Father Mike Uebler remembered fondly by those closest to him
Father Michael Uebler shared his health battle with his parishioners. He used the parish bulletin to update his congregation at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, where he had served as pastor since 2003, as he faced brain cancer over a three-year period. His last update was just a few weeks before his April 9 death.
“He was an inspiration just in the way he modeled his own priesthood,” said Father Luke Uebler, explaining that his cousin was able to use his illness to communicate with others.
“He shared his story with his people. They were supportive of him, he was supportive of them,” said Father Luke. “In the sickness I can remember him saying, how it opened up so many doors for him. ‘I didn’t realize you had cancer also.’ ‘I didn’t know you were dealing with this.’ So, as he was fighting his own battle with brain cancer, it allowed him to minister to so many other people and reach out to them and show that he cared for them too, and was there to walk with them in their own journeys.”
Born and raised in Buffalo, Michael Uebler left home for Wadhams Hall Seminary College in Ogdensburg just after receiving his associate’s degree from Erie Community College. It was at Wadhams Hall that he met Father Sebastian Pierro.
“Mike was a very quiet, but very kind priest and friend,” Father Pierro said of his classmate and brother priest. “I would say he was very competitive in sports. He liked to play basketball, softball, football. We’d play flag football at the sem. So, he was pretty competitive. I found him to be a very kind prayerful person. Easy to talk to.”
The two remained friends through the years. Father Uebler, known as a competitive athlete, would organize annual golf trips for the ordination class of 1982 at The Fairways at Peek N Peak. Despite his competitive streak, he would always offer help to his fellow players by advising on a swing or what club to use. “That was just Mike,” Father Pierro said.
Anyone who speaks about Father Uebler will mention his love of sports. He always supported the hometown teams of the Bills and Sabres. He taught his nieces and nephews to golf and ski as well.
His brother-in-law, Deacon Gary Hoover, recalled him as “very warm, understanding, caring person. He loved his fishing, golfing, skiing,” he said. “Even when he was fishing, he was always on the phone talking to other priests and taking care of problems. He always had that on his mind – to take care of his brother priests.”
Deacon Hoover was appointed administrator of St. Francis of Assisi Parish shortly before Father Uebler’s death. He had been visiting the parish so much in recent months that Bishop Michael Fisher thought he was assigned there. When Deacon Hoover explained that his assignment was at St. Mary’s in Swormville, the bishop said, “You belong here.”
“(Father Uebler) really taught me to care for everyone regardless. He never turned anyone away. He looked at St. Francis as a model for the parish. It instilled something in me too,” Deacon Hoover said. “I saw how he treated people here. Regardless of who the person was, he was very caring. It made me want to care more. Even though I was a registered nurse, he made me be more compassionate to everybody. That was a big thing for me.”
A priest for 38 years, Father Uebler served at St. Ambrose in Buffalo and St. Edmund’s in Tonawanda. In 1987, he began a nine-year stay as faculty member of St. Mary’s High School. In 1996, he received his first pastorate at both SS. Peter & Paul and St. Mary’s in Arcade. In 2003, he came to St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Tonawanda as pastor. Father Uebler also served as coordinator of the Priests’ Personnel Board since 2013.
Father Luke Uebler recalled how his cousin showed a genuine care for those he served with and for.
“He wanted to be around and present to his people. He was very proud of the work they were accomplishing at his parish or when he was teaching at St. Mary’s, proud of his kids and watching them grow up, his students. Loved to be around his own family, but certainly around the family that was assigned to him in the Diocese of Buffalo,” he said, adding, “There was nothing he wouldn’t do for his brother priests. That was reflected in his work with the Personnel Board, navigating the assignments for the guys, but he was always fair, and was very helpful to the guys in their own journeys.”
Father Pierro sums it up neatly. “Mike was a good man, good guy, good friend, good priest.”