Msgr. Joseph Anthony Mancuso: ‘A priest from beginning to end’

Family members bring the offerings to Father Vince Rogers during the Funeral Mass for Msgr. Mancuso April 19, at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Gladstone, where he served as pastor from 1998 until his retirement in 2010. (Marty Denzer/Key photo)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

GLADSTONE — Msgr. Joseph Anthony Mancuso, 77, died April 14, surrounded by family at the assisted living facility where he spent the last 18 months of his life.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated April 19 at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Gladstone, where he served as pastor from 1998-2010, then retiring from active ministry. A number of Kansas City -St. Joseph diocesan priests were in attendance, as well as Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Eucharist and many of Msgr. Mancuso’s family and friends.

In his homily, Father Vincent Rogers, pastor of St. Andrew’s, several times described Msgr. Mancuso as “a priest from beginning to end.” He had been in failing health for some time, and Father Rogers said his family wondered why he was hanging on. When, at noon on Good Friday, he “gave up his spirit,” his family understood: a priest from beginning to end.

Father Rogers had spent some time with the family the week before Msgr. Mancuso died, and asked the siblings ‘was he more a brother or a priest to them?’ His brothers and sister agreed, he was a priest first, even to them.

“Msgr. lived the priesthood every moment,” Father Rogers continued, “whether in private or public. He practiced what he preached. In a word, he was authentic … He didn’t take off the priesthood depending on the occasion. He came as a priest to every occasion.” Even when his memory of faces and names failed, “he never forgot that he was a priest, often asking for his Roman collar!” He explained that Msgr. Mancuso knew that priestly clothing connected him to what had happened to him on the day of his ordination.

He lived a life of simplicity and frugality, Father Rogers said, as was seen by his pants and shoes, often worn long after their wearing days should have been over. But “priests are urged to live a simple life,” he added, and “Msgr. Mancuso was a priest through and through.”

Msgr. knew he was called by God at a very young age, Father Rogers said. Joseph Anthony Mancuso was born May 12, 1939 to Paul and Mary Mancuso in Kansas City, Mo. He attended Holy Rosary Grade School, graduating in 1952. Instead of high school, the 13-year old was determined to enter a seminary- high school, which he did that fall. He attended Sacred Heart Seminary High School in Melrose Park, Ill., graduating in 1956. After attending St. Charles Seminary College on Staten Island, NY, for college, the novitiate and Theology, he was ordained a priest of the Scalabrinian Congregation on June 6, 1964 by Bishop John Ferns, then-Auxiliary Bishop of New York City. He celebrated his first Solemn Mass at Holy Rosary Church in Kansas City June 21, 1964.

Msgr. Joseph Mancuso

He served in parishes in Rhode Island and Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, and as a hospital chaplain for several years, later serving as Dean of Students at St. Charles Seminary then teaching at St. Peter’s Boys High School, Staten Island. He received a Master of Science degree in Religious Education from Fordham University in 1970. He returned to Kansas City in 1971 and was incardinated into the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph by Bishop Charles Helmsing.

For the next decade, he served as associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and Old St. Patrick’s, later at Our Lady of Lourdes-Raytown and Holy Cross in Kansas City. He also served as diocesan Vocations Director from 1975-79.

“The work of a parish priest is to care for souls,” Father Rogers said. “Msgr. Mancuso took his responsibility very, very seriously … He wasn’t afraid to remind people that ultimately, there are only two paths in life — one leads closer to God and one leads closer to the devil.”

He was assigned his first pastorate in 1979, serving at Immaculate Conception Parish in Montrose and its then-mission, St. Catherine’s, Osceola. Father Mancuso was then assigned to pastor St. George Parish in Odessa, and founded its then-mission church, St. Jude the Apostle in Oak Grove in 1980. In 1983, he was assigned to St. Mary Parish in Independence, where he served as pastor until 1992. While at St. Mary’s, he also served as a chaplain for the Independence Police Department and as Chaplain at the Independence Regional Health Center; as president of the Independence Ministerial Alliance and as Chairman of the City of Independence Ethics Committee.

In 1992, Father Mancuso was assigned to pastor Christ the King Parish and the following year St. Anthony’s. In 1998, he became pastor of St. Andrew the Apostle in Gladstone, his last parochial assignment. During his pastorate, St. Andrew’s School was opened. He retired July 1, 2010.

Pope Benedict XVI elevated Father Mancuso to the rank of “Chaplain to His Holiness,” with the title, “Monsignor,” with several other priests of the diocese in 2006. When asked about his reaction later, he said “I was shocked.” When St. Andrew the Apostle parishioners found out at the end of the weekend Masses, he was given standing ovations.

“The main thing is the joy the parish has gotten out of my being a monsignor,” he said then. “It’s an honor for them as much as for me.”
The man and the priest were indistinguishable, Father Rogers said. “Msgr. Mancuso lived and breathed the priesthood, arming himself with a breviary in one hand and a rosary in the other.” Father Rogers estimated that in his 53 years of priesthood, Msgr. Mancuso celebrated 26,520 Masses and absolved 66,300 people in the Sacrament of Penance.

He served in other capacities over the years. Monsignor Mancuso joined the Knights of Columbus April 1, 1975 and advanced to the 4th Degree three years later. He served two years as State Chaplain 1978-80, and District Friar for the 4th Degree Missouri State Council. In 1984, then-Father Mancuso spearheaded a fundraising drive to establish a $1,000,000 trust fund for Catholic Education programs, later named the Msgr. Mancuso Catholic Education Grant Program. Since 1990, interest earned from this fund has been used to provide grants totaling more than $574,800 to 265 different Catholic Schools and Parish-based Religious Education programs.

Knight of Columbus Field Agent Jorge Orozco wrote in an email about his death that Monsignor Mancuso was an honorary life member of Knights of Columbus Council 12655 in Gladstone. “He was loved to the last moment by St. Andrew’s parishioners, especially couples whom he married and then baptized and gave First Communion to their children.”

Bishop Raymond Boland appointed Father Mancuso Spiritual Moderator for the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women (DCCW) in 1993, and he served as such until his retirement.

Msgr. Mancuso consecrated each day to Our Lord, Father Rogers said. “I think it would be a beautiful thing if, on the day we lay Msgr. to rest, you and I decide to become better people, better Christians.”

Msgr. Mancuso was preceded in death by his parents and his brother-in-law, John Wutich. He is survived by his brothers and sisters-in-law, John and Margaret Mancuso, Paul and Margaret Mancuso, Greg and Denise Mancuso; sister, Anna Wutich; and nieces, nephews, and great-nieces and nephews. The pallbearers were Mark Ashley, Vince Quintero, Joe Passantino, Michael Hayward, Domnick Parretta, Mark Parretta, Paul Michael Mancuso, Paul Anthony Mancuso, and Jeff Dietrich.

Msgr. Mancuso was buried in the mausoleum at Resurrection Cemetery in Kansas City north.

The family suggests contributions in Msgr. Mancuso’s memory to St. Andrew the Apostle School Fund.

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  • Ann Stokman

    Sorry to hear of this

  • Kevin McQuade

    Rest in Peace.

Friday
July 28, 2017
Newspaper of the Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph