The Most Reverend John J. Myers, J.C.D., D.D.
Archbishop Emeritus of Newark ~ Fifth Archbishop of Newark
The Most Reverend John J. Myers, J.C.D., D.D., Archbishop Emeritus of Newark, entered into eternal life on Thursday, September 24, 2020. He was 79 years old.
Archbishop Myers, fifth Archbishop of Newark, was born in Ottawa, IL on July 26, 1941 to M. W. “Jack” and Margaret Donahue Myers. He was the eldest of seven children.
The Archbishop’s family traces its roots to Ireland, England and France; relatives settled in northern Illinois in the late 1800s.
Earlier ancestors of Mrs. Myers (Spaulding was the family name) served in the Revolutionary War.
The Myers family farmed near Earlville, IL, a town of 1,400 located 20 miles north of Ottawa. The Myers children all worked with their father and shared the family chores; prayer was very much a part of their everyday routine. Young John Myers was an altar server in his parish, St. Theresa, from an early age.
John Myers attended public grammar and high schools in the Earlville, IL area. While completing studies at Loras College in Dubuque, IA (1959–1963), Bishop John B. Franz offered him the opportunity to prepare for the priesthood in Rome and continue his seminary education through the Pontifical North American College, the national seminary in Rome for the formation of candidates for priesthood from the United States. Father Myers was ordained a priest for service to the Diocese of Peoria by Bishop Francis Reh on Dec. 17, 1966 at the Altar of the Chair in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. He then received a Licentiate in Sacred Theology from Gregorian University, Rome in 1967. He later earned a Doctorate in Canon Law from Catholic University of America in Washington, DC in 1977.
Father Myers’ first assignment was as assistant pastor at Holy Family Parish, Peoria in 1967. He then served in the Department of International Affairs of the United States Catholic Conference from 1970 to 1971. His next assignment was as associate pastor of St. Matthew Parish, Champaign, IL from 1971 until 1974.
Among the administrative positions Father Myers held in the Diocese of Peoria were: Administrator of St. Mary Cathedral (1977-1978 and 1984); diocesan Vice Chancellor (1977-78); Vocations Director (1977-1987); diocesan Chancellor (1978-1987); and diocesan Vicar General (1982– 1990). He also served as a Member of the diocesan Presbyteral Council
(1968–1970 and 1984–1990) and Board of Consultors (1978–1990).
On September 3, 1987, Bishop Myers was installed as Coadjutor Bishop of Peoria, Illinois, and acceded to the See of Peoria on January 23, 1990.
On July 24, 2001, His Holiness, Saint John Paul II, called then-Bishop Myers to serve as the fifth Metropolitan Archbishop of Newark, NJ. He was installed as Archbishop of Newark on October 9, 2001. His Holiness conferred the Pallium on Archbishop Myers on June 29, 2002.
In addition to his responsibilities as Metropolitan Archbishop of Newark, Archbishop Myers also served as the Ecclesial Superior, missio sui iuris, of the Turks & Caicos Islands. In 2005, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI named Archbishop Myers to the post of Ecclesiastical Delegate for the Pastoral Provision for admitting married former Anglican clergy in the United States to the Catholic priesthood.
He held this post until 2011.
During the 12 years as Chief Shepherd in Newark, Archbishop Myers shepherded the people of the Local Church of Newark through numerous significant events and challenges. Assuming his responsibilities almost immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks, he visited Ground Zero and sought to ease the sorrow of rescue and recovery workers there.
He officiated at numerous funeral and services for those who perished in the World Trade Center attacks, and published a pastoral message, “If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us?” - A Reflection on Faith and Terrorism.
As a Member of the Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Myers helped draft the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, the linchpin document that guides the Church in dealing compassionately with victims of abuse and openly with civil authorities.
Archbishop Myers also oversaw the celebration in 2003 of the 150th anniversary of the Archdiocese of Newark, including publication of a history book, Seeds of Faith, Branches of Hope.
