The former auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Manchester and 10th bishop of the Diocese of Portland, Maine, Joseph J. Gerry, died Sunday, July 2, 2023, at age 94.
Bishop Gerry died on the 75th anniversary of his profession as a Benedictine monk. He was ordained to the priesthood at St. Joseph Cathedral in Manchester, June 12, 1954, by the Most Rev. Matthew F. Brady.
During his long service to the church, he served as the third Abbot of Saint Anselm College from 1972 to 1986.
He had been living at Mt. Carmel Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Manchester at the time of his death.
Pope John Paul II appointed Gerry as the Manchester Diocese’s auxiliary bishop in 1986. In late 1988, the Pope named him to head the Portland Diocese, where he remained until 2004.
During his time there, he consolidated parishes in Old Town, Lisbon, and Waterville. He weighed in on state referendum issues in 1989 and 2000, publicly opposing partial-birth abortion and physician-assisted suicide. He opened a new Catholic high school in Auburn in 2002 and in that same year removed two priests from ministry after they admitted to sexually abusing boys during the 1980s. Gerry said that the men would not be transferred to other parishes. Gerry also took a hard stance on same-sex marriage, advising the Maine Legislature in 2004 that it was a violation of natural law.
While at Saint Anselm College, he served as dean and chancellor and a member of the philosophy faculty. He was instrumental in the foundation of the Saint Anselm College Humanities Program.
A native of Millinocket, Maine, he was born Sept 12, 1928, one of eight children. He was a 1945 graduate of Stearns High School in Millinocket. He began studies at Saint Anselm College and later entered the Benedictine monastic community there. Following his novitiate at Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe, Pa., he professed first vows as a member of the Order of Saint Benedict on July 2, 1948. He returned to Manchester and continued his college studies, earning a B.A. degree in philosophy in 1950. His theological studies were at the abbey seminary and he professed solemn monastic vows in 1951.
He received a Master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Toronto in 1955, and a doctorate in philosophy from Fordham University in 1959.
In September of 2003, upon reaching age 75, he submitted his resignation which was accepted on Feb. 10, 2004. Upon his return to the abbey in Manchester, he served as novice master for several years, and continued to give retreats and conferences until his health limited his activities.
The monastic community will receive his body at Saint Anselm Abbey Church on Wednesday, July 5, at noon, followed by calling hours in the abbey church until 9 p.m. A Liturgy of Christian Burial will be celebrated by the Most Rev. Peter A. Libasci, D.D., bishop of Manchester, at 11 a.m. on Thursday, July 6. Burial will follow in the monastic community’s cemetery located on the campus of Saint Anselm College.
Lambert Funeral Home in Manchester is handling arrangements.