Most Rev. Thomas J. Costello, retired Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Syracuse died today, Friday, February 15, 2019 at the age of 89 years old. A native of Camden, New York, Bishop Costello served as a priest of the diocese for nearly 65 years and as auxiliary bishop for over 40 years.
“Today, we all join in mourning the death of Most Rev. Thomas J. Costello who served as Auxiliary Bishop for over 40 years. In the 89th year of his life and the 64th year of his priesthood, the Lord has called Bishop Costello to Himself,” states Most Rev. Robert J. Cunningham, Bishop of Syracuse. “We thank him for a lifetime of service to the Church and in a very special way for his service to the Diocese of Syracuse. We pray now that the evening has come, the fever of his life is over, his work is done and that God will give him a safe lodging, holy rest and peace forever.”
Bishop Costello was ordained a priest on June 5, 1954, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by Most Rev. Walter A. Foery, D.D. He was appointed an Assistant Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Syracuse where he served from 1954-1959. He served as a Secretary in the Diocesan Tribunal for one year before being named Superintendent of Catholic Schools from 1960-1975. In 1975, he was named Pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Syracuse where he served until 1978. He was named Vicar General of the diocese in 1978 and served in that role until 2009.
Costello received many papal honors including being named a Papal Chamberlain with a title of Monsignor in 1965, elevated to Honorary Prelate in 1971 and Titular Bishop of Perdices and Auxiliary Bishop of Syracuse in 1978. He was appointed by Pope Paul VI and ordained Auxiliary Bishop on March 13, 1978 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse -- choosing his Episcopal motto to be “As One Who Serves.”
Bishop Costello served on many boards in the community and across the country, including Jubilee Homes, Le Moyne College, the then Syracuse Interreligious Council, WCNY, Loretto and more. He was very active on the national scene belonging to many committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops including Chairman of the Communications Committee.
Bishop Costello’s legacy will most notably be being a man of deep faith and a man of the people. He had no tolerance for any injustice. He was in the forefront of speaking against racism, poverty, inequality, violence and more. He marched in Selma, Alabama, with Dr. Martin Luther King, fought for employee rights, spoke against the death penalty, promoted the respect and dignity of all life, encouraged interfaith dialogue and equality for all. He very much believed that we are called to be peacemakers and he strived to live his life emulating that belief.
Bishop Costello will also be remembered for being a passionate preacher with a booming voice and being the man to get things done in the diocese and the greater community. He was a scholar who was consistently approachable to all.
Bishop Costello stated quite often, “It is not enough to be a believer. One must be a witness.” And he most certainly will be remembered as a man who witnessed his faith each and every day, celebrated being a child of God and lived every word of his motto: As One Who Serves.
Funeral arrangements are being arranged by Buranich Funeral Home. Reception of the body will take place on Thursday, February 21, 2019 at 4:00 pm. at The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Syracuse. Visitation will be from 4:00-7:00 pm. at which time the Vigil Service will take place.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 11:00 am. on Friday, February 22, 2019 at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
Burial will be Friday, February 22, 2019 at 2:00 pm. at St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery in Rome, New York.