Bishop Edward Scharfenberger ordaining new deacon Frederick Richard (Rick) Lesser.
Many people try to find, and fulfill, what they believe is their true calling in life. A local man, however, feels he found his second calling later in life.
Frederick Richard Lesser owned and operated the Equine Clinic at OakenCroft in the hamlet of South Bethlehem for more than 25 years with his wife, Marilyn Schmidt. The pair met while attending Cornell University, where Lesser earned his doctorate in Veterinary Medicine in 1981.
About nine years ago, Marilyn passed away and he later retired from his business.
Lesser had grown up in a traditional Catholic family in Bradford, Penn., where he attended Catholic schools and then attended Penn State University. During high school, he had thought about priesthood, but it did not feel like what he was meant to do yet.
“From the time I was small I have always wondered if I had this vocation,” Lesser said. “I think God knew I needed to be a little bit better informed by the real world.”
He said there was no “aha moment” once he knew he should become a priest. It was rather a gradual process developing over time.
“This isn’t really a decision I got to make,” he said. “In the depths of my being I thought I was being called by God to do this.”
Lesser was ordained as a transitional deacon Saturday, Jan. 3, in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany during a ceremony at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Albany.
“We are indeed blessed that Rick, a man who has had a beautiful family and a very full and rewarding life to this point, is now called by God to serve his church and people in this very special way,” Scharfenberger said in a statement.
Lesser is planning to become a priest in June, with becoming as deacon as a step in that process.
Receiving support and encouragement from Albany Bishop Emeritus Howard Hubbard and Revs. James Walsh and Anthony Ligato helped guide Lesser through the process of becoming a deacon.
Lesser received his masters in divinity from St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry in Albany. He then attended the Pope St. John XXIII National Seminary in Boston, Mass., which is a school focusing on men who pursue the priesthood later in life.
“I have accomplished a great deal in the previous parts of my life and this is not about accomplishments so much as just about being of service,” said Lesser.
Religion has played an important role in his life, and he’s been an active parishioner at St. Patrick’s in the Village of Ravena. This community was also vital following the death of his wife.
“It was faith, family and friends that really helped our family in tough times,” he said.
Connecting with people and service has played role throughout his life. As much as he loved horses and working with him, he said it was really his clients that kept him continuing the business and provided the most joy.
While he doesn’t have his equine veterinary business anymore, he passion for them has not stopped.
“I still have horses and I still ride,” he said, “and I probably always will.”