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Bishop Fisher Catholic Life Features

Msgr. Dino Lorenzetti is laid to rest


Msgr. Dino Lorenzetti, the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo’s oldest priest, was laid to rest July 17 following a funeral Mass at St. John the Baptist Church, Kenmore.

Momentoes from Msgr. Dino Lorenzetti’s storied life adorn the sanctuary of St. John the Baptist Church in Kenmore. (Photo by Joe Martone)

Bishop Michael W. Fisher was the principal celebrant of the Mass that saw a standing room only church honor both the priest and man who meant so much to so many.

Concelebrants included Father Paul Bossi, Father Peter Karalus, Father Adolph Kowalczyk, Father Bart Lipiec, FatherMichael Parker, Msgr. Robert Zapfel and Father Richard Reina who proclaimed the homily.

Father Reina opened with Msgr. Lorenzetti’s often-used greeting to his congregations.

“All you beautiful people of faith, you are loved,” Father Reina said. “Some people are saying that we are burying a saint today … we’ll see,” he joked. “Just report the miracles to the Chancery, and who knows … someday that might be.

“We must all agree that we are celebrating the life of a very holy man who has touched all of our lives.”

Father Reina first met Msgr. Lorenzetti in the late 1960s, when Father Reina was a new priest just a year out from ordination from St. John Vianney Seminary.  

“Msgr. Dino had an aura about him, and he impressed me. At a time when priests could be a little clerical, a little stodgy, he was very human and very personable and so, so real,” he continued. “I decided then and there that I could learn a lot from this man.  I spent my deacon year with him at Holy Cross, and then three years as an assistant, and then,” pausing to hold in his emotions, “55 years of a treasured friendship.” 

Father Reina said that the monsignor had two crusades – he became a passionate advocate and a leader in the crusade for life. 

“The protection of the unborn never left him and was always in his thoughts and in his prayers.”

“The other cause was the protection of the born. … Fifty years ago, the federal government gave disadvantaged children a better chance in life through the newly formed Head Start program, and he signed on.  He worked with a very dedicated parishioner Mary Rizzo, who is with us today, and together in the basement of Holy Cross Church, Head Start began.  

“Here we are 50 years later, and there are still five sites called Holy Cross in Western New York. He had the vision and was willing to take the risk,” he continued.

“Central to this great man has been the hospitality of his heart. He welcomed anyone and everyone into his heart. From the person living on the streets of the lower West Side of Buffalo to the rich and the famous. And everyone in between,” Father Reina explained.

While he was pastor at Holy Cross, he was also the diocesan director of Family Life. A very busy man. He could fly in one night from Washington, D.C., where he was at national meetings with the hierarchy of the U.S. and next night, he would be on Seventh Street having a hot dog and a beer with one of his parish families. He was the same in both places, authentic and grounded and was just as comfortable in both places.

“His heart was always a safe place for anyone to land and that’s not saying that it was always easy for him to be so welcoming. But welcoming he was.”

Father Reina related that Msgr. Lorenzetti grew up with a wonderful loving family in the East Delevan – Bailey section of Buffalo and was a parishioner at St. Lawrence Church. 

Mary Jo Tomasik the niece of Msgr. Dino Lorenzetti, speaks at her uncle’s funeral at St. John the Baptist Church in Kenmore on July 17. (Photo by Joe Martone)

He also loved to have fun, Father Reina related and told a story of he and the Monsignor leaving the Holy Cross rectory with briefcases. But those briefcases held swim trunks and towels because they were heading to the beach at a friend’s house on the Canadian shore. 

“He wanted to totally be conformed to Christ. Christ was the center point, the foundation, the focus for his life. He wanted Christ to shape and be the inspiration for everyone of his thoughts and words and actions.”

“Possessions never meant anything to Dino Lorenzetti, only and always to do the will of God,” he continued. “The Pascal mystery, the passion, the death, the resurrection of the Lord was the central mystery, the central meaning of his life as it should be for all Christians.”

God had personally entered into his humanity, embraced his brokenness, and restored his wholeness. All through his life.

“But isn’t that what he did for us in the name of Christ … without judgement, with patience and unconditional love, he strove to absorb our brokenness and told us we were loved. He called us beautiful people, and he saw our beauty as children of God and maybe – in some mystical way – when we saw only our flaws.”

“He called us to be more,” Father Reina concluded. “How many of us felt closer to God because Dino was close to us. He was our conduit to God.”