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Buffalo remembers Father Bayne


A Memorial Mass was celebrated July 15 at St. Joseph Cathedral to honor the legacy of Father Joseph Bayne, OFM Conv., who passed away suddenly June 23 in Chicago.

Father Michael Heine, OFM Conv., delivers a homily at the funeral Mass of Father Joseph Bayne, OFM Conv., who served Buffalo for nearly 30 years. His funeral took place at St. Joseph Cathedral on July 15. (Photo by Joe Martone)

Father Bayne moved to Buffalo in 1989 where he began his ministry at The Franciscan Center, a transitional housing program for runaway and homeless young men from Western New York. When the center closed its doors in 2018, Father Bayne had served more than 4,000 young men at the South Buffalo facility.  

For 13 years here, Father Bayne also served as chaplain of the Erie County Department of Emergency Services and the Buffalo Fire Department, often known by his call number, ES-11. 

Bishop Michael W. Fisher, who was the Mass’s main celebrant, welcomed the Most Revered Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv., archbishop of Atlanta, the Very Reverend Michael Heine, OFM Conv., minister provincial, Our Lady of the Angels Province of the Conventual Friars, a host of diocesan priests, Conventual Franciscans, and a throng of fire personnel and first responders from throughout Western New York to the crowded cathedral.

In his homily Father Heine reference the large turnout articulated the incredible outpouring of support for an adopted son of Buffalo … Father Joe.
“Joe loved Buffalo”, Father Heine explained. “He always told us how great Buffalo is … the pizza, the wings, the sponge candy. He was always feeding us when we came to town.”

Father Heine expressed the sentiment that many are still in shock at the death of Father Bayne, and that members of his family were in attendance from Maryland.

The Minister Provincial asked that attendees to keep Father Bayne’s mother, known as Miss Jean, in their prayers.

“Like the Blessed Mother, she knows what it is to lose her son,” he explained.

“I know that we come with various emotions in our hearts, but it is with faith that we come before God and thank Him for the gift he gave us in Joe Bayne,” said Father Heine. “Three weeks ago, he passed, and word of his death spread quickly in Buffalo and throughout the Franciscan province and it took me a while for his passing to register.

He continued that St. Francis called death a “sister,” a gentle loving friend who would take him to his ultimate home which is heaven.  And Joe met sister death late that Friday coming back to Chicago from a vacation with his family and friends on the East Coast. 

“He did not suffer, and he is surely happy that he has reached his goal of his life,” the friar continued.

June 23 is the vigil of the birthday of St. John the Baptist.  Throughout Europe and in Ireland, the faithful light bonfires that evening.  The fires are a symbol of John the Baptist.

“Isn’t it interesting that Father Joe, who spent so much time around people who extinguished fires, dies on the night of fire?

“Didn’t Joe Bayne have a fire in his belly as did John the Baptist? Joe certainly wasn’t timid and always spoke his mind.  He had an opinion on everything. We always didn’t see eye to eye as friars and brothers, but at the end of the day we reconciled and held no grudges. 

“I believe the experience of Joe losing his dad while in formation was the reason he was father to so many kids on Seneca Street at the Franciscan Center, and why he prepared a place for so many people who needed direction, counseling, and simply a place to call home. He would travel to Albany often to advocate and work tirelessly to make the Franciscan Center the amazing place that it was.” 

Father Bayne loved being a Franciscan friar and he set high standards for himself, and he always tried to reach those ideals.

“How many babies did he baptize in Buffalo, how many weddings did he officiate here in the Queen City? He also encouraged so many priests here in the diocese and was a mentor to many. And we are so blessed by the many priests today who were influenced by Joe,” he continued. 

“It is believed that Joe died of a heart attack, apropos that his heart was huge. It was stretched by helping others.  His philosophy was to take care of people, to meet them where they are, listen to them and simply love them. 

Words of Remembrance also were shared by Fire Commissioner William Renaldo, standing in for Mayor Byron Brown; Dan Neavreth, Erie County of Emergency Services commissioner; Bill Miles, chief chaplain, New York State Association of Fire Chaplains; and Jim McCullough, retired deputy commissioner, Erie County Department of Emergency Services.


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