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Father Bernardine Kessing, OFM, former St. Bonaventure pastor, passes away


Father Bernardine C. Kessing, OFM, age 89, a professed Franciscan Friar for 68 years, and a Catholic Priest for 62 years, died Oct. 15, 2022, at St. Catherine of Siena Nursing Home, Caldwell, New Jersey, after an extended illness.  In retirement, Father Kessing had previously resided at St. Anthony Friary, Butler, New Jersey, and the former Holy Name Friary, Ringwood, New Jersey.

Father Bernardine C. Kessing, OFM

Born Donald G. Kessing, Jan. 1, 1933, in Cincinnati, Ohio, he relocated to Elmira, graduating from St. Mary’s Grammar School in 1946, and Elmira Catholic High School in 1950. Father Kessing entered St. Joseph Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, ultimately receiving a bachelor of arts degree in Philosophy from St. Bonaventure University in 1957. He completed theological studies at Holy Name College, Washington, D.C.

Following priestly ordination in 1960, Father Kessing served the parishioners of St. Anthony Church in Butler as associate pastor, then later as pastor. Father Kessing fulfilled pastoral in New Jersey parishes until 1985, when Father Kessing was appointed pastor of St. Bonaventure Parish in Allegany, adjacent to the St. Bonaventure University campus. He held this post until returning to Fair Lawn, New Jersey in August 1999.

Ministry to members of his Franciscan Community became Father Kessing’s next work when he became Guardian, or local religious superior at the St. Anthony Residence, a retirement house for senior friars in Boston. He remained there until moving to St. Anthony Friary, Butler, in May 2012. Health care concerns caused Father Kessing to relocate to Holy Name Friary, Ringwood, in May 2017, until moving to St. Catherine of Siena Nursing Home in Caldwell, New Jersey, in March 2019.   

He was predeceased by his parents, Frank and Rose (Wanstrath) Kessing, and by a brother, Frank. A funeral Mass was offered at St. Anthony Parish in Butler, on Oct. 19.  A Memorial is scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 25, at 11 a.m., St. Bonaventure Church, 95 East Main St., Allegany.  Viewing will precede the Mass from 10 to 11 a.m. Burial will be in the Friars’ Plot at St. Bonaventure Cemetery, Allegany


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