Midtown Raleigh News

Bishop emeritus Gossman, 83, dies after a long illness

Bishop F. Joseph Gossman questions children in the congregation of Sacred Heart Cathedral following his sermon on the meaning of Ash Wednesday in 1999.
Bishop F. Joseph Gossman questions children in the congregation of Sacred Heart Cathedral following his sermon on the meaning of Ash Wednesday in 1999.

Bishop Emeritus F. Joseph Gossman, who served 31 years at the helm of the Raleigh Diocese, died Monday after a long illness.

He was 83 years old.

Gossman became the fourth bishop of the Raleigh Diocese at age 45, succeeding Bishop Vincent S. Waters, and served from May 19, 1975, until his retirement June 8, 2006.

Gossman was a strong proponent of the sanctity of human life and spoke out on issues involving human dignity – including the plight of the poor, care and concern of immigrants, and strong opposition to capital punishment.

In 1997, he joined with Bishop Emeritus William Curlin of Charlotte in issuing a Pastoral Letter titled “Of One Heart and One Mind.” The document called for everyone – including public and business officials – to work for common good. The theme of that letter matched Gossman’s episcopal motto: “To serve, not be served.”

Gossman played a leading role in the creation of the N.C. Lutheran-Roman Catholic Covenant that was signed in 1991 by the Dioceses of Raleigh and Charlotte, and the N.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

During his years as shepherd, he was challenged by exploding growth in the Catholic population of the Raleigh Diocese, which is composed of the 54 easternmost counties of North Carolina.

At the time of his appointment, Catholics numbered approximately 1 percent of the statewide population. At the time of his retirement, the registered Catholic population in the Diocese of Raleigh was 192,000, with an additional 200,000 Hispanics residing in the Diocese, many of whom were Catholic.

During his tenure, Gossman blessed and dedicated more than 60 parishes, schools and all-purpose buildings, most of them in his last 12 years.

Born April 1, 1930, in Baltimore, he was the son of Frank M. and Genevieve Steadman Gossman. He attended St. Charles College and St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1952. He continued his studies at the North American College in Rome, obtaining his Licentiate in Sacred Theology from the Gregorian University, Rome, in 1956.

Gossman was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Baltimore in Rome on Dec. 17, 1955. In 1956, he began graduate studies at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., earning a doctorate in canon law in June 1959.

He served as an assistant pastor at Baltimore’s Basilica of the Assumption until July 1968, at which time he was appointed administrator of the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen in Baltimore. He also served as vice chancellor of the Archdiocese from 1959-68.

He was made Honorary Prelate to His Holiness Pope Paul VI with the title of Monsignor on June 27, 1965.

In July 1968, he was named Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore and was ordained a bishop on Sept.11, 1968, by Cardinal Lawrence Shehan. In mid-1970, Gossman was named urban vicar, with the inner city of Baltimore and its people his special area of ministry.

“I ask the faithful in the diocese to join me in praying for the eternal happiness of Bishop Gossman,” said the Most Rev. Michael F. Burbidge, “and to thank God for the gifts of his priestly example and faithful ministry as bishop.”

Burbidge celebrated a Mass for Gossman on Tuesday at Sacred Heart Cathedral.

Funeral arrangements, including Reception of the Body, visitation, vigil, funeral mass and Rite of Committal, will be announced as they are finalized.