The year 1958 was a pivotal one for Fr. Alan Syslo, CSV.
In September of that year, he professed his first vows as a Viatorian. Less than three months later, on Dec. 1, 1958, a horrific fire broke out at his parish school, Our Lady of the Angels, killing 92 students and three religious sisters. Every year, on its anniversary, Fr. Syslo remembers the tragedy and all those lost. He attended the school for a few years and ultimately was ordained there, in 1966.
During his early years as a Viatorian, Fr. Syslo completed an undergraduate degree in accounting at Loyola University in Chicago, before earning master’s degrees in social work at Rutgers University and in management at Illinois State University.
He began his ministry as a teacher, first at Saint Viator High School and later at Spalding Institute in Peoria. From there Fr. Syslo went into pastoral work, first in Louisiana and later in Las Vegas, before he found his real passion in ministering to the gay and lesbian community and especially those afflicted with HIV/AIDS.
Fr. Syslo was the founding director of the John XXIII Aids Ministry in Monterey, CA before he reached out to veterans being treated at the Veterans’ Administration Outpatient Clinic in Monterey. These combined ministries kept him in California for more than 20 years, before he returned to pastoral ministry in 2016, serving as associate pastor at St. Thomas More Catholic Community in Henderson, NV.
He retired to the Viatorian Province Center in 2021, but in 2018 he paused to reflect on his 60 years of religious life.
“Reflecting on the past 60 years, I see three events that have had a great impact on my life,” Fr. Syslo said. “The first was being involved in the lives of persons suffering and dying from AIDS. The second was learning and helping veterans affected with post-traumatic stress disorder. The third is an ever growing knowledge and deeper appreciation of the liturgy, both in the word and in the Eucharist. This has made me see that all theology is rooted in the liturgy.”