Archbishop John Roach Dies Friday

Please remember in your prayers Archbishop John R. Roach.

Associated with the University of St. Thomas for half a century, he died Friday afternoon, July 11, at the Little Sisters of the Poor Home for the Aged in St. Paul. He had been in failing health for some weeks.

The funeral is planned for 2 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, at the Cathedral of St. Paul. Details of the funeral, reviewals and prayer services can be found on The Catholic Spirit newspaper’s Web site at

When the University of St. Thomas conferred an honorary degree on the archbishop in 1995 it observed that his presence on the university's campus -- as a student, teacher, headmaster, rector and for 20 years chairman of the board of trustees -- "has been profound."

Archbishop John Roach

Father Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas, said today that “the Catholic Church has lost a great leader. Archbishop Roach's accomplishments in the areas of education, ecumenism, and community action, both locally and nationally, will remain his lasting legacy.”

The university in 2000 decided to rename Albertus Magnus Hall as the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts; it was a decision that came as a surprise to the retired archbishop.

"I am deeply honored," he said at the time, "and I am delighted because I always have loved that building and the way it complements Aquinas Hall (located immediately to the west). When it was built, Albertus Magnus Hall represented a major commitment on the part of St. Thomas to the community and to higher education itself. It became a symbol of stability and security, and now it will remain so for many years to come."

Roach, 81, was born July 31, 1921 in Prior Lake. He attended Shakopee High School and Nazareth Hall before enrolling in the St. Paul Seminary, now the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity of the University of St. Thomas. Ordained in 1946, he taught Latin and religion at the St. Thomas Academy when the military high school was still located on the university's St. Paul campus. He served as the academy's headmaster from 1951 to 1968 and oversaw its 1965 move to a new campus in Mendota Heights.

Roach returned to the university's St. Paul campus in 1968 to be the founding rector of the archdiocese's college-level St. John Vianney Seminary. He was ordained a bishop three years later and when named archbishop in 1975, he became chairman of the St. Thomas board of trustees. He also chaired the boards of St. John Vianney and St. Paul seminaries. Following his retirement he remained a trustee emeritus of St. Thomas.

During his 1980-1983 term as president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, he guided development of the bishops' pastoral letter on war and peace and the pastoral letter on the economy. He established the nation's first diocesan Commission on Women and AIDS ministry, and served as head of the National Catholic Education Association.

When Roach retired from active ministry in 1995, he was praised for his work in the areas of interfaith relations, urban renewal and community action, and agriculture and rural life.

In presenting its honorary degree to Roach, St. Thomas said he served the archdiocese "with an unswerving faith, dignity, tenacity and desire to build a better community in which all of us can live."