiet, and you could see the humility of the man. I think that was something that drew parishioners to him.”

Father Downs said he served in Redwood for a time, and Father Hart was his “third successor in Redwood.” Father Downs said the community there had experienced some turmoil prior to Father Hart’s arrival.

“He carried out a lot of healing there,” Father Downs said. “He was also into the charismatic movement, and he established prayer groups in the parish. He was wonderful for the parish.”

The two priests both retired in 2004, and Father Hart moved to Vermont shortly after. Father Downs said he would often visit Father Hart when he traveled to Burlington transporting individuals for medical appointments.

“I’d contact him, and we’d get together for lunch,” Father Downs said. “The last time I saw him at his house, it was five years ago. He was already into dementia. It was heart breaking to see him that way. Three years ago, I went to see him when he was in the (memory care) facility in Williston.”

At that visit, Father Downs celebrated Mass. He was joined by the pastor serving the parish Father Hart attended in Vermont, and the Mass was attended by Father Hart’s longtime friend Linda Perrin and other facility residents.

“We vested (Father) Rolland,” Father Downs said. “At consecration, he extended his hand twice, but he didn’t say anything. At the end, (Father Hart) said ‘this is what it’s all about.’ The facility director couldn’t believe he talked. He never said a word except that one phrase at the end of Mass.”

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated for Father Hart on August 24. A complete obituary is included below.


Mass of Christian Burial celebrated for Father Hart

A Mass of Christian Burial for Father Rolland A. Hart was celebrated at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, August 24, at Sacred Heart Church in Massena. Bishop Terry R. LaValley, bishop of the Diocese of Ogdensburg, celebrated the

Mass with the priests of the diocese, and Father Paul J. Kelly offered the homily.

Father Hart’s remains were interred next to his parents at Sacred Heart Cemetery.

Father Hart, 85, died Saturday, August 13, 2022, in Williston, Vermont, where he resided.

Born July 9, 1937, in Massena, he was the son of Armand and Marie (Paige) Hart. His parents predeceased him.

As a youth, he attended Sacred Heart School through grade eight and later Massena Central High School. He entered Wadhams Hall Seminary in 1955, studying both there and at Christ the King Seminary in the Diocese of Buffalo. He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Thomas Donnellan in St. Mary’s Cathedral, Ogdensburg, on May 23, 1964.

After ordination, Father Hart served as parochial vicar at St. Alexander’s Church in Morrisonville, St. Peter’s Church in Lowville and St. Patrick’s Church in Chateaugay, where he also served as administrator, and Notre Dame Church in Malone; and as pastor of St. Rita’s Church in Deferiet, St. Theresa of Avila Church in Theresa, St. Francis Xavier Church in Redwood, St. Mary’s of the Fort Church in Fort Covington, St. Joseph’s Church in Bombay, St. Francis Solanus Church in Harrisville, St. Raphael’s Church in Heuvelton, St. Gabriel Church in Indian Lake and St. Mary’s Church in Blue Mountain Lake, and St. Paul’s Church in Blue Mountain Lake. He also served as diocesan director of Scouting, on the Senate of Priests for the diocese and as chaplain at Gouverneur Correctional Facility.

Father Hart retired in 2004.

Father Hart is survived by three sisters and a brother-in-law, Delores Lancto, Lucielle Dishaw, and Frances and Earl Taylor, and many nieces and nephews.

In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by four sisters and three brothers-in-law, Norma Callahan, Irene and George Gates, Raymond Lancto and Robert Dishaw, and two sisters who died in infancy.

Arrangements are through Stephen Gregory and Sons funeral home, Shelburne, Vermont.

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