Home Page Home Page Events Events Photos Photos Diocese of Ogdensburg Home Page  
Follow Us on Facebook

Archives Wadhams Hall grads gather for 50th reunion

Sept. 15, 2021

By Darcy Fargo

OGDENSBURG – Laughter and liturgy filled Wadhams Hall recently, as graduates of the seminary college gathered there Sept. 7 to 9 to celebrate their 50th reunion.

“Last year was actually our 50th, but we had to postpone due to the pandemic,” said Joe Fanelli of Utica, part of the Wadhams Hall class of 1970.

“We graduated June 7, 1970,” added Tom Lemmo of Syracuse, who served as the reunion treasurer. “Tom McKeown put a lot of this together. There were 28 of us in our graduating class – some from the Diocese of Ogdensburg, some from the Diocese of Syracuse and some from Diocese of Patterson (New Jersey). Tom started developing a spreadsheet and trying to find everyone. Amazingly, he came up with almost half the class on his own, and between us, we were able to find a lot of others. Tom asked about having a reunion. More and more of us who weren’t in ministry were now retired and had more availability to travel, and the guys who are priests are also retired. It seemed like a good time to do it.”

The group gathered in Ogdensburg for a few days last week, some staying at Wadhams Hall and some opting to stay at the nearby Inn at Gran View. Attending were Lemmo, Fanelli, McKeown of Syracuse, George Ranous of Oswego, Dan Gennarelli of Baltimore, Father Paul J. Kelly of Saranac Lake, Father Fred Dailey of Syracuse, Father John Buehler of Utica, and Father Jim Cesta of Utica.

“We would’ve had more, but people were stuck because of Hurricane Ida,” said Fanelli. “Either they themselves were flooded or their parishes were experiencing flooding.”

Instead, the group was able to connect with classmates who couldn’t attend in an evening digital meeting after Mass on Sept. 8, a Mass that was also attended by Msgr. Paul Whitmore, who served as faculty at Wadhams Hall when the men attended the school.

Those attending the reunions said being in the former seminary building together again felt comfortable and familiar.

“This building is structurally and substantively the same as it was back then,” said Fanelli. “Some of the rooms that used to be doubles have been adjusted to singles and guest rooms, but the gym is still there, and there’s the board right there that used to hold our TV, and we used to make our phone calls in that alcove right there. There was one phone, and we had to fight over who was going to call when.”

“And none of us had any money, so we’d call collect,” added Lemmo.

Memories such as those filled their reunion time, as the men spent their time together reminiscing about their days at the school and former classmates and faculty.

“It’s wonderful to be back,” said Lemmo. “There’s a sense of family that never disappeared over the 50 years. The big difference is that when we first came here, there was that sense of awe and apprehension. We didn’t know what was happening. Coming back, we didn’t have that apprehension we had back then.”

“We’re trying to see how many of our classmates’ names we can remember,” said Gennarelli. “We’ve been doing that since we got here.”

“There were 60 in our freshman class, and we graduated with 28,” noted Lemmo. “We’re trying to remember as many of those guys as we can.”

The men also reflected on how much had changed in the North Country, in their lives and in the Church since they became friends so many years ago.

“I joined the class later on,” said Father Kelly. “Back then, the psych center was at its peak. There were probably 3,000 people there, and it was a huge operation. I used to work at the psych center. It’s since gotten so small.”

“We were here in the ‘60s,” added Father Cesta. “The Church was in a period of transition with Vatican II, and society was changing. We were on the cusp of it.”

“There are pictures over there of some of us protesting against the war in Vietnam,” added Lemmo. “That didn’t go over so well with Bishop Brzana.”

Whether reminiscing, sharing a meal or sharing in the celebration of the liturgy, the reunion group said they were pleased to be together.

“We’re lifelong friends,” said Father Cesta.

North Country Catholic North Country Catholic is
honored by Catholic Press
Association of US & Canada

Copyright © Roman Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg. All rights reserved.