RINGWOOD, N.J. — Clement Comesky, OFM, 88, a professed Franciscan friar for 67 years and a priest for 62, died Feb. 25 at Holy Name Friary.
A wake was held there on Feb. 27. The following day, a Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated by Provincial Minister Kevin Mullen, OFM, at St. Anthony Church in Butler, N.J. Burial followed at Mount Calvary Cemetery in Butler.
Clement was born Robert Thomas on Sept. 25, 1929, in Manhasset, N.Y., to Adam and Mary (née Bukovinsky) Comesky and baptized there on Oct. 27, 1929, at St. Mary’s Church. He attended the parochial grammar school before completing high school and the first two years of college at St. Joseph’s Seraphic Seminary in Callicoon, N.Y.
He was received into the Franciscan Order on Aug. 12, 1949, at St. Bonaventure Friary in Paterson, N.J., and professed first vows one year later. He made his solemn profession on Sept. 17, 1953, and was ordained on Sept. 8, 1955, at the Franciscan Monastery in Washington, D.C.
From a young age, Clement felt called to be a missionary, and after two years of ministry at St. Francis Chapel in Providence, R.I., from 1956 to 1958, he arrived in Bolivia in 1958. He spent the next 10 years in the country, ministering in La Paz, serving as the founding pastor in Apolo from 1960 to 1967, and overseeing the Province’s withdrawal from the mission in Mapiri in 1968.
Clem returned to the United States later that year and joined the U.S. Army as a chaplain. After completing basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, he was stationed in Vietnam, serving in combat zones in Long Bình and Tây Ninh. He was also with the Army when the United States invaded Cambodia in 1970.
After he was discharged from the Army in 1972 at the rank of captain, Clem returned to Bolivia. He remained there for eight years before a bout with malaria forced his return to the United States. He re-entered the military, serving again as a chaplain from 1980 to 1994. His assignments took him all over the world – from Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas, and Fort Monmouth in New Jersey to Army bases in Honduras, as well as Kitzingen and Stuttgart, Germany, where he cared for the relatives of military personnel who fought in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. By the time he retired from the Army in 1994, he had achieved the rank of major.
Following a sabbatical year, Clem returned to Bolivia in 1996, this time as chaplain to the Cistercian Sisters serving at the Apolo parish he had founded 36 years earlier. He also taught at the diocesan seminary in Sorata. In 1997, he returned to the United States to minister to the U.S. armed forces, this time as a civilian Catholic priest based at Fort Sam Houston. Two years later, he went to Peru, serving there briefly at Holy Name of Jesus Parish in Lima.
In 1999, Clem returned to the United States and ministered briefly in the Diocese of Palm Beach, Florida, where he enjoyed working with the migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. He spent the latter half of the year assisting the Province’s parishes in Sullivan County while based at St. Mary Parish in Obernburg, N.Y.
The following year, Clem went west, ministering at three parishes and two missions in the Diocese of Las Cruces, N.M., from 2001 to 2002. He returned to the East Coast and, after a series of brief assignments in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and St. Joseph Parish in West Milford, N.J., he returned again to Bolivia in 2003. He taught at the Seminario del Espiritu Santo in La Paz and briefly worked in Tarata before he returned to the United States in 2007.
Clem retired to St. Petersburg, Fla., but continued to assist at Provincial ministries. He returned briefly to Bolivia from 2008 to 2009, serving again at the seminary, before coming home to St. Petersburg. In 2016, he moved to Holy Name Friary in Ringwood, N.J., where he died nearly two years later.
He is survived by several cousins.
Memorial donations may be sent to Franciscan Friars – Holy Name Province, 144 West 32nd Street, New York, NY 10001-3202.
— Maria Hayes is communications coordinator for Holy Name Province.