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Father Dennis W. Cleary, MM 1948-2021


Father Dennis W. Cleary died on Sept. 24, 2021, at the Beechwood Continuing Care Facility in Getzville. He was 73 years old and a Maryknoll priest for 44 years.

Dennis William Cleary was born in Buffalo on Aug. 11, 1948. He attended Holy Name of Jesus Grammar School and after graduating from Bishop Turner High School in Buffalo, he attended the Buffalo Diocesan Preparation Seminary. After two years, he transferred to St. John Vianney Seminary, where he obtained a B.A. degree in Philosophy. He also had one year of Theology in the graduate program at St. John Vianney Seminary before being accepted by Maryknoll. He entered the Maryknoll Novitiate in Hingham, Massachusetts in September 1972. As a seminarian, his overseas training program was completed in Venezuela. In 1977, he earned his M.Div. and M.A. in Theology, prior to ordination.

Father Cleary was ordained on May 21, 1977, by Bishop James E. Walsh, MM. He was assigned to Venezuela to work in Caracas and later in Barinas. Living among the poor in barrios in the area of Barinas, Father Cleary showed an early interest in communications projects. He created a popular education program called Channel Zero, which included training, filming and disseminating news among three barrios. He also launched a production studio in Caracas that prepared documentaries and barrio forums aimed at motivating faith-based Christian communities to identify and resolve challenges within those communities.

In 1983, he was elected first assistant regional for the Venezuela region and second assistant in October 1986. He became regional superior of the Venezuela Region in October 1989.

Father Cleary was assigned to the United States Mission Promotion Department in 1993, working first in the Houston house and, later, as director at the Jacksonville, Florida house doing fundraising and recruitment. In October 1997, Father Cleary was appointed regional superior of the U.S. region, residing at Maryknoll, New York. He represented Maryknoll in U.S. Church organizations, including the Conference of Major Superiors of Men and the U.S. Catholic Bishops Mission Committee.

In August 2004, Father Cleary was assigned to the Asia region and taught English in Shenyang in the province of Liaoning.

In September 2006, Father Cleary returned to the United States and was appointed director of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers Mission Education and Promotion Department and, in February 2007, he became publisher of Maryknoll and Revista magazines. In 2010, he returned to Asia and began teaching at the Korean Catholic Missionary Society Foundation House in Seoul. He was assigned to Hong Kong in 2011 as director of the Maryknoll China Teachers Program. In November 2013, Father Cleary was assigned to the retirement community in Hong Kong. He returned to the United States in December 2014 and taught a program of accent reduction to international priests and assisted with Maryknoll Church dates in the Diocese of Buffalo. Father Cleary remained in Buffalo and continued his ministry of working with international priests and assisting in Church dates as his health permitted.

Father Cleary is survived by his brothers; Gary, Bradley, Ron and Timothy Cleary

According to Father Cleary’s wishes, his body has been donated to the University at Buffalo’s Anatomical Donation Program for medical research.

A Memorial Mass was held at St Francis of Assisi Parish, 150 Broad St., Tonawanda on Saturday, Nov. 6, at 10 a.m.


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