In recognition of the need to address the future of the Archdiocese and its institutions, Archbishop Myers launched two studies in 2002, the New Energies Parish Transition Project and the Strategic Plan for Catholic Schools. These two initiatives, which concentrated on parish and community participation, provided valuable ideas and solutions to help parishes and schools strengthen their presences and provide a way for parishes to adapt to demographic shifts that had occurred in northern New Jersey in recent decades. Further strengthening of Catholic elementary schools began in 2011 through a Catholic Education Commission. The Archdiocese implemented the Commission’s recommendations and a new roadmap for Catholic elementary education during the 2014-2015 school year.
Archbishop Myers also helped raise awareness both in New Jersey and nationally to the sin of human trafficking, and worked with local, regional and national agencies to implement programs to provide assistance to the victims of these crimes and stronger enforcement of laws to punish perpetrators.
Through his work as President of the New Jersey Catholic Conference, the public policy arm of the Catholic Church in New Jersey, Archbishop Myers and his brother bishops were instrumental in addressing such important public issues as the abolition of the death penalty, affordable housing, poverty, and charity care.
A reflection of his episcopal responsibilities as an authentic teacher of the Faith, Archbishop Myers served as President of the Board of Regents and Chair of the Board of Trustees of Seton Hall University, the archdiocesan university. In addition, he chaired the Academic Affairs Committee and Finance Committee of Catholic University of America, Washington, DC; was a Member of the Seminary Committee of Catholic University, and; was a Member of Catholic University’s Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. Further, from 2003 until 2008 he was a Member of the Executive Committee of the Board of Governors of the Pontifical North American College, Rome and Chair of its Finance Commitee. He also served as Chair of the North American College's Board of Governors.
He previously served as a Member of the Seminary Board of Kenrick-Glennon Seminary of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and Mount St.Mary Seminary, Emmitsburg, MD. He also was a founding Member and Member of the Board of Directors of the Association for Catechumenal Ministry.
Throughout his 25 years as bishop and Member of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop Myers served on or chaired numerous committees, initiatives and task forces, including: Canonical Affairs; Shrines and Pilgrimages; Vocations; Hispanic Affairs; Ad Hoc Committee on Sexual Abuse; Task Force on Catholic Colleges and Universities; Aid to the Church in Eastern Europe; Ad Hoc Committee on the Revision of the Conference By-Laws; Restructuring; and Domestic Policy.
He also served as Trustee of the Papal Foundation and Chair of the Foundation’s Investment Committee; as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Foundation, Inc.; as a Member of the Episcopal Advisory Board of the Theology of the Body Institute; and Member of the Bishops Advisory Board of the Pope Paul VI Institute.
Archbishop Myers participated extensively in numerous Canon Law projects, and produced scholarly writings on a range of topics including diocesan finance, ecclesial ministries, the rights of unborn children, the Eucharist, human trafficking, and the family. In recognition of this extensive experience in Canon Law projects, Archbishop Myers served from 1998 until 2008 as a Consultor to the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legal Texts. In this capacity he would assist this arm of the Roman Curia that interprets the laws of the Church. In 2008, he was named a Member of this Pontifical Council.
A Third-Degree Knight of Columbus, Knight Commander with Star of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre, Knight Commander-Grand Cross of the Sovereign Constantinian Order of the Martyr St. George, and Conventual Chaplain of the Order of Malta, Archbishop Myers also was awarded Doctorates of Humane Letters, honoris causa, from Mt. St. Mary University, Emmitsburg, MD, from Loras College, Dubuque, IA, and from St. Peter’s University, Jersey City; a Juris Doctor, honoris causa, from Seton Hall University Law School; and Doctorate in Theology, honoris causa, from Catholic University of America.
Upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75, Archbishop Myers submitted his letter of resignation as Archbishop of Newark. His resignation was accepted on November 7, 2016. Upon the installation of Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., as Archbishop of Newark on January 6, 2017, Archbishop Myers was granted the title Archbishop Emeritus of Newark.
Archbishop Myers’ motto, Mysterium Ecclesiae Luceat (translated:“Let the Mystery of the Church Shine Forth”) is a summary of the central theme of the Second Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium. He often said, “I cannot make someone believe. I can, however, explain what the Church teaches and the reasons for that teaching, and then invite him or her to be open to that teaching and embrace it.”