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Garrelts, George

Eire, PA
In the social tumult of the 1960s, George Garrelts was a progressive priest who helped put the University of Minnesota's Newman Center at the forefront of changes sweeping the Roman Catholic Church.

As the decade ended, he left the university to became a student at Syracuse University in New York, where his studies "led him to think differently about the future of the church," said the Rev. Harry Bury. Garrelts left the priesthood, married and became a college teacher.

He died of bone cancer at his home in Erie, Pa. He was 85. Ordained in St. Paul in 1942, he soon joined the Newman Center when he became assistant priest at Minneapolis' St. Olaf Catholic Church, which sponsored it. St. Olaf constructed a new Newman Center in the early 1950s and assigned Garrelts there.

Considerably underpaid by cash-poor student parishioners, he was rich in recognition. Along with such luminaries as future governor Orville Freeman and the Dayton brothers of the department store, he was named one of the 100 "leading young men" in Minneapolis in a 1953 proj ect sponsored by Time magazine and the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce.

When Vatican II opened new territory for Catholics in the early '60s, Garrelts was ready to lead his people to it.

He was among the first to put the altar in the center of the church, to change the way communion was distributed and to add the contemporary sounds of guitars and flutes to worship at the Newman Center.

"It was the place to go on Sundays," said Bury, an assistant Newman priest from 1965 to 1969. The congregation, swelled by liberal Catholics from across the Twin Cities, supported nine masses per weekend.

Also drawing a crowd was the Newman Forum, a speakers' series started earlier by Garrelts as a way to pay the bills. He brought in singer Joan Baez and the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, activists against the Vietnam War.

But church authorities weren't especially happy with them. Garrelts got in trouble "because he forged ahead without permission" on some things, Bury said.

In 1969, both men were awarded study grants. Garrelts took his leave first, pursuing a doctorate in religion and culture at Syracuse University. In 1970 he left the priesthood.

"He followed truth wherever it led him," Bury said.

Garrelts courted his wife at Syracuse and married her in the early 1970s. He taught in the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department at Mercyhurst College in Erie from 1979 to 1997.

Then nearly 80, he invented a job for himself -- mobile therapist who took children out swimming, bicycling or playing basketball under the auspices of a social service agency in Erie, Bury said.

Survivors include his wife, Louise Welter Garrelts, and two sons, Steven of New York City and Gerard of Columbus, Ohio.

Trudi Hahn, Star Tribune

"Value and Velleity" This is the title of book that George was writing at the time of his death. The excerpt below, taken from the book, was on his memorial card. His wife plans to finish this book.

"My deity is not personified, but a source of energy, that source which energizes the galaxies and all being. I cannot account for the creation of the universe and the evolutionary process. I just know we have discovered it and are continuously studying its history. I think humans came into being in that process, rising up from lower life forms to hominid state, then becoming human beings alongside minerals, plants and animals; becoming tool makers, rational, reflective, risible. The sun is a good symbol of that transmission of energy, and the fossils and geological formations symbols as well as artifacts of how we and the universe developed. We did not come out of harmony or a perfect garden but out of various forms of disharmony and catastrophic movement and change. We live in an imperfect universe which cries out for our cooperation and care in its development."
Garry, John *
Monroe, WI
January 11, 2014

John James Garry, 88 of Monroe, WI and formerly Morris, IL, passed away Saturday, January 11, 2014. A 1944 graduate of Quigley Preparatory Seminary, attended St. Mary of the Lake Seminary and transferred to the Glenmary Home Missioners, where ordained into the priesthood (1952). John served as a Catholic missionary in Appalachia and the American South, as a fundraiser for Glenmary in Chicago, and as the National Chaplain of the Catholic War Veterans, prior to leaving the priesthood (1967). John later worked as an insurance underwriter for many years and retired to Monroe, WI in 2006. Son of the late John Garry and Myrtle nee Clarke; stepson of John Slepicka; husband of the late Anne (nee Burke); father of John, Patrick (Tanya), Kevin (Tara), Matthew (Leah), Katy (Michael) Lambert, and Martin (Katherine) Garry; grandfather of Aidan, Kira, Breanna, Anna, Jack, Sonya, Margaret and Samuel; brother of Shirley James, Virginia Biernat, Rita Reilly and the late Jean Pauly and brother-in-law to Sr. Patricia Burke, Angela (Denny) McAuley, George Biernat, Bill James, Norman Reilly, Roger McAvoy, Robert Pauly and Robert Gorman. Visitation will be at Immaculate Conception Church, 600 E. Jackson St. in Morris on Thursday January 16th from 4-7PM. Funeral Mass will follow Friday at 10:30AM. Burial Mt. Carmel Cemetery, Morris. In lieu of flowers, memorials to American Cancer Society . Guestbook/Info: or 815-942-2500.

John was one of the original members of CORPUS and  helped many resigned priests find employment throughout the years.   May he enjoy the peace and  joy of his eternal home.