In gratitude for good and faithful servants


By Barb Arland-Fye

Two retired priests of the Diocese of Davenport whose decades of ministry touched the lives of countless people, died within a month of each other this summer. Msgr. John Hyland, a priest for 55 years who served more than a decade as diocesan vicar general, died July 21. Father Tom Stratman, ordained 73 years ago, died Aug. 19 and was the most senior priest in our diocese at the time of his death. Both priests continued to minister to the faithful in our diocese long after each one officially retired. Father Stratman even served as a proofreader for The Catholic Messenger, leaving a lasting impression on our staff and our publication.

The number of retired priests and priests nearing retirement is growing in our diocese; so, too, the number of priests who pass away each year. Two years ago, the diocese had 31 active priests between the ages of 60 and 70, more than a third of all active priests, according to diocesan records. At that time, 35 priests were retired. That list has grown.

For many years, the Messenger published tributes upon the death of each diocesan priest. Space limitations in the print edition led to our difficult decision several years ago to forgo individual tributes while continuing to publish an obituary for each deceased priest that includes the list of his assignments. That decision has resulted in some fallout. Occasionally, we hear from readers anticipating a tribute for a priest who served as their pastor, educator or colleague in academia. Their disappointment to our explanation is palpable.


Similarly, we receive inquiries or criticisms from readers wondering why a prominent Catholic in their community or region did not receive a tribute in the Messenger. Some have wondered why the women religious in our diocese who have also been good and faithful servants did not receive tributes (we do publish their obituaries). That question caused us to rethink the Messenger’s approach to tributes.

After giving much thought to our decision, we chose not to write obituary tributes because, inevitably, we would leave someone out. However, we do welcome readers’ tributes as letters to the editor (300 words or less) or short guest columns (400 to 600 words, depending on space), which we publish on the Opinion page. This week’s issue includes two tributes to Father Stratman, one from Father Rudolph Juarez and the other from Father Marty Goetz, each of whom shares moving and (sometimes, humorous) memories of their mentor.

Seven years ago, we published a tribute to Msgr. Hyland, whose post-retirement ministry included supervising maintenance and housekeeping staff at that time, along with accommodating guest stays and assisting student priests from Tanzania and retired priests in residence. The tribute began, “Asked to describe Msgr. John Hyland in one word, the people who reported to the vicar general of the Diocese of the Diocese of Davenport offered these responses: loyal, unselfish, committed, supportive, kind-hearted, diligent, peaceful, thoughtful, considerate, servant.”

Msgr. Hyland also served for a time on The Catholic Messenger Board of Directors and was a terrific advocate for our publication. At the chancery, he thoughtfully remembered people with cards of congratulations, sympathy and encouragement. He was the keeper of the keys, helping those of us who occasionally locked ourselves out of the office during off-hours.

 Pope Francis, in a speech on the priesthood last year, said: I am convinced that, for a renewed understanding of the priesthood, it is important nowadays to be closely involved in people’s real lives, to live alongside of them, without escape routes” (

Msgr. John Hyland and Father Tom Stratman lived their priesthood involved in people’s real lives, and we are richer for their ministry — as we are for all priests, deacons and women religious who served as good and faithful servants in our diocese.

Barb Arland-Fye, Editor

Support The Catholic Messenger’s mission to inform, educate and inspire the faithful of the Diocese of Davenport – and beyond! Subscribe to the print and/or e-edition, or make a one-time donation, today!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Posted on

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *