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Connellsville loses pillar of Catholic community

| Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, 1:01 a.m.
Father Michael Bucci

Connellsville's Catholic community has lost a pillar and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Greensburg has lost its oldest living priest.

The Rev. Michael J. Bucci, 95, who lived in South Connellsville following his retirement as pastor of St. Rita Parish in Connellsville, died on Thursday at St. Anne Home in Greensburg.

“I'm saddened by his death,” said the Rev. Bob Lubic, pastor / administrator of the Partner Parishes of Immaculate Conception, St. John the Evangelist and St. Rita. “He was a pillar of the Catholic community in Connellsville.

“I remember him when I was a kid growing up in Connellsville,” Lubic continued. “I always looked forward to the times when he was able to join us for Mass. I will miss him.”

Parishioners contacted on Friday also expressed their sadness.

“I was sad to hear that he died,” said Rita Pratt of Connellsville. “I know he was up in years. He was my pastor for many years and I worked for him for many years. But I know he was sick.

“He was just a wonderful priest. He worried about the parishioners. He worried that the church was in the best condition. (He felt for the older parishioners who had worked hard to build the church.)

“He just had a great love for children. He worried about the schools and for the kids. He always tried to be there for the children.”

Henry Molinaro, a veteran of the Korean War, said Bucci, who was a veteran of World War II where he served on B-17s in Europe, was easy to talk with.

“He was a straight-shooting guy,” said Molinaro. “I liked Father Bucci. I could talk to him like a regular guy.”

Molinaro said he was choir director under Bucci and is still a choir director.

“I had a lot of dealings with him,” he said. “He was a very, very generous man. When I returned from the Korean Conflict, I was singing in a choir in the Army over in Germany. After I came back, I sang in the church choir. He said ‘OK, after the first of the year, you go up there and be choir director.'”

While Molinaro was sad to hear of Bucci's death, he said Bucci had lived a good life. “You don't live forever, but he lived a good life.”

According to the diocese, Bucci was born May 8, 1919, to the late Panfilo and Julia (DeFuria) Bucci in Monessen. His home parish was the former St. Cajetan Parish in Monessen.

He attended Monessen public schools, graduating from Monessen High School in 1937. He worked in the steel mills, then served in the U.S. Army in World War II in Europe, first in the infantry then in the Army Air Force where he served on B-17s.

After the war, Bucci returned to work in the steel mills, then received a bachelor's degree in accounting from the University of Pittsburgh in 1952. He began studies for the priesthood at St. Francis Seminary in Loretto in 1956 and graduated in 1962.

Bucci was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop William G. Connare on May 26, 1962 at the former St. Cajetan Church. He was 43.

He served as parochial vicar of St. Rita Parish, Connellsville (1962-67) and at the former St. Joseph Hall, Greensburg (the diocesan minor seminary), as procurator (1967-70) and administrator (1970-71). His first pastorate was at the former St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Leisenring and its former chapel in West Leisenring (1971-78). He then served as pastor of St. Rita Parish, Connellsville, for 16 years from June 13, 1978 to June 22, 1994, when he retired at the age of 75.

Viewing for Bucci will be held from noon-4 p.m. on Sunday at Brooks Funeral Home, 111 E. Green St., Connellsville. A vigil with the reception of the body will be held 7 p.m. on Sunday at St. Rita Church, 116 S. Second St., Connellsville. Viewing will continue after the service until 9 p.m.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated 11 a.m. on Monday at St. Rita Church. Interment will follow in St. Rita Cemetery.

Karl Polacek is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at kpolacek@tribweb.com or 724-626-3538.

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