Parish Community Celebrates Retiring Deacon’s 33 Years Of Service

OLD BRIDGE – St. Thomas the Apostle Church was full on Aug. 28, as parishioners, family and friends gathered to celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for Deacon John J. Fitzsimmons’ 33 years of ministry.

Msgr. James Brady, Father Danillo Canceran, Father James Conover, Father Rocco Cuomo, Father John Folchetti, Father Mark Kehoe, Father Richard Milewski and Father Randall Vashon concelebrated the Mass.


Msgr. Richard A. Behl, pastor, called Deacon Fitzsimmons’ retirement “the end to an era.” Deacon Fitzsimmons was the first deacon to serve at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, and among the first class of permanent deacons ordained in Trenton by Bishop George Ahr in 1977.

Deacon Fitzsimmons served as youth minister, prepared couples for marriage, taught baptism preparation classes and was director of social ministry, bringing Christ to the elderly and handicapped.

“I was able to recruit John to serve here in many capacities … These are certainly all known to the Lord,” pastor-emeritus Msgr. John B. Szymanski said during his homily. “We have been blessed enormously in so many ways by Deacon John.”

“He was, and still is, a real winner, and so are all of us because of him,” Msgr. Szymanski added. “Thank you, Deacon John, for pioneering in the permanent diaconate.”

In his remarks, Deacon Fitzsimmons thanked God and others for helping him throughout his ministry.

“A deacon doesn’t come along by himself. He brings a wife and children,” he said, thanking his wife and five daughters, and remembering his son who passed away as a teen due to muscular dystrophy.

“We all are involved in the sacrifice to give service to the community,” he added.

Finally, Deacon Fitzsimmons thanked the pastors and parishioners of St. Thomas the Apostle for their support and friendship.

“The strength of this parish is the people. You could blow the buildings all away, but the faith of the people will keep the church alive,” he said.

“God bless, and thank you from the bottom of my heart.”

A reception was held in the parish hall following the Mass.

“I’m not sure what we’re going to do without him,” said Maria Fillimon, a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle for 18 years. “He’s a man who just gave his all.”

“He’s profoundly knowledgeable, yet humble at the same time,” she added. She described his homilies as “mesmerizing.”

Dorothy Costello, a parishioner at St. Thomas the Apostle for 55 years, said Deacon Fitzsimmons was always there for parishioners who needed him.

“He always took time to talk to you, no matter what,” she said.

Parishioners of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Old Bridge surround Deacon John J. Fitzsimmons during a reception to celebrate his retirement after 33 years of ministry. Featured in photo, from left to right, are Nellie Moran, Arlene Carlone, Deacon Fitzsimmons, Donna Lapos, and Gerry Martin.

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