Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, retired auxiliary bishop of Detroit, dies at 94

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton (photo), a retired auxiliary bishop for the Archdiocese of Detroit, died April 4, 2024. He was 94.

Bishop Gumbleton was born Jan. 26, 1930, and grew up in Epiphany Parish on Detroit’s west side. On June 2, 1956, he was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and on March 8, 1968, Pope Paul VI appointed him the 10th auxiliary bishop of Detroit. He was consecrated on May 1, at that time the youngest bishop in the country.

He went onto serve an active role in the governance of the Archdiocese and became known nationwide for his frequent trips to nations suffering from economic fallout and wars, his promotion of change inside and outside the Church, and his advocacy of peace and anti-racism efforts. He retired from active episcopal duties in 2006.

“Bishop Gumbleton was a faithful son of the Archdiocese of Detroit, loved and respected by his brother priests and the laity for his integrity and devotion to the people he served," said Archbishop of Detroit Allen H. Vigneron. "We in the Archdiocese join his family and friends in praying for the repose of his soul and asking God to grant him the reward of his labors.”

Visitation for Bishop Gumbleton will begin on Wednesday, April 10, 2024, at 1 PM, with a Prayer Service at 4 PM, at the IHM Sisters Motherhouse, 610 West Elm Avenue, Monroe. Visitation will continue on Thursday, April 11, from 2 – 8 PM, at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 1000 Eliot Street, Detroit. (Click here for the visitation livestream), and on Friday, April 12, from 12 – 8 PM at Chas. Verheyden, Inc., 16300 Mack Avenue, Grosse Pointe Park. Bishop Gumbleton will lie instate on Saturday, April 13, from 9:30 AM until the time of his funeral Mass at 11 AM, at the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament, 9844 Woodward Avenue, Detroit. His funeral Mass will be livestreamed here. Interment will take place at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Southfield.

After his ordination to the priesthood, Bishop Gumbleton served four years as associate pastor of St. Alphonsus Parish in Dearborn, until 1960, when Cardinal John F. Dearden appointed him assistant chancellor of the Archdiocese of Detroit. After receiving his doctorate in canon law from the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome, he was appointed vice chancellor, elevated to the rank of monsignor, and took up the role of administrator of Holy Ghost Parish in Detroit. At various times, he served as acting director of the archdiocesan Community Affairs Department, chairman of the Building Commission, and leader of the Urban Parish Apostolate and Project Equality, a program initiated by Cardinal Dearden to fight poverty in Detroit. He was a significant contributor to the Archdiocese’s Synod 69, a gathering of the entire archdiocese that would pave the way for increased lay participation in parish life, such as pastoral councils and lay ministry positions.

A champion of social justice causes, Bishop Gumbleton was one of the most prominent Catholic leaders to speak out against the Vietnam War and became the founding president of Pax Christi USA, an American Catholic peace movement that calls for non-violence and the abolishment of nuclear weapons. He traveled the world, speaking out against wars and meeting victims of violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Vietnam, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Israel, Palestine, Colombia, Haiti and Peru. For his lifelong effort to promoting peace and harmony, Bishop Gumbleton received the 2007 Detroit Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. Award, in addition to several other honors from universities and nonprofits.

Following his retirement in 2006, he continued serving as administrator of St. Leo Parish in Detroit, where he had served as pastor since 1983, for another year. After his tenure ended, Bishop Gumbleton stayed in residence at the St. Leo rectory for a time and maintained a presence in the city.

More information about the life and ministry of Bishop Gumbleton is available at Detroit Catholic: Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, a promoter of solidarity with those in need, dies at 94.


Media contact:
Holly Fournier