July 6, 1934 – August 23, 2017
Fr. Meehan, age 83, a member of the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey and a Norbertine priest, teacher, principal, and pastor, passed into God’s Eternal Kingdom on August 23, 2017.
Fr. Meehan was born on July 6, 1934, in Philadelphia to John and Elizabeth (Campbell) Meehan.
In 1952, Fr. Meehan graduated from the Norbertine Southeast Catholic High School in Philadelphia. He received a B.A. degree in philosophy from St. Norbert College (SNC) in 1957.
Upon entering St. Norbert Abbey, he was vested as a novice on August 28, 1952. He professed Simple Vows on August 28, 1954, Solemn Vows on August 28, 1957, and was ordained to the priesthood on June 18, 1960.
Fr. Meehan began his teaching and administrative ministry at Abbot Pennings High School, spending 19 years in the classroom and 11 years as principal. During this time, he also completed his M.A. degree in French at Middlebury College, Vermont. He also served several terms as house superior at St. Norbert Abbey and at St. Joseph Priory. For almost 30 years, Fr. Meehan assisted with weekend parish ministry at St. Mary Parish in De Pere. He devoted much time and care by his participation in the Cursillo Movement for 20 years, and he coordinated the St. Norbert Abbey youth retreat program for three years. He was a French and German instructor at SNC for two years, and was named pastor of St. Norbert College Parish at Old St. Joseph Church and director of campus ministry from August 1993 to February 2001. After his ministry at SNC, Fr. Meehan ministered to the Hispanic parishioners at St. Willebrord Parish in Green Bay and at a number of local nursing homes.
Fr. Meehan has been the recipient of numerous awards, including the 1985 Ft. Howard Paper Foundation Humanitarian Award, the 1990 St. Norbert College Silver Knight Award, and the 1994 Roses for the Living Rotary Award.
Fr. Meehan is survived by the Norbertine Community of St. Norbert Abbey; two brothers, James Meehan and Jack (Mary) Meehan; and beloved niece, Christine Parsley. Fr. Meehan is also survived by the hundreds of students to whom he ministered so selflessly at SNC and his cherished Abbot Pennings High School.
He was preceded in death by his parents and two sisters: Sr. Clare Amata Meehan, IHM, and Christine (Meehan) Perham.
The Norbertine Community is grateful for the extraordinary care Fr. Meehan received from the abbey medical and nursing staff, and for the many friends who visited him throughout his recent illness.
Visitation will be held in the Church of St. Norbert Abbey on Wednesday, August 30, 2017, beginning with Vespers of the Dead – Reception of the Body at 5 p.m. and continuing until 8 p.m.
Visitation will continue at the abbey on Thursday, August 31, 2017, from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m.
The Mass of Christian Burial, expressing our faith and hope in the promised glory of the Lord’s Resurrection, will be held in the abbey church on Thursday, August 31, 2017, at 4 p.m.; the Rt. Rev. Gary J. Neville, O. Praem., abbot of St. Norbert Abbey, will serve as principal celebrant and homilist at the concelebrated funeral liturgy.
Burial will follow immediately in the St. Norbert Abbey cemetery.
Ryan Funeral Home, De Pere, is in charge of the arrangements.
Read More about Fr. Meehan
- “Vivat in Eternum”: Reflections on Two Funerals
By Bob Woessner
- Norbertines in Service (pages 6-8)
- Educated in Good Faith (pages 4-5)
By Frater Matthew Dougherty, O. Praem.
“Vivat in Eternum”: Reflections on Two Funerals
By Bob Woessner
Past Pennings High School Parent, “Green Bay Press-Gazette” Writer
It has been our good fortune to have avoided going to many funerals. But a week ago Thursday there were two – an hour apart in churches a mile apart.
The first, at 4 p.m. at St. Norbert Abbey, was for Father Gery Meehan. He was the principal at Abbot Pennings where our three sons went to high school. The second, at Resurrection Parish, was for Patricia O’Neill. She and Kit were in a book group together.
Pat struck me as a vibrant and intense person who did lots of good work for many people during a life of 73 years. That included 16 years in village government, the last two as president. She fell victim to a cancer so aggressive that it was only a few weeks from diagnosis to death.
The journalist in me wants to say Rev. Gery Meehan, who was 83, as the AP Stylebook dictates. But everyone called him Father. That is the way he will be remembered by the hundreds of students he encountered at Pennings in his 30 years as teacher and principal.
Pennings was one of two Norbertine high schools in the Green bay area. The two and St. Joseph’s Academy, the all-girl school our daughter attended, were folded into one in 1990. Finances and fewer priests and nuns made the merger inevitable. But the decision embittered many people. Someone who knew him well told me it broke Father Meehan’s heart.
The APHS building was a hand-me-down from a De Pere school district. Enrollment was rarely more than a few hundred but the place always seemed crowded and noisy. Growing boys in jackets and ties clomped and thundered up and down stairs. Most of the jackets and ties were from Goodwill or someone’s closet of worn-outs. The dress-code garb was worn only during the school day, rarely laundered and often left to compost in lockers.
Looking back, three things made Pennings work. One, as son Tim noted, the place was small enough that most any student with a pulse could find an activity. Second, finances were so precarious that parents had to be involved in fundraising and that forged a sense of community.
The final reason was Father Meehan. The abbot who delivered the funeral homily said Gery “lived as a gentleman.” I did not see the text but assume there was a space between “gentle” and “man.” Father Meehan was a gentleman – well-mannered and civil – but also a gentle man who was both a mentor and a model for boys who likely are better men because of him.
The logistics of the two-funeral day led us to a mid-afternoon visitation for Pat, to Father Meehan’s funeral and then to a country-club reception for Pat.
After Father Meehan’s liturgy we followed the Norbertines – many white-haired and age-bowed – to the cemetery a few hundred yards from the Abbey. The white-robes gathered around the open grave. As late-summer sun lengthened shadows, they sang “Vivat in Eternum,” not a dirge but an exaltation for someone who “lives forever.”
At the reception, Pat’s husband held off his grief to talk of her life and his loss with eloquence and humor. You wondered how he could do that and if you could if the sad task became yours.
I wore a wore a coat and tie for the day – something I do rarely. That was proper attire for the country club. But the real reason was that Father Meehan would have approved.