Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Goedert dies at 96

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Thursday, December 14, 2023

Bishop John Gorman, Bishop Raymond Goedert and Father William Flaherty (left to right) celebrated their 71st ordination anniversary with family and friends on May 1, 2023. Bishop Goedert died Dec. 9. (Karen Callaway/Chicago Catholic)

Retired Auxiliary Bishop Raymond E. Goedert, 96, died Dec. 9.

“As we grieve the death of Bishop Emeritus Raymond Goedert, we thank God for giving his servant to us and the Church for 71 years,” said Cardinal Cupich. “He served the archdiocese in a variety of roles: As pastor, notary, vicar general and as administrator of the archdiocese after Cardinal Bernardin died. A friend to me and to so many and a caring brother to his siblings, he leaves this earth to be at the banquet of Our Lord. May his soul rest in peace.”

An Oak Park native, Bishop Goedert was ordained a priest in 1952 and became a bishop in 1991. During his ministry, he served as an associate pastor and pastor, judge in the metropolitan tribunal, vicar for priests, vicar general and administrator of the archdiocese after the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

During the Mass in which he was ordained a bishop by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, though, Bishop Goedert described himself as a “hardware man’s son.”

“My role model is not a bishop. My role model for my priesthood, for my pastorate, has always been my dad,” Bishop Goedert said of his late father, John Goedert, in an interview before his episcopal ordination. “I see no reason to make a change.”

Born in Oak Park, Bishop Goedert was the ninth of 12 children of John and Elizabeth Goedert, and attended St. Giles School, Quigley Preparatory Seminary and the University of St. Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary. Two of his brothers also became priests.

Two years after he was ordained a priest, in 1954, Bishop Goedert was sent to the Gregorian University in Rome to study canon law. He was returning to the United States aboard the Andrea Doria in 1956 when the ship sank after colliding with another ship about 200 miles from New York.

In a 1991 interview with the New World, as the archdiocesan newspaper was called then, Bishop Goedert spoke of hanging onto the ship’s rail as “it was listing so badly you couldn’t walk the deck anymore to give absolution.”

“I don’t live that far in the future,” he continued. “After experiencing the Andrea Doria, I realize how vulnerable we all are. I’m content to deal with what I’m dealing with in the present moment.”

After receiving his degree in canon law, Bishop Goedert served the metropolitan tribunal as both notary and vice officials. He also was pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Beverly and vicar for priests before being appointed a bishop in 1991.

Bishop Goedert served as episcopal vicar for Vicariate I, including Lake County and northwest suburban Cook County, before becoming vicar general in 1995. As vicar general, he served as administrator of the archdiocese after Cardinal Bernardin’s death in 1996. He remained vicar general until 2003, when he retired. He returned to the post briefly on an interim basis from August to November 2004.

Karen Gorajski served as administrative assistant to Bishop Goedert when he was vicar general.

“Bishop Goedert was careful and asked shrewd questions, but was highly pastoral, humble and had a great sense of humor,” she said. “He lived a holy life and loved regular prayer gatherings of priests. … Also, he lived at the archbishop’s residence and was present for the deaths of both Cardinals Bernardin and George. I can only summarize Bishop Goedert as a truly holy priest and a warm, caring and pastoral shepherd.”

In a short talk Bishop Goedert gave at a celebration of his 95th birthday in October 2022, he spoke of his dedication to prayer, according to notes he made.

“I do know this, that my dedication to prayer has been constant even in my long retirement,” he wrote in his notes. “That means daily Mass, recitation of the priestly prayer of the Breviary, and saying the Rosary. … I don’t think I ever lost heart in being faithful to my prayers even when I would get lost in my internet connection for the Breviary.”

He closed that talk by saying, “Today I am thankful for all of you and for my 95 years of life and 70 years in the priesthood. Although I can’t remember a lot of it, be assured that I am grateful for all of it.”

Judith Keefe, administrative assistant to retired Auxiliary Bishop Francis Kane, kept the notes and often works with all of the priests and bishops who live at the archbishop’s residence. She said she could not add to what Bishop Goedert said about himself.

“Essentially, Bishop Goedert knew himself well and he wrote who he was and what was important to him,” she said.

Bishop Goedert lived in the archbishop’s residence from the time he became vicar general until his death, making him the house’s longest tenured resident, said Msgr. Kenneth Velo, who lived at the residence for seven years with Bishop Goedert. Velo was assistant to Cardinal Bernardin.

“Bishop Goedert was solid and stalwart and amazingly steady,” said Velo, who knew Bishop Goedert for more than 50 years. “He never seemed to age. He was always present to people, a very just man.”

While Bishop Goedert held many offices during his long career, Velo said he believes Bishop Goedert’s favorite assignment was his nine years as pastor of St. Barnabas Parish in Beverly, Velo’s home parish. It was during that time that Velo and Goedert got to know one another.

“We could say he was a wonderful bishop, but really he was one great priest,” Velo said. “He was one great priest who made a wonderful bishop.”

Father Scott Donahue, president and CEO of Mercy Home for Boys and Girls, served as associate pastor at St. Barnabas when Bishop Goedert was pastor there.

“First and foremost, Bishop Goedert had Christ at the very center of his life,” Donahue said. “He was a person who was filled with integrity. Everything he did in his personal life and as a priest reflected the light and hope of the risen Lord.  He was an extraordinarily good pastor. He was a very fine preacher. He had the patience of a saint, and he took time with everyone.  He was a man of deep prayer and great humility. He had a wonderful sense of humor, and I admit took delight in teasing him often.”

Father Daniel Flens, priest-secretary to Cardinal Francis George, first met Bishop Goedert in 1989, when Flens was assigned to St. Andrew Parish as a transitional deacon and then newly ordained priest, and Bishop Goedert resided there while serving as vicar for priests.

“Even then, he impressed me as a young priest with his wisdom, humility, compassion and warmth,” Flens said. “He was a holy man with deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and desire to serve the Lord, in his church, in any way he could for as long as he could.  He had a great sense of humor, love for his family, and pride in his Luxembourger heritage. … Beneath Bishop Goedert’s self-effacing demeanor one could find a man with the mind and heart of Christ, a model for priests and a friend who will be deeply missed.”

Msgr. Patrick Pollard said he first met Bishop Goedert in 1983, when he was assigned as associate pastor at St. Barnabas.

Over the years, the two men worked together on many projects, especially when Pollard was director of Catholic Cemeteries, and Pollard held Bishop Goedert’s power of attorney at the end of his life.

Bishop Goedert’s last wish was simple, Pollard said. Bishop Goedert wrote: “I ask only that a Mass be celebrated, that I be buried with my mother and father in the family plot at St. Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, and that those who me pray for me till the day we are together again with Our Lord!”


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