Father Ronald W. Sams, S.J. '46 died peacefully on the morning of Tuesday, June 27, 2017, in Buffalo. He had recently suffered a stroke.
Fr. Sams grew up in Buffalo and entered the Jesuits the same year he graduated from Canisius High School. He was ordained in 1959. For ten years, Fr. Sams worked for the Buffalo Province of the Jesuits as a vocation promoter and director of the upstate office of the Jesuit Seminary and Mission Bureau.
(Photo: Ronald Sams' senior photo at Canisius High School.)
In 1970, Fr. Sams began three-and-a-half years on Guam, where he was in charge of the Jesuit pre-novitiate house. In 1974, he returned to Buffalo to serve as director of development at Canisius High School where he created the foundation for the school's continued fundraising efforts. Nine years later he returned to Micronesia, where he served as secretary to Bishop Martin Neylon, S.J. '37. In 1995, Fr. Sams once again returned to his hometown, first working at Canisius High School and then moving to St. Michael Church, the Jesuit parish in downtown Buffalo, where he became pastor. He was named pastor emeritus of St. Michael Church in 2013.
Fr. Sams has been a great friend to Canisius over the years. He influenced or helped create many programs at Canisius, including GAMBIT, the school's annual dinner auction. He was the first coordinator of GAMBIT and served in that role the first eight years of the event. He returned to direct GAMBIT in 1999 and 2000. He also served as the chaplain to the alumni during that time. Many in the Canisius community affectionately referred to Fr. Sams as "Father Gambit." He became the GAMBIT Ambassador in 2008 and continued in that role until his death.
In 2001, Fr. Sams started offering the 7:45 a.m. First Friday Mass at St. Michael Church for the alumni of Canisius High School. He had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus which prompted him and Henry Reiser '49 to initiate the First Friday devotion at St. Michael's. The First Friday program continues today, with Friday July 7, 2017 being the 16th anniversary of the program. All are welcome at the 7:45 a.m. Mass.
Fr. Sams regularly attended the wakes of Canisius alumni and their family members. He was always present to pray with the families in their times of loss. His ministry to the Canisius community, from marriages and baptisms to anointing the sick and funerals, helped to enrich spiritual lives and strengthen the Catholic faith of community members.
Calling hours are Thursday and Friday, June 29-30, 2:00-4:00 and 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Delaware Chapel Amigone Funeral Home, 1132 Delaware Ave. (near W. Ferry St.) Buffalo. Fr. Sams will lie in state Saturday morning from 9:00-10:00 a.m. at St. Michael Church, 651 Washington St. in Buffalo, where a Concelebrated Mass of Christian Burial will follow at 10:00. Friends are invited.
We also invite you to share your memories of Fr. Sams on our Facebook page.Click here to see the obituary in The Buffalo News.
Fr. Sams with Fr. Mickey Corcoran, S.J. '76 (right) at the All-Alumni Bash on June 16, 2017.