RIP Gene Bleidorn, Cardijn Center, Milwaukee

posted 6 Apr 2010, 23:49 by Stefan Gigacz   [ updated 7 Apr 2010, 00:00 ]
Civil rights activist and former priest, Gene Bleidorn, who was long involved with the Cardijn Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, died on March 3 after a long illness.

Bleidorn told his story in a book he called "In My Time", the Journal-Sentinel reports.

He wrote of his years as a Catholic priest and the tumultuous time working with Father James Groppi and other civil rights activists at St. Boniface parish. He also wrote about his decision to leave the active priesthood after 27 years.

His death notice offered this summary: "Whether as a clergyman or as a married man, Gene preached, taught and lived for social justice and peace."

Eugene F. Bleidorn, 94, who had Alzheimer's disease and had suffered a fall, died in hospice care.

Bleidorn was one of eight children born to Frank and Louise Bleidorn. Three Bleidorn sons - Frank, Fred and Gene - became priests. By 1973, all three had left the priesthood.

As a young priest, Gene Bleidorn joined the faculty at the St. Francis Seminary. He was long involved with the Cardijn Center and young people, active in issues of spirituality and social responsibility. After returning to parish work, he found himself assigned as pastor at St. Boniface in 1965.

The parish and its priests - associate pastor Groppi and Father Michael Neuberger - were at the epicenter of the civil rights storm, the Sentinel says.

"Both were driven by the command, 'Love God and love your neighbor as yourself,' " Bleidorn said in his book. "Both were filled with anger at the injustices thrust upon the black race. To this day I hold both of them in the highest regard.

"In the end I was convinced that we were where we must be - on the cutting edge, bringing our Church and our community to a better view of what the constitution of our country was telling us, as well as a better understanding of what our best religious principles demanded of us."

In 1970, he finally decided to leave the active priesthood. He had come to question not the faith itself, but its practice.

He found a wife and life partner in Mary Agnes Blonien - he called her Mary Ag - who was long involved with the church, St. Boniface parish and the civil rights movement. His proposal came as a surprise.

SOURCE: Bleidorn wanted to serve all people (Journal Sentinel)