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Archives Reflecting joy, Christ to the nursing home

Sept. 25, 2019

By Jessica Hargrave
Contributing writerSturtz

OGDENSBURG – At St. Joseph’s Home in Ogdensburg, there’s a light that shines down the halls, into the private resident rooms and into the chapel. That light is Father Richard S. Sturtz.

A staple of the facility, Father Sturtz sees beyond the dementia and chronic illness, offering words of comfort and sparking smiles from residents.

A resident of Ogdensburg, Father Sturtz, who is 88 years old, ministers to his neighbors at the nursing home saying Mass, anointing the sick, offering counsel and just adding joy to the lives of those at the home, residents, visitors and staff alike.

“Welcome to the only chapel in the diocese with air conditioning,” joked Father Sturtz, opening Mass on Aug. 18 at the nursing home. He was answered with laughter erupting from his faithful listeners.

In addition to St. Joseph’s Home residents, visitors also attend Mass at the chapel, eager to hear the beloved priest preach the word of God. Father Sturtz delivered a homily that dug into “faith seeking understanding.”

His ministry continues after Mass, as he checks in on residents, and staff in the cafeteria. “What are you up to? Why are you leaving the table?” he asked one resident, as he spotted a friendly, yet confused face. “You walked away from all that good food.”

Father Sturtz then gently guided the resident back to her seat.

“Thank you so much,” she said gratefully.

Caring and understanding ate both popular words used to describe Father Sturtz.

“No matter where he sees you, he says hello and says something nice,” said Lucretia “Pete” Smith.

Fellow retired priest and nursing home resident Monsignor Harry K. Snow said having Father Sturtz as a Chaplin and resident at St. Joseph’s Home is a blessing.

“He’s great with visiting with everybody and knows everyone’s names,” Msgr. Snow said. “That’s quite a gift and makes people feel important.”

A native of the North Country, Father Strutz was born in Lowville on Jan. 16, 1931. As a young man, he attended seminary at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts, Wadhams Hall in Ogdensburg, and Theological College in Washington, D.C.

He returned to the Diocese of Ogdensburg in 1956, when he became a professor and vocations director at Wadhams Hall, a position he held for the next 26 years. From there, his assignments included pastor in AuSable Forks, Black Brook, Morrisonville, Treadwell Mills, Schroon Lake, and Olmstedville. He retired to his current home at Notre Dame Cathedral in Ogdensburg in 2014.

His ministry didn’t end with retirement, though. He said he has always known he was called to hospital ministry. That calling led him to become the chaplain at St. Joseph’s Home.

“I really love my people here,” Father Sturtz said. “Many like to hear a joke every now and then. And to see the smiles on their faces, it’s a very rewarding ministry. I’m in excellent health, thanks be to God, so the fact that I can do this at 88 is great, and I’ll do it for as long as I can.” He adds that besides visiting and chatting with residents, he likes frequenting the facility’s rehab center.

Humbly, Father Sturtz said he can’t take all the credit for the positive environment at St. Joseph’s Home. He calls the facility an outstanding nursing home with staff who provides excellent care, “I would be very happy to spend my last days here if that’s the Lord’s will.”

Mass is celebrated at St. Joseph’s Home Monday through Friday at 10:50 a.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m.

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