Father Thomas F. Goekler, MM
Born: May 9, 1941
Ordained: May 4, 1967
Died: November 24, 2010
Father Thomas Goekler died on November 24, 2010 in Guatemala City, Guatemala. He was 69 years old and a priest for 43 years, 8 of which were as a Maryknoller.
Thomas Francis Goekler was born on May 9, 1941 in New Haven, Connecticut, son of Frank and Margaret Cox Goekler. He has four sisters. He graduated from Notre Dame High School in West Haven, Connecticut, after which he attended Saint Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, Connecticut, where he earned an Associate of Arts degree in English. He received a B.A. in Philosophy in 1963 and a Master of Divinity in 1967, both from St. Bernard Seminary, Rochester, New York. Father Goekler was ordained on May 4, 1967.
Father Goekler’s first assignment was filling in for the summer at St. Bernard’s parish, Sharon, Connecticut and Sacred Heart parish, Kent, Connecticut. From there he served as Associate Pastor at St. Patrick’s, Enfield, Connecticut, and then as Associate Pastor at Holy Spirit in Newington, Connecticut. His next assignment was to Sacred Heart in Hartford, Connecticut, a Spanish-speaking parish where he served as co-pastor and administrator. Father Goekler taught at Northwest Catholic High School from January 1970 until June 1983 and also at South Catholic from September 1978 until June 1982.
After serving a short time at St. Agnes in Milford, Connecticut in May of 1985, Father applied to the Maryknoll Associate Priest/Brother Program and was accepted in June 1985. After completing the orientation program, he was assigned to work in Esquipulas, Nicaragua. He worked as part of the pastoral team of the Lord of Esquipulas in Matagalpa, and then from 1988 through June 1991 as a professor in the Department of Theology and chaplain of La Universidad Catolica, Managua, Nicaragua. His first contract ended in 1991, and he was again assigned to ministry in the Archdiocese of Hartford. He served in St. Michael’s in Hartford, where approximately 45% of the parishioners were Hispanic. In addition to his parish work, Father Goekler was involved in workshops focusing on justice and peace issues. He also led a group of professionals on a study tour of Nicaragua. At the same time he was instrumental in founding the Amistad Catholic Worker House in New Haven, Connecticut.
In 1995 Father Goekler received a Doctorate in Ministry from Hartford Seminary, Hartford, Connecticut and in September of that year, he applied to, and was again accepted into, the Maryknoll Associate Priest/Brother Program. He was assigned to the Hong Kong Region and worked at Wuyi University in Guangdong Province in the Peoples Republic of China from January 1995 to August 1998. On November 5, 1998 Father Goekler received the prestigious Bishop Donnelly Urban Ministry Award from the Archdiocese of Hartford. From September to December 1998, he attended the North American College in Rome, and in January 1999 he returned to Central America and worked in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. In 1999 he was accepted as a candidate for incardination into the Society and pronounced his First Oath of Obedience to Maryknoll on May 4, 2000, the 33rd anniversary of his ordination, and his Perpetual Oath on June 27, 2002.
From January 1999 to 2008 Father Goekler served the people of Honduras. He called San Pedro Sula, his ” ‘adopted’ hometown, … a little bit of heaven, and a lot of heartbreak.” To help alleviate at least some of the heartbreak, he was instrumental in the success of four organizations to address the problems faced by the young people in the area. The first was called Caminando Par La Paz (Walking for Peace). Through this program the young people help to build houses, and in the process, they learn every aspect of house construction and management. The second organization was Jovenes En La Calle (Street Teens), and this was the educational and counseling aspect of the program. The third organization was Iglesia En America (Church in America), an interchange between educational institutions and parishes from the U.S. and Central America; and the fourth organization was Casa Lois, a Catholic Worker House of Hospitality, which houses young people who have nowhere to stay. His ministry centered in prayer and the Eucharistic presence. In 2008 Father Goekler was missioned to Guatemala City, Guatemala where he continued his work among the youths at risk.
The funeral mass was in Guatemala City on November 29, 2010 with many Maryknollers attending. Burial followed at a cemetery near the center house in Guatemala City. A Memorial Mass will be held at Maryknoll, New York on December 18, 2010 at Queen of Apostles Chapel.