Deacon Conniff: 'A man of the greatest generation'

Friday, Aug. 02, 2019
Deacon Conniff: 'A man of the greatest generation' + Enlarge
Fr. Michael Sciumbato celebrates the funeral Mass for Deacon John J. Conniff on July 19 at Saint Joseph Parish, where the deacon ministered for more than 30 years.
By Laura Vallejo
Intermountain Catholic

OGDEN — A funeral Mass for Deacon John J. Conniff was celebrated at Saint Joseph Parish on July 19.

Deacon Conniff passed away on June 13 in Georgia at the age of 94. He had been a member of the first class of deacons of the Diocese of Salt Lake City, and was ordained on December 26, 1976 at the Cathedral of the Madeleine by Bishop Joseph L. Federal.

Deacon Conniff served from his ordination to his retirement in 2011 at Saint Joseph Parish in Ogden. He then moved to California and most recently to Georgia to live with one of his eight children.

The funeral Mass was celebrated by Fr. Michael Sciumbato, pastor of St. Joseph. Concelebrating was Fr. Kenneth Vialpando, who was pastor there during Deacon Conniff’s ministry.

Before starting the Mass, family members carried in the urn containing the deacon’s ashes, a Bible, a crucifix and a rosary. Fr. Sciumbato received them and, placing the items in front of the altar, he explained each one.

“The Bible, the Word of God, the words of everlasting life, the words that Deacon John professed in his life,” said Fr. Sciumbato as he placed the Bible next to the urn.

“The crucifix, the tangible visible reminder that if we die in the Cross we shall live with Him forever. … And the rosary, symbolic of the Catholic life of prayer to which John was dedicated through his life,” he said.

Fr. Sciumbato then welcomed those present at the funeral Mass, saying that, although sad, the occasion was an opportunity to celebrate the life of a great man.

“We are also rejoicing that our brother now rests with Christ in the presence of all the angels and saints in heavenly glory; this is the promise of our Baptism,” Fr. Sciumbato said.

In his homily, Fr. Sciumbato referred to “the greatest generation,” those who “sacrificed everything for the good of the country and their families. They were the generation who fought WWII … Those who came back from it built the country that we live in today.”

Deacon Conniff was a member of the greatest generation, said Fr. Sciumbato, who then gave a brief biography of the deacon.

John J. Conniff was born in Hudson, Penn. on July 23, 1924 to the late Felix M. Conniff and Wanda J. Boczkowski Conniff. He grew up in Hudson as the youngest of eight children. At age 17 he volunteered for the U.S. Army Air Corps and served during WWII in France in the Communications Corps.

“He survived the war, came home and tried his hand at many different careers, even considering becoming a Catholic priest,” Fr. Sciumbato said.

But then, in a church discussion group, Deacon Conniff met the young woman who would become his wife, Lenore Margaret Davis. The couple, who had eight  children, 24 grandchildren and 24 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews, was married for 56 years before Lenore died in 2009.

During the late 1960s, while working in the Civil Service, Deacon Conniff and his family were transferred to Utah, where they lived for many years. After his ordination as a deacon he served for over 30 years.

“A member of the greatest generation, a man who had many responsibilities and came forward to serve – he was an inspiration for all,” Fr. Sciumbato said.

Deacon Conniff retired in the mid-1990s from Hill Air Force Base as a management analyst for the U.S. government. His favorite pastimes were fishing, rodeos, bowling and “if there was a Bingo game to be found, John for sure was in it; he loved Bingo,” Fr. Sciumbato said.

After his move to Valdosta, Ga. in the late 2000s, Deacon Conniff was a member of St. John the Evangelist Parish.

Deacon Conniff’s ashes were laid to rest at the Ogden City Cemetery next to his wife, Lenore.

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