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Archives Twin priests serve for combined 85 years

June 21, 2023

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing Writer

On May 6, Father Douglas Decker celebrated his 45th anniversary as a priest. On May 7, his twin brother, Father Robert Decker, celebrated his 40th anniversary. Father Doug noted that between them that makes for 85 years of priestly service, and the Fathers’ Decker continue to joyfully share God’s love with others.

“We grew up on a farm in Hammond, three miles from the St. Lawrence, near Ogdensburg,” Father Doug shared.

“We attended public school. We were trained in the faith by our parents (Robert Decker and Mary Aline Constance Amyot Decker), family and good priests. Our mother was Catholic and our father was Presbyterian but came to Sunday Mass with us too. We went to First Friday and First Saturday devotions, and Holy Hours. Our grandparents came too.”

These experiences helped lay the foundation for their vocations to the priesthood. After high school, both Father Bob and Father Doug attended Oswego State University to obtain elementary school teaching degrees.

Prior to pursuing the priesthood, Father Bob taught elementary school. During this time, he also obtained a master’s degree in education at Potsdam State University.

“I went into the Peace Corps,” Father Doug explained. “I served in Micronesia, Chuuk District. I sensed a call to the priesthood. After my return home, I signed into Wadhams Hall.”

He studied philosophy for two years then moved on to Christ the King Seminary. In 1977 he was ordained a Deacon and the following year a Priest.

“About that time, I asked my twin if he’d like to join the seminary,” added Father Doug. “He said he was happy teaching school. On August 4, 1978 – on the feast day of St. John Vianney, the patron of parish priests – he left me a note about his interest in a vocation to the priesthood. Thus, he entered Wadhams Hall.”

Following, Father Bob went on to study theology and was ordained in 1983. He served as parochial vicar at several different parishes: Holy Family Church (Watertown), St. John the Evangelist (Lafargeville), Sacred Heart (Massena), St. Agnes (Lake Placid), and St. Mary’s (Clayton). 

In 1995, Father Bob was named pastor at St. Therese Church (Newcomb) and St. Henry’s (Long Lake). He also served as pastor at St. Francis Solanus Church (Harrisville) with St. Henry’s Oratory (Natural Bridge); St. Hubert’s Church (Star Lake) with St. Michael’s Oratory (Fine) and St. Anthony of Padua Oratory (Newton Falls); St. Paul’s Church (Black River) and St. Rita’s Church (Deferiet).

At 47 years old, Father Bob learned Spanish. He went on missionary duty to Ogdensburg’s Peruvian Apostolate in Mollendo, Peru, South America from 1998 to 2003. After, he returned to parish duty in the diocese. Father Bob currently serves as pastor at St. Cecilia’s Church in Adams with its mission Queen of Heaven Church in Henderson.

Although their vocations have taken them to different places and they have assumed unique roles, the identical twin priests have had some amusing experiences together. Father Bob related one such story:

“I had three weddings scheduled the same day and Father Bob said that he would come over and do one of them. He came and performed the wedding and left. No one realized that it wasn’t me.”

Father Doug served as assistant pastor at St. Patrick’s (Watertown), St. Alexander’s (Morrisonville), Notre Dame (Ogdensburg), St. Peter’s (Lowville), St. John’s (Plattsburgh), and Holy Family (Watertown). While at St. John’s, he taught high school typing instruction and high school religion. He also prepared me for my First Holy Communion!

In 1986, Father Doug was commissioned as an United States Air Force chaplain and served in this position until 1996. His first duty was at Luke Air Force Base (Arizona), followed by Kunsan Air Force Base (Korea), Malmstrom Air Force Base (Montana), and Air Force National Guard in Syracuse, New York.

“This added another dimension to my priesthood, I encountered wonderful young families and children,” Father Doug related.       

Then, he served as pastor at St. Cecilia’s (Adams) from 1997-2010. Next, he was named pastor of St. Alphonsus-Holy Name of Jesus Parish (Tupper Lake) and now currently serves as pastor at Lowville, Glenfield, and Houseville.

Father Doug recounted a few adventures in his priesthood too. When he was stationed as parochial vicar at St. Patrick’s in Watertown their housekeeper Hilda liked to go out for dinner and dancing with the priests on holidays.

One New Year’s the priests were ready to return to the rectory, and Hilda stayed out later with her friends. At 2 a.m., the rectory doorbell rang. Father Doug went downstairs to see who could be at the door at that hour of the morning. Father Doug opened the door and it was Hilda, flanked by police. (The pastor had called them thinking it was an intruder!) It turned out that someone had taken the key from its hiding place and Hilda couldn’t get in.

Another time, in Tupper Lake, a set of triplets –Amber, Brandon, and Colby Boudreau – became altar servers.
“Servers love to play with fire and candles,” Father Doug joked.

The candles got a little too close to the deacon whose alb caught on fire.

“People were slapping him on the back and trying to put the fire out while the congregation was singing ‘Holy, Holy, Holy.’”

The Fathers’ Decker are looking forward to serving as priests for many years to come. Their parents lived into their late 90s. Father Bob took his mother home and cared for her during the last two years of her life, saying it was “such a blessing.” The twins would take her to the old farm house where they grew up on their days off.

“She was as good of a Catholic as there ever was,” Father Doug recalled.

“Vocations are in God’s hands,” Father Doug reflected. “It’s a matter of listening for direction in life, direction that is far more reliable.”            

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