J. Robert Yeazel: A priest with tact and humor

In another life, the Rev. Monsignor J. Robert Yeazel could see himself as a commercial airplane pilot, guiding Boeing 747s through the sky, telling passengers to fasten their seatbelts, giving out the weather at their destinations.

In this life, God apparently had other plans for him.

Still, Father Yeazel (pronounced YAY-zul), as his parishioners call him, loves to fly. In fact, earning a pilot's license was a dream of his before it grew too expensive and time-consuming.

Now, he must be content with piloting one of the largest Catholic churches in the Syracuse area, Holy Cross. With 5,250 members, the church will only continue to grow as parishioners from St. Mary's in Jamesville join the congregation when their own parish closes Aug. 16 as part of the recent Syracuse Diocese restructuring.

The new parishioners will have little trouble finding Holy Cross. The brand new, much larger church building opened this past July, and the stained glass window that sits over the altar illuminates a long stretch of East Genesee Street in DeWitt every night after the sun sets.

Nor will they have a problem feeling comfortable. A quick visit to the new church finds warm yellows and browns adorning the main waiting area. Multiple rooms are furnished with books and well-worn couches. One dog snoozes quietly in a back corner while two others happily greet each visitor.

It feels like a church should feel -- like home. And according to Yeazel's friends and co-workers, it is their 65-year-old pastor who makes it that way, not only through his choice of office d (c)cor but also his entire demeanor and personality.

Sense of humor

"When I was growing up, most of the priests I knew were pretty stuffy," said J.D. Tessier, a parishioner at Holy Cross. "But Father Yeazel is a guy that is comfortable in his leadership role and also is comfortable with being one of the folks. He can joke with you and laugh with you."

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