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Diocese Mourns Passing of Cardinal Edmund Szoka


It is a bittersweet day for the Diocese of Gaylord.  Amid preparations for a joyous celebration next week of the ordination and installation of our newest shepherd, came the news of the passing of Cardinal Edmund Szoka, the First Bishop of the Diocese of Gaylord.  Cardinal Szoka entered into eternal life on Wednesday, August 20, 2014. He was 86.

“A chapter of our diocese has passed for this life,” said Msgr. Francis Murphy, Diocesan Administrator, “but it’s also a good day for Cardinal Szoka.  I know he has been hurting physically in the past few years and so this time of suffering is over, so that can be a blessing, and I would expect that he’s gone to his reward… He was our first bishop and of course the first of anything is always very special and very important.”

Born September 14, 1927, in Grand Rapids to Casimir and Mary Szoka, Edmund Casimir Szoka was ordained to the priesthood on June 5, 1954, for the Diocese of Marquette. He served as chancellor in Marquette prior to being named bishop of the newly created Diocese of Gaylord on June 11, 1971. He was ordained and installed as the First Bishop of Gaylord on July 20, 1971, with Cardinal John Francis Deardon, Bishops Charles Salatka and Joseph McKinney serving as co-consecrators.

While Bishop of Gaylord, Cardinal Szoka ordained to the diaconate the man who would become the Fifth Bishop of Gaylord, Steven J. Raica, whose episcopal ordination is planned for one week from today.

“Cardinal Szoka served God and His Church with such commitment, dedication and great love,” stated Bishop-Elect Raica. “He was a holy priest, a gifted leader whose response to the Lord’s call was always a resounding “Yes,” no matter where he was called.”

“As I reflect on the role he played in my own life since being appointed to follow in his footsteps as Bishop of Gaylord, I am grateful for the ways he entered into my life,” Bishop-Elect Raica continued. “Cardinal Szoka was a priest of my home Diocese of Marquette before being appointed the first Bishop of the newly-formed Diocese of Gaylord in 1971.  He ordained me to the diaconate just six years later.  While I was studying and later worked in Rome, Cardinal Szoka served there. We had our last conversation just a short time ago after he learned Pope Francis had appointed me the Fifth Bishop of Gaylord.  It was an honor to know Cardinal Szoka.  I hope that I can lead in a manner worthy of the legacy he leaves behind.”

On March 21, 1981, Pope John Paul II appointed Cardinal Szoka as the Eighth Ordinary and Third Metropolitan Archbishop of Detroit and he was installed two months later on May 17. Archbishop Szoka was instrumental in organizing the Holy See’s first-ever visit to Michigan in 1986. He was named a cardinal by Pope John Paul II during the consistory that took place on June 28, 1988.

Cardinal Szoka served as the Archbishop of Detroit until 1990, when the Holy Father called him to Rome to serve as the Prefecture for the Economic Affairs of the Holy See. He served in this position until October 15, 1997, when he was appointed the President of the Governatorate of Vatican City State. Though he was nearing the mandatory retirement age of 75, Cardinal Szoka was named the President of Vatican City State on February 22, 2001, overseeing the Curia of the Holy See.

In 2005, Cardinal Szoka participated in the papal conclave that elected Pope Benedict XVI before retiring from active ministry in 2006, just one day after his 79th birthday. Cardinal Szoka returned to the Archdiocese of Detroit and resided in the suburb of Northville at the time of his death. 

Cardinal Szoka will lie in state at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament (9844 Woodward Avenue, Detroit) from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday, August 24. A prayer service, the Office of the Dead, will take place Sunday evening at 7 p.m. Visitation also will take place at the Cathedral from 2 p.m. until 9 p.m. on Monday, August 25, with a Rosary service at 3 p.m. and a vigil service at 7 p.m.

Funeral Mass will take place on Tuesday, August 26 at 11 a.m., also at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The Diocese of Gaylord will host a Memorial Mass on Tuesday, September 2 at 11 a.m. at St. Mary, Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Gaylord. A reception will follow.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him.


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