Elizabethtown, Westport church leader stepping down

Father Riani to retire after 13 years at the two parishes

Father Peter Riani announced that he will retire in September.

Father Peter Riani announced that he will retire in September. Photo by Keith Lobdell.

— For the past 13 years, Father Peter Riani has presided over the St. Elizabeth’s and St. Philip Neri Catholic Churches in Elizabethtown and Westport.

Last week, Riani, 82, announced that it was time to retire.

“They usually have pastors retire at the end of June because of the fiscal year, but I have committents over the summer and asked to stay on,” Riani said. “The Bishop (Terry LaValley) was gracious enough to say, ‘call the shots.”‘

Riani, who is currently the oldest serving member of the clergy in the Ogdensburg Diocese, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in January and said while that was one of the reasons he was retiring, it was just one of several.

“I have to keep in mind the health reasons, but there are other reasons, too,” he said. “After all, I will be turning 83 in August. I have always told people that I want to go out on my own two feet, and not two feet first.”

Riani said when he came to serve in Elizabethtown and Westport, he was about to turn 70 and had a plan to head the two churches for five years.

“The retirement age for this diocese is 75, so that was the plan,” he said. “When I got there, I said to myself why would I want to retire. I am in a great place and back near where I grew up. I love it.”

Riani said the people that made up the parishes became part of his family over the past 13 years.

“Getting involved with people on a church level is always a pleasant thing,” he said. “I will miss the people the most. You get very involved and they become family to you. This particular group of people in both places are very open and welcoming. I am very happy here.”

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