4 local clergy ordained together celebrate 50 years

PHOTO PROVIDED A group photo shows the Diocese of Scranton’s 1968 ordination class including Father John Manno, top row third from left; Father Michael Zipay, second row fourth from the left; Father Charles Cummings, second row fifth from the left; and Monsignor Steven McGough, first row fourth from the left.

Fifty years ago, four men — Charles Cummings, John Manno, Stephen McGough and Michael Zipay — from the region were ordained as a part of the Diocese of Scranton’s 1968 ordination class. Today they still serve and stay active in the community. Bishop James C. Timlin will celebrate their 50th anniversary of priesthood at 5 p.m. Sunday at St. Joseph the Worker Parish, 711 W. Edwin St.

Father Cummings

Cummings, of Williamsport, attended elementary and high school at St. Joseph’s School, in back of St. Joseph the Worker, he said. He went to college at Mount St. Mary’s University, Emmitsburg, Maryland, and St. Pius, Dalton. On May 28, 1968, Cummings was ordained.

A piece of advice Cummings passed along from ordination is to “believe what you read, preach what you believe, practice what you preach.”

Since elementary school, the church community has changed, he said. Now, people drive to church, versus walking, because the city has spread out. The dynamics of the city and churches have changed.

For 15 years, Cummings worked as a hospital chaplain, which he loved, in Dunmore. At the hospital, Cummings would visit patients, celebrate mass and help families through difficult times, he said.

Cummings has been retired since 2010 but remains active in the community. He wrote the book “Love, Laughter, Living Saints” about his time at St. Joseph the Worker. The book is a nostalgic trip with funny memories and short stories about the parish.

Someone mentioned to Cummings that the four men have 200 years of service together, he said. Over 50 years, Cummings has learned to remain prayerful, dependent, faithful, prompt and consistent.

“Everyday is different, even for me as a retired priest,” Cummings said. “The adventure every day is different — you don’t know what will happen today.”

Father Manno

Manno, of Williamsport, spent part of his life in New York City., an experience close to his heart, he said.

He served with YMCA of New York and started a program alongside the Brooklyn waterfront where it had a mobile unit.

While working at the waterfront, Manno took a picture, which he keeps with him, of a wall behind barrels that had graffiti with the word “love” written on it and sun rays beaming from behind.

“I thought that no matter if you’re Jewish, Protestant, Catholic, no matter what you are, that God came among us. That love came among us and we are suppose to radiate that,” Manno said.

After working at the waterfront, he knew he wanted to serve the church again and moved back to Williamsport where he worked with Our Lady of Lourdes, he said. Manno is now retired.

He always has enjoyed working with kids, encouraging people to experience church and making God real for them, he said.

“I found a way to make a difference,” Manno said. “You’re always trying to find out more about God every day of your life, and then you have different experiences where you try to apply that in your ministry.”

Father Zipay

“Someone said something to the effect of if you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s not working, and in a certain sense, I haven’t worked for 50 years because I’ve been enjoying working with the people, bringing them a little bit closer to a compassionate God,” said Zipay, formerly of Wilkes-Barre.

Throughout priesthood, Zipay has tried to share his relationship with Jesus with the people, he said. An image of Jesus is that of a shepherd, which Zipay strives to embody during good times and hardships.

For 13 years, he worked in high school education. Bishop Joseph Bambera, of the Scranton Diocese, was one of Zipay’s students while teaching high school, Zipay said.

Zipay also served 13 years as a pastor for the National Guard and worked in prison ministry, which he says has shaped him. While serving in prison ministry, Zipay offered religious services and spent time with prisoners before and after services.

Currently, Zipay is at St. Boniface and enjoys the community because it is open and welcoming, he said. This year, he will retire. He plans to stay active in the community wherever he is needed, whether that be by helping with Mass or being a substitute administrator.

“I know I’ve planted some seeds and I’ve seen some of them grow and blossom,” he said.

Monsignor McGough

On July 17, 1996, “I was in Montoursville when Flight 800 took place and when we had six children in our congregation killed in that plane crash,” said McGough, formerly of Wilkes-Barre. “That was a defining moment in my life because of the tremendous amount of ministry.”

The Flight 800 tragidy was defining for McGough because it brought him in contact with families of the children who passed away, he said.

“It brought you to the very heart of what Jesus had done for us in assuring us of an eternal life and peace,” he said.

McGough served Our Lady of Lourdes in 1992. He then moved to St. Boniface in 1997 and has been there since. He is retiring this June.

In 1998, McGough received the honorary title of monsignor, an acknowledgement by the church made by the bishop, he said. He was not aware or seeking the title, though.

“If you look at it in terms of the way you define your life as a priest … you’re ordained to preach the good news of the gospel, to teach and to counsel and lead people in their lives,” McGough said. “It’s about entering people’s lives and experiencing it with them — the struggle to live and want to be happy.”

50 years of friendship

Living and serving in the same region has helped the four classmates stay in contact. Cummings and Manno are childhood friends too. They still are close to this day, Manno said.

It’s been a “privilege of sharing private, intimate challenging moments of individuals of families,” Manno said.

“Our faith is in the person of Jesus. People let us down, they may let us down or discourage us, but Jesus won’t. Or we ourselves may let ourselves down, but our faith is in the person of Jesus,” Zipay said.

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