November 28, 2021

Cortland native returns home as newly ordained priest

Photo provided by the Rev. Dan Caughey

The Rev. Dan Caughey, the new parochial vicar at St. Mary’s parish in Cortland — the parish in which he was raised — will also serve St. Anthony’s, St. Margaret’s, St. Lawrence parishes and St. Patrick’s Oratory.

The Rev. Dan Caughey’s path to priesthood had twists, turns and detours — but he could not ignore his calling, and it called him home. He returns to the parish where he was baptized in two weeks.

Caughey, 58, was one of four men ordained June 5 by Bishop Douglas J. Lucia of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse.

Caughey was born in Cortland, baptized at St. Mary’s Church, where he received his first Communion, first penance and confirmation.

“I grew up in a very strong Catholic, Christian home, and we are strong members of the church all the time growing up,” Caughey said. “I maintained my faith through college and got very interested in
scripture there.”

Caughey attended Binghamton University, graduating in 1985 with a bachelor’s degree in geology and later received his master’s degree in education at SUNY Oswego, becoming a science teacher for 31 years.

During this time, he was married to Mary “Mickey” Caughey for 25 years, until her death in 2013. They had no children, but the couple fostered about 15 kids over the span of a decade.

Throughout the Roman Catholic Church, a priest may not marry, however, Caughey’s situation was different.

“The Lord was calling me, first into the vocation of marriage, and then he called me into the vocation of diaconate,” Caughey said, looking back on his 16 years as a deacon. “After Mickey died, he called me into the vocation of priesthood.”

A year after his wife’s death, Caughey was approached by his friend and priest, the Rev. John Canorro, the pastor at St.Anne Mother of Mary Church in Mexico. Canorro saw something in Caughey and encouraged him to pursue the priesthood, Caughey said.

“Having someone suggest it to you — to have you consider it — that’s a big plus,” Caughey said. “And I did consider it, because maybe that was the Lord calling me through somebody else.”

But he still needed time to grieve his wife’s death. Another year passed before Canorro reached out again, persistent that Caughey began his studies.

“By that time, people were suggesting it all over, so I guess they all saw something in me that led them to think that was what the Lord saw for me,” Caughey said. “So I gave it a lot of thought and prayer.”

Fast-forward seven years, and now Bishop Lucia has appointed Caughey parochial vicar to his home parish.

“I’m very, very proud,” said Audrey Caughey, Dan Caughey’s 88-year-old mother, who still lives in the home her son grew up in on Hamlin Street. “So would be his father up in heaven.”

Caughey’s assignment takes him to St.Anthony’s Church and St. Mary’s Church in Cortland, St.Margaret’s Church in Homer, St. Lawrence Church in DeRuyter and St. Patrick’s Oratory in Truxton.

Caughey was a typical boy, his mother said. He played a couple of different sports, but most of his interest laid with science.

“He was born and raised here with St.Mary’s and graduated from the school there as well,” Audrey Caughey said. “We’ve always worked for the church and I think he just grew up with that.”

Although he hasn’t lived in Cortland for nearly 35 years, Caughey hopes to reconnect with old friends and become a part of the community as its newest priest, assisting pastor the Rev. Joseph Zareski.

“A parochial vicar is someone the people can count on,” he said. “Whether they know me or not, whether I’m that kid they remember now grown up, or somebody brand new to them. I hope they know they can trust me — whether it’s just going to church for Mass, going to confession, or just coming to talk — I am there for them in any capacity, willing to help bring them closer to the Lord and even just have a conversation.”

Caughey said his sermons will show his passion for spreading his faith.

“God loves us very much and is not at all someone to be afraid of,” he said.

Caughey said his assignment to his hometown is a great opportunity to bring Christ to a community he knows and loves.

Caughey’s first Mass will be July 4 at St. Mary’s Church in Cortland, the very church he attended in his youth and his mother attends daily.

“I really look forward to being back here in Cortland, and I’m glad the bishop assigned me here,” he said. “It’s been 35 years since this was my home, and now I can look forward to ministering here.”