TICONDEROGA-The future is a bit uncertain for Father Bill Muench as he heads into retirement, but that's OK.
"I'm scared silly; in a lot of ways I have no idea what to expect," said Muench, who will celebrate his final Mass at St. Mary's Church in Ticonderoga June 26. "I realize there are a lot of possibilities out there. I hope to find a meaningful role where I can continue to help the church and people.
"There are so many things I'd like to do, that I need to do," Muench said. "I'm going to go out and find them."
Muench has been a priest 52 years, serving the last 15 years as pastor at St. Mary's in Ti and Sacred Heart in Crown Point. He retires this weekend.
His final Mass will be at 10:30 a.m. Sunday. It will be followed by a retirement party at the Ti Knights of Columbus noon to 3 p.m.
As his retirement has drawn near, Muench has been feted by parishioners in Crown Point, students at St. Mary's School, the Knights of Columbus and others. All the attention has made him a bit uneasy.
"I feel like I'm at my own wake," he joked.
While Muench is retiring as a pastor, he'll remain a priest. He plans on living at St. Anthony's parish in Watertown and assisting the pastor there.
"One of the reasons I'm retiring now is that I have a good place to go," Munch said. "I'll be able to help that parish. I'll be very happy to help in any way they ask."
The move to Watertown will be a homecoming of sorts. Muench taught at Immaculate Heart High School in Watertown for several years.
Father Kevin McEwan, pastor of St Bartholomew's Church in Old Forge, will become the new pastor at St. Mary's and Sacred Heart June 29.
Muench admits he'll miss the Ticonderoga area. This has been the longest assignment of his career.
"It's been a very comfortable place to be," he said. "The people have been so very good to me and I've enjoyed my time here. God has always given me good assignments.
"Ti was foreign to me when I got this assignment," he added. "I didn't know what to expect, but it's worked out beautifully. I've never been disappointed I came to Ticonderoga."
Muench has development many friendships while serving as pastor in Ti and Crown Point, especially with neighboring priests Father Richard Sturtz in Schroon Lake and Msgr. Peter Riani of Elizabethtown. For the past decade the trio have spent most Wednesdays together on the golf course, ski slope or on some other adventure.
"I was tempted to go back to Syracuse (his hometown), but I have so many friends in the North Country," Muench said. "I want to stay in touch, especially with my brother priests."
In the church bulletin June 11 Muench told parishioners of the impact fellow priests have had on his life.
"During my priesthood, Ihave been guided and formed by simply wonderful priests who have been teachers and friends along my path," he wrote. "They have all been friends and brothers as well as guides and helpers. I have been blessed. I have had such great friends and teachers."
Muench grew up in Fayetteville, near Syracuse. After graduation from high school he went directly to Wadhams Hall seminary in Ogdensburg and then to St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore. He was ordained a priest May 16, 1959, in St. Mary's Cathedral by Bishop James Navagh of Ogdensburg.
Following his ordination, Muench was assigned to St. James Church in Governeur for a year.
He then went into education, teaching chemistry and physics at Catholic high schools in Massena and Watertown the next 17 years. He also coached basketball and did parish work.
Muench was then assigned to the Newman Center at SUNY-Plattsburgh before doing mission work in Mollendo, Peru, for three years.
He returned in 1996 to the longest assignment of his career - St. Mary's Church in Ticonderoga and Sacred Heart Church in Crown Point.
Muench enjoys traveling and hopes to do more of it during his retirement. He has visited South America, Europe, Africa, China, Australia and New Zealand as well as traveled throughout Canada and the United States. He is planning a trip to France this fall.
"The one place I where I really haven't spent much time is the western United States," he said. "I'd like to spend some time there. I feel like I have some friends there, although I've never met them; people who comment on my blog."
Muench enjoys reaching out to friends, new and old. For 25 years he wrote a regular column in the North Country Catholic, the diocesan newspaper. Several years ago he began a weekly Email newsletter that went to more than 200 families. That has evolved into a weekly blog (www.tipastor.blogspot.com).