Retired Archbishop Gerety of Newark dies at 104


N.J. (CNS) — Retired Archbishop Peter L. Gerety of Newark died Sept. 20 while
in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor at the order’s elder-care
facility in Totowa. He was 104.

Plans for his funeral Mass and burial were pending.

to a remembrance of Archbishop Gerety posted Sept. 21 by the Archdiocese of
Newark on its website, Archbishop Gerety was the world’s oldest Catholic bishop
at the time of his death. By 2007, when he was 95, he was already the oldest
living U.S. bishop.

Newark Archbishop John J. Meyers in a
Sept. 21 statement called Archbishop Gerety “a remarkable churchman
whose love for the people of God was always strong and ever-growing.”

“He served as shepherd of this great archdiocese during a
time of spiritual reawakening in the years after the Second Vatican Council,
and a time of deep financial difficulties,” he added. “He
very carefully led the church, her people and institutions through those

Gerety had been retired as head of the Newark Archdiocese for 30 years at the time of his
death. He was Newark’s archbishop for 12 years. Before that he spent five years as
the bishop of Portland, Maine; he had been coadjutor bishop of the statewide
diocese for three years prior.

his tenure in Newark, Archbishop Gerety helped create Renew International, the
parish renewal program still in wide use among U.S. parishes today. Renew also has created several other parish renewal programs, including one that has been
used in more than two dozen countries outside the United States.

Renew’s use was so widespread, Archbishop Gerety asked the U.S. bishops’
Committee on Doctrine in 1988 to evaluate it. Some groups in dioceses where it
was being used were publicly critical of it.

committee’s report praised many aspects of Renew, but said participants needed
to be given a more complete understanding of Catholic faith and doctrine, and
small-group leaders were to be more than just facilitators who accepted all the
participants’ contributions as equally valid. Revisions suggested by the
committee were made.

In a
2007 interview with The Catholic Advocate, Newark’s archdiocesan newspaper, he
noted how he had been ordained a bishop shortly after the close of the Second
Vatican Council. He noticed one important change was a shift from the “top-down”
mentality that had prevailed at that time in the church.

Gerety said the liturgy “improved tremendously” at that time, centering
on increased participation among laypeople. Another major change he saw was the
formation of parish councils and similar programs. In fact, he said one of his
prized possessions was a stone tablet inscribed with a pledge he made in his
early days in Newark when he said in a speech on April 18, 1975: “I am
totally committed to parish councils by April 15, 1976.”

Born July
19, 1912, in Shelton, Connecticut, Leo — as his parents called him — won academic
honors at Shelton High School and was captain of the football team. He was the eldest of nine sons.

His mother and father, Peter L. and Charlotte Daly Gerety, “had a tremendous religious faith, and a tremendously optimistic view of life. They loved life very much. They taught us we
could do almost anything,” the archbishop once said.

working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the New Jersey Transportation
Department, the future archbishop entered St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield, Connecticut, and was
chosen for study abroad at St. Sulpice Seminary in Issy, France. He was
ordained for the Archdiocese of Hartford, Connecticut, in 1939 at the Cathedral of Notre Dame,

hallmark of his service in the Archdiocese of Hartford was ministry to black
Catholics in New Haven. He founded an interracial social and religious center,
the St. Martin de Porres Center, which gained parish status in 1956 with then-Father
Gerety as its first pastor. In the 1960s, he founded the New Haven chapter of
the Urban League and was a member of the Connecticut State Committee on Race
and Religion and the National Catholic Conference on Interracial Justice.

bishop of Portland, Archbishop Gerety was active in pro-life and social justice
causes, led campaigns to protest state legislative efforts to legalize
abortion, and defended the rights of conscientious objectors during the Vietnam

Newark, Archbishop Gerety expanded outreach to black and Hispanic Catholics,
and shored up a deteriorating archdiocesan financial base. On a national stage,
he was known for his work with the Call to Action Committee, formed at the time
of the U.S. bicentennial celebration in 1976 to address and discuss the needs U.S.

eldest of nine brothers, Archbishop Gerety outlived all of them. He is survived
by many nephews and nieces, as well as their children.

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