In Memoriam: Paul Wancura ‘60

With great sadness we report that the Rev. Canon Paul Wancura, Class of 1960, has died at the age of 87, of wounds suffered as a result of a home invasion at his Shelter Island, N.Y. home three weeks ago.

Rallying only a week ago from critical condition at Stony Brook University Hospital where he had been since being airlifted from the Island on Monday, March 19, Wancura never emerged from the intensive care unit of the hospital, according to Father Charles McCarron, pastor of St. Mary’s Church on Shelter Island, and also our alumnus of the Class of 2001.

McCarron said Monday that the official cause of death was sepsis, a system-wide infection, usually caused by wounds. He discovered Wancura midday on March 19 after checking on him after he had missed Sunday services at a church in West Islip where he assisted most weekends. Wancura was found bound by the hands and lying between a bed and a bedroom wall and had been in that condition for at least two days.

The brutal incident, which shocked the peaceful neighborhood and the Island at large, was originally termed by the police departments as a case of home invasion and burglary. Now, with the Episcopal minister’s death, it has become a homicide case, according to Shelter Island Police Department Chief Jim Read.

“This is a terrible tragedy,” Father McCarron said Monday afternoon. “A life that brought so much joy, comfort, peace and light to so many, ending in such a violent way.”

“The sad news of the death of Canon Wancura has touched everyone in our diocese,” Bishop Lawrence Provenzano said late April 17 in a message to the diocese. “Those who knew him well are suffering the loss of a devoted priest and friend who was quick to provide support and prayerful insight to all who sought his counsel. Those who did not know him personally are struck nonetheless by the reported cruelty and violence during a home invasion that resulted in the death of this beloved priest.”

A former Rector Emeritus of Caroline Church of Brookhaven in Setauket, Wancura served the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island for more than 50 years, including serving at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Greenport for a decade. His ordained ministry began at Church of the Ascension in Brooklyn, New York, and he was archdeacon of Suffolk County from 1966 to 1974, assisting parishes and missions and providing administrative oversight on behalf of the bishop’s office. He was a graduate of Queens College and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business Administration, before receiving his Master of Divinity degree from General. 

Wancura, a native of Queens, New York, felt his call to the priesthood while serving in the Army with the U.S. Army Counterintelligence Corps in Austria and France. He retired in 2000 but continued to assist churches in the area as needed, and at the time of his death he was the second oldest priest still serving on Long Island, including as a supply priest at Church of the Messiah, Provenzano said. Wancura’s wife died shortly after he retired, and they had no children.

 “Paul was an old-fashioned priest with the sensibility and spirit of a very forward-looking man,” Provenzano said. “He was spry and witty – the kind of person who would engage everyone in conversation and be interested in knowing about everything happening around him. … Not only could he tell a story well, he was always interested in hearing the story of the people he met. His intellect and good humor were a delight to encounter.”