Fr. Cornelian Dende, OFM, Conv.
Radio Pastor, Apostle of the Airwaves

The voice of a man who brought spiritual meaning of brotherhood to millions of listeners was silenced August 31, 1996.

For 37 years, the late Rev. Cornelian Dende, OFM Conv. served as director of the Fr. Justin Rosary Hour, a radio program originating from Athol Springs, N.Y. and heard weekly over 150 stations in the United States and Canada. The program is heard weekly by thousands in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois and New York.

A priest for 55 years, Fr. Dende was known to his radio listeners as the “Apostle of the Airways,” and their “radio pastor.”

The Rosary Hour is still broadcast today. Mainly in the Polish language, it is the oldest foreign language religious program on the radio network.

Rev. Dende was born in Scranton, son of the late John and Mary Dende. He entered the Order of Conventual Franciscan Friars in Ellicott City, Md. in 1933.

After studying philosophy and theology at the University of Montreal, Canada, the University of Lwow, Poland; the Gregorian University in Rome; and St. Hyacinth Seminary in Granby, Mass., he was ordained to the priesthood in 1941 in St. Stanislaus R.C. Church, Chicopee, Mass. He was in Poland during the outbreak of World War II on Sept. 1, 1939. He was caught in the siege of Warsaw by the Nazis and was forced to remain in the city for a month. He later escaped and made his way to Rome, Italy.

Prior to becoming Director of the Rosary Hour in 1959, he served as an editor with the Inter -Catholic Press Agency in New York City, an organization that disseminated religious and church news to countries behind the Iron Curtain; he was Director of Franciscan Novices in Becket, Mass. , and Ellicott City, Md.; and Master of Clerics at the St. Hyacinth Seminary, Granby, Mass.

In 1991, Pope John Paul II bestowed upon him the high papal honor, the “Pro Ecclesiae et Pontifice” award; in 1992, Lech Walesa, then President of Poland, conferred on Fr. Dende, for a second time one of Poland’s highest national honors, the Officer’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta; in 1994, the Catholic University in Lublin, Poland, awarded him an honorary doctorate in Sacred Theology. In 1985, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in Humane Letters by Alliance College.

He has been author of numerous papers and articles on religion and was a speaker at the 41st Eucharistic Congress held in Philadelphia in 1976. In 1984 he was named “Citizen of the Year” by a local Buffalo newspaper. He was invited to participate in conferences on ethnicity at the White House by President Johnson, Carter and Reagan.

He celebrated his 50th anniversary as a priest on July 7, 1991, when he joined Pope John Paul II for a Mass in the Vatican Gardens.

Fr. Dende was laid to rest in St. Stanislaus Cemetery, Cheektowaga, N.Y., next to the grave of Fr. Justin Figas, OFM, Conv. founder of the Rosary Hour.

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