March 20 – Happy Birthday Father Beck

BeckHe was the first Priest I can remember. He was the Pastor of Amsterdam’s St. Michael’s Church from 1945 until 1974, the moral compass for its parishioners and the confessor of their sins. Our parents didn’t talk to God, they went instead and talked to Father Joseph Beck and he passed their messages along to the Almighty on their behalf. He ran St. Mike’s like a Navy captain ran his ship and its no coincidence that his pastorship coincided with the Grove Street church’s golden era.

Father Beck was born on Morton Avenue in Albany, NY on March 20, 1903. He attended parochial schools during his childhood, graduating from Christian Brothers Academy in 1921. He actually completed a course in business at Mildred Elley School in Troy before getting his bachelors at Holy Cross College and attending the American College in Rome, Italy for his seminary studies. He was ordained a priest in Rome on December 20, 1930. He returned to Albany that July and was assigned to St. Michael’s as an assistant to then Pastor Ercolano Ercolani.

The new priest proved to be the perfect complement to Ercolani, becoming an immediate hit with the younger members of the parish and showing up to fulfill priestly responsibilities whenever and wherever Ercolani could not. When the veteran pastor died in 1944, the St. Michael’s congregation accepted Beck as their new spiritual leader with open arms. By then he had become one of the most respected men in the Amsterdam community.

I first met Father Beck after becoming a St. Michael’s altar boy along with my two older brothers in the early 1960’s…

The rest of Father Beck’s birthday post will be published in the second editionof A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam NY Birthdays, which will be available for sale right after Thanksgiving. To make sure you get your hands on one of the first copies, join my mailing list here.

The first edition of A Year’s Worth of Amsterdam NY Birthdays, which features my birthday posts for 320 current or former Amsterdam residents, is currently being sold at Liberty Fresh Market, on Route 30 in Amsterdam. You can also purchase it online here.

Father Beck shared his March 20th birthday with the driving force behind Amsterdam Little Giants Football.

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