Jesuit Father John P. Bucki died on Sept. 2, 2017, at St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, New York.
Born in Buffalo on Jan. 12, 1950, Fr. Bucki entered the Society of Jesus at St. Andrew-on-Hudson on Aug. 25, 1968. He took his first vows in 1970, and was educated in philosophy at Fordham and theology at the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, later ordained at Fordham on June 9, 1979.
Early on, he taught mathematics at Regis High School in New York City (1974–1976), then continued with a year at McQuaid Jesuit High school in Rochester during 1980-1981. He followed this with teaching math at Xavier High School in New York (1981–1985).
Beginning at Xavier, and continuing through later assignments, he encountered a variety of people – every age group, race, economic status and profession – he developed an extraordinary skill and reputation as someone who loved everyone and made them feel at home. “Relax” became his password.
From then on, Fr. Bucki’s life was in an extraordinary transition from teaching to pastoral leadership and administration, as he moved from the Syracuse Retreat House to associate pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in New York, serving for 16 years. From there, he returned to Buffalo, where he could spend more time with his family, as director of campus ministry at Canisius College for 12 years. Under his leadership the ministry team grew in its outreach, not just on campus but to both national and international locations, from Poland to Ecuador. In the chapel and on campus, Fr. Bucki became known for his gesture of outstretched arms, signifying both a welcome and a sign to let go of one’s worries and trust in God’s love.
In 2012, he was assigned to Le Moyne University in Syracuse, serving as rector and continuing pastoral work. As a religious superior, he was an excellent listener: compassionate and ready to make decisions. In his final weeks at Murray-Weigel Hall, adjacent to the Fordham campus, a brass-framed glass award stood on his shelf – the Outstanding Ally Award, for one who has offered special care to the poor. A clever student designed the “Coolest Jesuit Award: Don’t Tell the Others,” with Bucki’s face in the center of a decorated paper plate. And there’s a small color photo of himself with 15 others who loved him.
One colleague of his described him in three loves: of the Society of Jesus, of the Eucharist, and of the poor. He faced death with courage, depending on prayer and his faith to help endure pain, and on the day of his death a group of 20 including his loving family, fellow Jesuits and many other friends gathered at his hospital bedside for the Eucharist, prayer and reflection.