Requiem Æternam: Bishop John C. Reiss, Trenton

Here in the diocese of Trenton today, we are mourning the loss of retired bishop John Reiss,who passed away yesterday at the age of 89. Some excerpts from the diocesan obituary:

John Charles Reiss was born May 13, 1922, in Red Bank, one of 11 children of Alfred and Sophia Telljohann Reiss. Of his five brothers and five sisters, one sister also pursued a vocation to religious life as a Sister of Mercy.

The future bishop studied two years for the priesthood in The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., entering Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington, in 1941. His teacher in dogmatic theology at the university was Msgr. George W. Ahr who, several years later, became the seventh Bishop of Trenton.

Bishop Reiss was ordained a priest May 31, 1947, in old St. Mary’s Cathedral, Trenton, by Bishop William A. Griffin. The newly ordained Father Reiss’ first assignment was as curate (assistant pastor) in Sacred Heart Parish, Trenton, where one of his duties was ministering to inmates in Trenton State Prison. In April 1949, he was transferred to Holy Spirit Parish, Perth Amboy, and, later, to St. Anthony Parish, Trenton.

Father Reiss returned to Catholic University in 1950 to earn a doctoral degree in canon law. Three years later, in 1953, he was appointed secretary to Bishop George W. Ahr and master of ceremonies, a position he held for the next 10 years.

On Oct. 25, 1967, Msgr. Reiss was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Trenton by Pope Paul VI. He was consecrated a bishop Dec. 12, 1967, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral by Bishop Ahr.

On Feb. 5, 1969, Bishop Reiss was transferred from pastor of St. Francis Parish, Trenton, to pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, South Plainfield. At the same time he was named episcopal vicar for Middlesex County and vicar general of the diocese in charge of spiritual matters and continued as Officialis of the diocese. For the next 11 years, Bishop Reiss assisted Bishop Ahr in Episcopal ceremonies and by administering with Confirmation in ceremonies throughout the eight-county diocese.

In 1980, Pope John Paul II appointed Bishop Reiss the eighth Bishop of Trenton, succeeding Bishop Ahr, who headed the diocese for 30 years. Bishop Reiss was installed as April 22, taking as his motto the words of his patron, St. John the Evangelist, found in the apostle’s first epistle, “Let Us Love One Another” (Jn 4:7).

Requiem Æternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetuae luceat eis. Requiescant in pace.

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