Retired Auxiliary Bishop John Gorman celebrates 95th birthday

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Retired Auxiliary Bishop John Gorman celebrates 95th birthday

Auxiliary Bishop John Gorman celebrated his 95th birthday on Dec. 11, 2020.
A deacon incenses Bishop Gorman during a Mass at the Poor Clares Monastery in Palos Park on March 18, 2012. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)
Msgr. John Gorman in 1973. (Cardinal Bernardin Archives and Records Center)
Bishop John Gorman pours a drink for a child during a 1989 visit to the soup kitchen at St. Bartholomew Parish in Waukegan. (Chicago Catholic file photo/Sandy Bertog)
Bishop John Gorman visits the Lake County Jail in this undated file photo. (Chicago Catholic file photo/Sandy Bertog)

Bishop John Gorman was ordained a priest in 1952, when Harry S. Truman was president of the United States and Venerable Pius XII was pope.

Bishop Gorman, who turned 95 on Dec. 11, is now the oldest auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of Chicago. He retired from active ministry in 2003.

He celebrated that birthday with the other priests in the rectory at Our Lady of the Woods in Orland Park, where he lives, and with a basket full of hundreds of birthday cards sent by parishioners there.

“There really are a lot of them,” Bishop Gorman said.

His active ministry spanned five decades — as well as the ministries of five popes — and included 14 years as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Orland Park, eight years as rector/president of University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, and a few years as director of the Department of Parish/Pastoral Services.

As a bishop, he served as vicar for regional services/vicar general and vicar for Vicariate I, which includes much of northwest suburban Cook County and Lake County, and Vicariate V, which takes in a large swath of the Southwest Side and the southwest suburbs.

“Let’s not talk about what my favorite was,” said Bishop Gorman, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology in addition to a licentiate in sacred theology. “I enjoyed the contact with people in the parishes, and with the priests, and I enjoyed teaching.”

Bishop Gorman attended Visitation School, Leo High School and Quigley Preparatory Seminary before the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, and he was ordained by Cardinal Samuel Stritch.

He served as an assistant pastor at St. Andrew, 3546 N. Paulina St.; St. Odilo, Berwyn; and St. Nicholas of Tolentine, 3721 W. 62nd Place. After five years, he began teaching at Quigley, and then at Niles College Seminary, where he eventually was chairman of the psychology department.

He also served on the faculty of Loyola University Chicago’s Institute of Pastoral Studies and taught summer school at the University of Notre Dame.

He was appointed rector/president of University of St. Mary of the Lake in 1965, just as the Second Vatican Council was wrapping up.

The council meant that seminary education needed an overhaul, Bishop Gorman said.

“Vatican II gave us a whole mandate to change the seminary system,” he said. “We had to change the structure, change the education. … When I was there (as a seminarian), everything was silent in the buildings and everything was concentrated on the individual. Vatican II defined the church as being in service to the people. We started doing things with the seminarians in groups, with prayer and formation. We sent them out to the parishes when they were still in seminary so they could have contact with the people, because that’s where the guys would be working.”

Father Ed Mikolajczyk, now retired and also living at Our Lady of the Woods, benefited from those changes. Mikolajczyk first encountered Bishop Gorman as a student at Niles College. By the time Mikolajczyk got to Mundelein, Gorman was rector there.

“I will forever be grateful to him,” Mikolajczyk said. “He had great leadership ability and he truly helped us to be pastoral. He led by example and challenged us to develop our ability to be compassionate and understanding and in being present to the people.”

It was after his time at Mundelein that Bishop Gorman was named pastor of St. Michael in Orland Park, a post he would hold for 14 years. According to coverage of his ordination as a bishop in the archdiocesan paper, he was a popular pastor.

Michael Jennings, then chair of St. Michael’s ministry commission, told Chicago Catholic he was exciting to work with and that he was able to see “just where persons are in their faith life and then challenge them to go further.”

Irene Ward, then Renew coordinator at the parish, called him one of the most compassionate people she had ever encountered.

Cardinal Bernadin summoned Bishop Gorman from St. Michael to lead the archdiocesan department that handled services to parishes, and that was the role Bishop Gorman was in when Pope John Paul II named him an auxiliary bishop.

It was a wonderful choice, said Mikolajczyk, who was pastor of Queen of Martyrs in Evergreen Park when Bishop Gorman was vicar for Vicariate V.

“He certainly knew what was going on in the parishes,” Mikolajczyk said.

Now the most senior bishop in Chicago, Bishop Gorman’s words of advice for newer auxiliary bishops are simple: “Just continue to help and guide the parishes, continue to reflect on the challenges of Vatican II,” he said. “The church is meant to serve the people through the parishes. Continue to support the priests as well.”



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