Father Groeschel, author and preacher, dies

Father Groeschel, author and preacher, dies
Father Benedict J. Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and aleading pro-life figure, is pictured in a 2008 photo. He died Oct. 3 at age 81 after a long illness. (CNS photo/Karen Callaway)

Father Benedict J. Groeschel, founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal and aleading pro-life figure, is pictured in a 2008 photo. He died Oct. 3 at age 81 after a long illness.
(CNS photo/Karen Callaway)

TOTOWA, N.J. (CNS) — Father Benedict J. Groeschel, who was a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a leading pro-life figure and popular author, retreat master and preacher, died Oct. 3 at St. Joseph’s Home for the elderly in Totowa after a long illness. He was 81.

A funeral Mass was to be celebrated for Father Groeschel Oct. 10 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J, followed by burial at Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark. The burial will be private.

“His love for others and deep desire to serve, sent him among poor families who were in need of assistance, young people trying to find their way, bishops faced with challenging decisions, priests and religious in need of an encouraging word, and the stranger who was far from God,” said an Oct. 3 statement issued by Father Groeschel’s community.

Over the past decade, despite his decline in health, Father Groeschel “continued to serve the church generously and with great fidelity,” according to his community.

In January 2004, Father Groeschel hovered near death after a car hit him in Orlando, Fla. After a yearlong recovery, he had to walk with a cane and experienced weakness in one of his arms. But he was able to resume his schedule.

In 2012, following a minor stroke and other health complications, he officially retired from public life and was welcomed by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Totowa. Daily visits of family and friends were the highlight of his days along with spending time in the chapel, concelebrating Mass and making his daily Holy Hour.

Father Groeschel had published a number of books on spirituality and pastoral counseling and founded the Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for clergy. He taught at Fordham University, Iona College and Maryknoll Seminary.

At the time of his death, he was writing a memoir to be published by Our Sunday Visitor called “The Life of a Struggling Soul.” He also wrote numerous articles for various periodicals including First Things and Priest Magazine.

In the 1970s, he headed the Office of Spiritual Development in the Archdiocese of New York. For more than 30 years he was a regular on various programs on the Eternal World Television Network.

He was host of EWTN’s “Sunday Night Prime” television for many years.

His outreach to the poor was legendary — for decades he distributed food to hundreds of needy people in the South Bronx. His first assignment as a priest was as Catholic chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a residential facility for troubled children. After being there 14 years, he became founding director of Trinity Retreat in Larchmont, New York, a retreat house primarily for Catholic clergy and religious. He was there for 40 years.

He also was the founder of St. Francis House in Brooklyn, New York, for older adolescents. In 1985, he and Chris Bell founded Good Counsel Homes for young pregnant women in need.

Brenda Quinn, who worked with Good Counsel Home South Jersey, Riverside, remembered him for his devotion to the poor and suffering, but also for his “keen wit.”

“He would joke about looking forward to purgatory because he said it would be like going back to his hometown of Jersey City,” she said in an email.

“My favorite quote of his was, ‘We must not change because of the times; the times must change because of us,’” she said.

Born Robert Peter Groeschel, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Joseph in Huntington, Ind., shortly after graduation from high school.

During his early years as a priest, he was invited to conduct a retreat for the Missionaries of Charity in India, which was the beginning of Father Groeschel’s long relationship with that community and his deep friendship with its founder, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.

In 1987, Father Groeschel and seven other friars left the Capuchins to form a new religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in the South Bronx and dedicated to the service to the poor. The community now numbers 115 members.

A similar community for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal also was formed; it currently has 35 members.

TOTOWA, N.J. (CNS) — Father Benedict J. Groeschel, who was a founder of the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, a leading pro-life figure and popular author, retreat master and preacher, died Oct. 3 at St. Joseph’s Home for the elderly in Totowa after a long illness. He was 81.

A funeral Mass was to be celebrated for Father Groeschel Oct. 10 at the Cathedral Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Newark, N.J, followed by burial at Most Blessed Sacrament Friary in Newark. The burial will be private.

“His love for others and deep desire to serve, sent him among poor families who were in need of assistance, young people trying to find their way, bishops faced with challenging decisions, priests and religious in need of an encouraging word, and the stranger who was far from God,” said an Oct. 3 statement issued by Father Groeschel’s community.

Over the past decade, despite his decline in health, Father Groeschel “continued to serve the church generously and with great fidelity,” according to his community.

In January 2004, Father Groeschel hovered near death after a car hit him in Orlando, Fla. After a yearlong recovery, he had to walk with a cane and experienced weakness in one of his arms. But he was able to resume his schedule.

In 2012, following a minor stroke and other health complications, he officially retired from public life and was welcomed by the Little Sisters of the Poor in Totowa. Daily visits of family and friends were the highlight of his days along with spending time in the chapel, concelebrating Mass and making his daily Holy Hour.

Father Groeschel had published a number of books on spirituality and pastoral counseling and founded the Trinity Retreat, a center for prayer and study for clergy. He taught at Fordham University, Iona College and Maryknoll Seminary.

At the time of his death, he was writing a memoir to be published by Our Sunday Visitor called “The Life of a Struggling Soul.” He also wrote numerous articles for various periodicals including First Things and Priest Magazine.

In the 1970s, he headed the Office of Spiritual Development in the Archdiocese of New York. For more than 30 years he was a regular on various programs on the Eternal World Television Network.

He was host of EWTN’s “Sunday Night Prime” television for many years.

His outreach to the poor was legendary — for decades he distributed food to hundreds of needy people in the South Bronx. His first assignment as a priest was as Catholic chaplain at Children’s Village in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a residential facility for troubled children. After being there 14 years, he became founding director of Trinity Retreat in Larchmont, New York, a retreat house primarily for Catholic clergy and religious. He was there for 40 years.

He also was the founder of St. Francis House in Brooklyn, New York, for older adolescents. In 1985, he and Chris Bell founded Good Counsel Homes for young pregnant women in need.

Brenda Quinn, who worked with Good Counsel Home South Jersey, Riverside, remembered him for his devotion to the poor and suffering, but also for his “keen wit.”

“He would joke about looking forward to purgatory because he said it would be like going back to his hometown of Jersey City,” she said in an email.

“My favorite quote of his was, ‘We must not change because of the times; the times must change because of us,’” she said.

Born Robert Peter Groeschel, he entered the novitiate of the Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the Province of St. Joseph in Huntington, Ind., shortly after graduation from high school.

During his early years as a priest, he was invited to conduct a retreat for the Missionaries of Charity in India, which was the beginning of Father Groeschel’s long relationship with that community and his deep friendship with its founder, Blessed Teresa of Kolkata.

In 1987, Father Groeschel and seven other friars left the Capuchins to form a new religious community, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, based in the South Bronx and dedicated to the service to the poor. The community now numbers 115 members.

A similar community for women, the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal also was formed; it currently has 35 members.

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