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Rev. Lawrence Provenzano

Victim of Shelter Island home invasion laid to rest in Setauket

Mourners fill the small cemetery of Caroline Church of Brookhaven to lay to rest the Rev. Canon Paul Wancura. The church’s former rector was left tied up in his Shelter Island home after a burglary in March and died April 16 due to his injuries. Photo by Rita J. Egan

The Caroline Church of Brookhaven was filled to capacity with mourners saying their last goodbyes to the Rev. Canon Paul Wancura April 24.

The Rev. Canon Paul Wancura visited Caroline Church for his 85th birthday in 2015. Photo from Caroline Church of Brookhaven

The Caroline Church of Brookhaven was filled to capacity with mourners saying their last goodbyes to the Rev. Canon Paul Wancura April 24.

Wancura, a former rector of the church, died of injuries sustained during a home invasion on Shelter Island last month. The local town police discovered the injured 87-year-old March 19 when they responded to a call to check on the welfare of the reverend, according to a statement from the Suffolk County Police Department. The officers found the residence was burglarized and jewelry was stolen. Wancura was transported by helicopter to Stony Brook University Hospital, but died April 16 after a 29-day battle to recover from his injuries.

Wancura arrived at Caroline Church as rector in 1974 and served for 26 years.

Former vestry member Michael Russell said the reverend married him and his wife, Brookhaven Town Historian Barbara Russell, in 1978. He said Wancura was the reason many began bringing their families to the Episcopal church due to his vibrancy, intellect and wit.

“There was just something about him,” Russell said. “You’d love talking to him, and you’d love being with him. So not only was he our rector, but he was a friend to a lot of us.”

Russell said he and many other church members kept in touch with Wancura after he left the church. He became the interim rector for 10 years at Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in Greenport and then spent seven months at Episcopal Church of the Messiah in Central Islip.

“You’d love talking to him, and you’d love being with him. So not only was he our rector, but he was a friend to a lot of us.”

— Michael Russell

Before his tenure with Caroline Church, Wancura worked for IBM and served in the military. When he returned from Europe serving in counterintelligence, he received his Master of Divinity from The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church and served as rector of his first parish in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. He was also appointed the archdeacon of Suffolk County before becoming rector of Caroline Church, according to his obituary.

Visiting Wancura at the hospital after the attack, Russell said the reverend seemed to be on the road to recovery and returning to his usual sharp, witty self. He and others were shocked to hear of his death and are still coming to terms with the attack.

During the funeral Mass, the Rev. Lawrence Provenzano, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, said a friend suggested he pray through the anguish he felt after hearing the news of Wancura’s death.

“Every one of us has been horrified by what has happened,” Provenzano said. “We have each in our own way expressed disbelief that such a thing could happen to one whom we have known, whom we have loved.”

After the Mass, Wancura was buried in the churchyard next to his wife, Helen.

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