Late Raleigh bishop remembered for his compassion, devotion
Posted August 20, 2013
Cary, N.C. — The late Bishop F. Joseph Gossman, who presided over the Catholic Diocese of Raleigh for three decades, was eulogized Tuesday in a funeral Mass that recalled a faith and devotion to God that was so ardent, it was matched by only his love for people.
“You have fought the good fight. You have loved and been loved. You are now in the hand of God,” Monsignor Gerald L. Lewis said during the warm and touching Mass that drew hundreds of mourners to St. Michael the Archangel in Cary. “May he rest in peace.”
Gossman died last week at the age of 83. He led North Carolina Catholics through a period of unprecedented growth. Under his leadership, the number of registered Catholics in the eastern half of state tripled to more than 190,000. He blessed and dedicated more than 60 parishes, schools and all-purpose buildings, most of them in his last 12 years.
Gossman retired in 2006.
“He often said that our problem of growth was certainly better than the problem of closure that other dioceses were facing,” Lewis said.
Gossman was remembered as man who stood for what was morally right, even in the face of controversy. Lewis recalled his unwavering support of farmers and textile workers, and his belief that “all working people must be treated with dignity and respect.”
Lewis also said his friend was a simple man at heart.
“Bishop Gossman lived a simple life,” he said. “He was happy to be among his people, among his priests.”
Gossman was born and raised in Baltimore and served his entire priesthood in that area before coming to Raleigh in 1975. Even then, simplicity was a hallmark of his lifestyle. The reception at his installation included a humble lunch of popcorn, pimento cheese sandwiches and sweet tea, Lewis recalled.
Although a devout and serious man of God, Gossman also had a lighter side and knew how to make others laugh. Lewis joked that Gossman loved taking pictures and rarely was without a camera.
“I never saw those pictures, and I’m not sure anyone did. I’m not even sure he had film in the camera,” Lewis said, drawing a laugh from the crowd. “I assure you, I have been through all of Bishop Gossman’s belongings – I have not found those pictures.”
Gossman often meditated on the words of St. Augustine when contemplating his role as bishop: “What I am for you terrifies me. What I am with you consoles me. For you, I am a bishop. But with you I am a Christian. The first is an office accepted. The second a grace received.”
Wilton D. Gregory, archbishop of Atlanta, presided over the Mass, and Bishop Michael Burbidge, Gossman’s successor, read a condolence message from the Vatican.
Burbidge said Gossman’s legacy will live on through the members of the diocese, who will continue his good work and honor his memory.
“I will never forget how Bishop Gossman eased my hesitation and concern of succeeding him,” Burbidge said. “He simply told me, ‘Just love God. Be good to his people, and be yourself.’ What sound advice for all of us.”
He added, “With one voice, we say thank you, Bishop Gossman. Thank you for being such a great example for all of us.”