It is with deep sorrow that we announce the passing of Rev. John J. “Fitz” Fitzgerald on Sunday, February 27, 2022. He was 89.
A proud graduate of Chaminade High School, (Class of 1950) Fr. Fitz continued to follow and support both the academic and athletic accomplishments at that institution throughout his life. His delight at encountering young parishioners who were attending his alma mater was infectious, and he was not averse to persuading a youngster to pursue their education there. Fr. Fitz had a lifelong love of sports and it was not unusual for him to offer a special prayer on Super Bowl Sundays for the team he felt should win the game.
Fr. Fitz studied for the priesthood at the Seminary of the Immaculate Conception in Huntington, NY, and was ordained in 1958, after which he was assigned to St. Patrick’s in Huntington. He later served at Sacred Heart in Cutchogue; Our Lady of Peace in Lynbrook (associate pastor); St. Luke’s in Brentwood (pastor); and St. Elizabeth’s in Melville (pastor) before coming east to St. James in 1996.
Although he officially retired from active service in 2003, as parishioners, we know the word “retirement” was nothing more than a doorway into the next phase of his life of service as a diocesan priest. Not one to be content resting on his laurels, Fr. Fitz continued to celebrate daily and weekend Mass, heard confessions and was deeply woven into the fabric of the daily lives of parishioners at St. James. Deeply respected by his brother priests as well as the bishops with whom he served, Fr. Fitz was frequently called upon by Bishop Murphy to cover a number of parishes throughout the diocese as administrator when a pastor was either on sabbatical or being cared for due to illness. St. Hugh of Lincoln in Huntington and St. Lawrence in Sayville are just two of the parishes that benefitted greatly from Fr. Fitz’s continued generosity and dedication to the people of God during his retirement years.
Blessed with a keen intellect, Fr. Fitz devoured books on a wide variety of topics from theology to world history and managed to read several newspapers on a daily basis. Much to the chagrin of other priests in the house, Fr. Fitz consistently completed the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle before anyone else - in ink! His homilies reflected not only his love and knowledge of scripture, but he also had an uncanny knack of applying the scripture lessons of 2000 years ago to the issues facing us today.
A long-time supporter of Bread for the World, Fr. Fitz was integral in bringing awareness of worldwide hunger to our community through our annual Lenten soup suppers. A staunch supporter of the sanctity of life, he remained active in the Right to Life initiatives and was instrumental in implementing letter-writing campaigns to our elected officials urging them not to support funding for abortions. On a more local level, Fr. Fitz was, until 2020, an active member of LARC (Lutheran, Anglican Roman Catholic) an ecumenical group committed to fostering dialogue among Christian communities.
Retirement did allow Fr. Fitz to spend more time on more pleasurable pastimes, however, including his love of golf, which he enjoyed on a regular basis with fellow priests as well as lay friends. The freedom that came with retirement also allowed him to travel regularly to Florida and Saratoga as well as to spend time with his extended family.
During the last few months of his life, even as he struggled with ongoing health issues, his devotion to the Church and the celebration of the Eucharist became ever more obvious. Despite mobility issues, he insisted on coming to the church to celebrate with us, to see us, to bring the love and word of God to us. His enthusiasm as he exhorted attendees to “lift up your hearts” was as strong as ever and will be emblazoned on the hearts of parishioners for years to come.
“Well done, my good and faithful servant. Since you were faithful in small matters, I will give you great responsibilities. Come, share your master’s joy”. (Mt. 25:23-24)