Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

MARYKNOLL, N.Y. - Maryknoll Father Thomas F. Goekler of New Haven died at age 69 on Nov. 25, 2010, in Guatemala City, Guatemala. He was a priest for 43 years, 11 of which were as a Maryknoll Missioner.

Ordained for the Archdiocese of Hartford on May 4, 1967, Father Goekler worked as associate pastor at St. Bernard in Sharon, Sacred Heart in Kent, St. Patrick in Enfield and Holy Spirit in Newington. After Spanish language studies in Ponce, Puerto Rico, he began a 17-year inner-city ministry as co-pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Hartford. There, he directed Spanish outreach, including youth programs and housing initiatives (1972-84). During that time, he also taught at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford and at South Catholic High School in Hartford.

After serving at St. Agnes Parish in Milford in 1984-85, Father Goekler joined Maryknoll’s Priest Associate Program, serving in Metagalpa, Nicaragua, as part of a pastoral team. He then did chaplaincy work while teaching theology at La Universidad Catolica in Managua, Nicaragua (1988-91). After returning to the United States, he did mission education and promotion work in Houston, Texas.

In 1991, Father Goekler was again assigned within the Archdiocese of Hartford, where he ministered to the local black and Hispanic population and was director of youth programs at St. Michael Parish. He also directed a program that connected parishes and universities with inner-city ministries. In 1994, he co-founded Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven.

Father Goekler rejoined Maryknoll’s Priest Associate program in 1995 and was assigned to Maryknoll’s Hong Kong region. He spent the next three years as a professor of English at Wuyi University in GuangdongProvince in the People’s Republic of China.

Father Goekler officially joined Maryknoll in 1999. He pronounced his perpetual vows on June 27, 2002.

From 1999 to 2008, Father Goekler did pastoral ministry in Chamelecon, San Pedro Sula, Honduras. He also specialized in working with at-risk young people and gang members there. In 2008, Father Goekler was sent to Guatemala City, where he continued his work among the at-risk youths.

Father Goekler left a legacy of two houses in Honduras and Guatemala:Caminando Por La Paz (Walking for Peace), run by men from the streets who were provided with education, leadership roles and service; and Juan Gerardi Catholic Worker House.

Father Goekler was born on May 9, 1941, in New Haven. He graduated from Notre Dame High School in West Haven in 1959, St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield in 1961, received bachelor’s and master’s degrees from St. Bernard Seminary in Rochester, N.Y., and earned a doctorate in ministry from Hartford Seminary in 1994.

Father Goekler is survived by his sisters, Margaret Marlowe of Woodbridge; Sister Eleanor Goekler SMIC, of Paterson, N.J.; Frances Goekler-Morneau of New Haven; and Helen Macauley, of Westerly, R.I.

A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on Nov. 29 in Guatemala City. Burial followed there.

Archbishop Henry J. Mansell was the principal celebrant of a memorial Mass on Dec.10 at Sacred Heart Church in Hartford. Archibishop Emeritus Daniel A. Cronin, Auxiliary Bishop Christie A. Macaluso and Bishop Peter A. Rosazza were the principal concelebrants, and Father Timothy Meehan preached the homily. At the end of the Mass, Father Thomas Mitchell read the homily that had been given in Guatemala. Another memorial Mass was celebrated at Queen of Apostles Chapel at Maryknoll on Dec. 18.

Memorial donations in Father Goekler’s name may be made to the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, P.O. Box 302, Maryknoll, N.Y., 10545; or to Amistad Catholic Worker, 203 Rosette St., New Haven CT 06519.