Father Terence Fleming, hospital chaplain, dies at 79

CLEARWATER, Fla.—Father Terence K. Fleming, a priest of the Diocese of Rochester for 53 years who specialized in chaplaincy ministry, died unexpectedly Nov. 18, 2020, in Clearwater, Fla. He was 79 years old.

Father Fleming was a native of Rochester’s Sacred Heart Cathedral Parish. He attended Aquinas Institute, then St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries. He also earned a doctorate in counseling from Colgate Rochester Divinity School.

He served as a chaplain in the Diocese of Charleston, S.C., for five years, and was vice president of mission for Roper St. Francis Healthcare from 2006 to 2011, retiring in 2011. For a personal look at Father Fleming’s ministry, read this archive article from The Catholic Miscellany: https://miscellany.wpengine.com/2010/06/17/father-fleming-says-hospital-ministry-is-about-compassion/

He was ordained at Sacred Heart Cathedral June 3, 1967, by Bishop Fulton J. Sheen.

Father Fleming

From there, he served as assistant pastor at East Rochester’s St. Jerome Parish (1967-72) and Rochester’s Our Lady of Perpetual Help (1972-73). He then was chaplain at the Sisters of Mercy Motherhouse and Our Lady of Mercy High School (1973-77), and Newman Community chaplain at SUNY Brockport (1977-85).

From 1985-88, Father Fleming served as chaplain at Rochester’s Genesee Hospital, and from 1988-92 he was pastor of Greece’s St. Charles Borromeo Parish. In addition, he was a therapist for Catholic Family Center from 1984-89.

From 1992-2006, he served as director of pastoral care in the BayCare Health System in Florida before moving to the Diocese of Charleston.

He reached senior status in 2012 as a Rochester diocesan priest. In recent years, he assisted at St. Matthew Parish in Largo, Fla., and the Our Lady of Divine Providence retreat center in Clearwater, while also providing counseling.

“Father Fleming was a skilled counselor and a gifted preacher. His ability to relate so well with people explains his years in hospital ministry and his sensitivity to the needs of the sick and dying,” said Father Frank Lioi, a member of Father Fleming’s ordination class, who serves as pastor of Ss. Mary and Martha and St. Mary parishes in Auburn.

Father Lioi also pointed out a link between Father Fleming and the well-known bishop who ordained him: “It seems that some of (Bishop) Sheen’s charism of preaching rubbed off on Father Fleming, who himself was able to keep his audience in rapt attention.”

In 2017, on the occasion of his 50th priestly anniversary, Father Fleming told the Catholic Courier that “there have been many, many joyful moments and many difficult times [as a priest] but at the same time, I’ve never wanted to be anything else.”

Father Fleming’s funeral Mass is scheduled to take place at St. Matthew Church in Largo on Nov. 30, 2020. Interment will be at a later date at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester.