Longtime priest served many parish assignments, but his commitment to serving his neighbors was always a common theme
LINCOLN PARK — Fr. Thomas Puzio served in 18 different parishes during his priesthood, but everywhere he went, he had a dedicated following of friends drawn to his spirituality and faithful service.
The Detroit-born priest was as an avid skier and photographer, and parishioners who knew him best said he never hesitated to help those in need and was always an advocate for his community.
“He was a very faithful and giving person,” said Don Buchanan, an Allen Park Cabrini alumnus who met Fr. Puzio in the seventh grade when Fr. Puzio was assigned to the parish. “He spent most of his ministry doing things for others. He always thought the people of his parish were the most important. I can’t recall how many people he has helped; I know of kids who went to college because of him.”
Fr. Puzio passed away May 3 at the age of 79.
Thomas Puzio was born to Walter and Mary (Senopolle) on May 7, 1943. He studied at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit and St. John’s Provincial Seminary in Plymouth before being ordained by Cardinal John F. Dearden of Detroit on June 19, 1970, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Fr. Puzio went on to serve associate pastor assignments at St. Philomena in Detroit (1970-74); St. Frances Cabrini in Allen Park (1974-79); St. Mary in St. Clair (1978-79); and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Wyandotte (1979-83); and as administrator of St. Helena in Wyandotte (1981).
Buchanan remembered Fr. Puzio as a priest of many hobbies. Buchanan, who stayed in contact with Fr. Puzio throughout his many assignments, said the priest was the one who sparked his interest in photography.
“We had a friendship that lasted since when we met at Cabrini,” Buchanan said. “He was at Mt. Carmel in 1979 for a couple of years, and a couple of guys who went there for high school and I went on a trip together that summer.”
Doug Krizanic was a freshman at Cabrini when Fr. Puzio began his assignment at the parish, and like Buchanan, began a lifelong friendship with the priest that included ski trips and spiritual formation, with Fr. Puzio officiating Krizanic’s wedding and baptizing his children, even offering anointing of the sick to Kriznic when he battled bacterial pneumonia.
“I was an avid skier at the time, and he wanted to take up skiing, so we set up a ski outing with him and a few friends and went out, and that is how we first started to hang out,” Krizanic said. “He introduced me to photography, something he really enjoyed, and mentored me in the photography world. After that we became longtime family friends. He ended up marrying me, baptized my children, buried my father and anointed me when I was sick.
"Let’s say, he was more than family — he was a spiritual advisor and a good friend,” Krizanic said.
Among Fr. Puzio's many assignments, he served as pastor of St. Andrew Parish in Detroit (1983-87) before serving as an associate pastor at St. Louise de Marillac in Warren (1987), St. Christopher in Detroit (1987-89), Shrine of the Little Flower in Royal Oak (1989-92), St. Dorothy in Center Line (1992-2007), St. Teresa of Avila in Warren (2007-10), St. Clement in Warren (2007-10), Our Lady Queen of Heaven in Detroit (2010-14), Our Lady of Good Counsel in Detroit (2010-11), St. Raymond in Detroit (2010-11), St. Raymond-Our Lady of Good Counsel in Detroit (2011-13), and St. Bartholomew-St. Rita in Detroit (2013-14).
Krizanic said Fr. Puzio always had a following no matter where he went because Fr. Puzio always stood up for the needs of his parishioners.
“It was always people first with him, there was no doubt about that, no matter how busy he was,” Krizanic said. “The business side of the equation wasn’t his major focus, it was hitting the objectives of what the Church stood for and what the Church was for his people. There is always that balancing of the resources and what you can do or what you can give, but for (Fr. Puzio), it was always a balance you achieve so you could help those in need.”
Fr. Puzio was granted senior status in 2014.
Friends who knew Fr. Puzio attested that he was a man of many talents, but primarily was a straight shooter and a down-to-earth priest.
Fr. Puzio’s funeral was celebrated May 11 at St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Allen Park. He is predeceased by his parents and survived by his sister, Teresa (Jose) Moya; nephew, Dominic; and niece, Alysia.
“Him stepping off this earth happened really quickly, and you realize what a loss it really is,” Krizanic said. “He was a confidant, always there for people, and many aren’t sure where they will go now. Fr. Tom did a lot of things quietly that didn’t get published, didn’t go on the scoreboard or shown in any report. But hopefully, in his memory, the people who knew him will continue to live the life he preached and lived.”