April 29, 2005

Father John Dede was canon lawyer,
seminary rector

By Mary Ann Wyand

Father John F. Dede, a retired diocesan priest who also was a canon lawyer and seminary rector, died on April 20 in Clearwater, Fla., where he had lived during his retirement years. He was 82.

Before his retirement in 1997, Father Dede had served as pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute, his hometown. The former St. Margaret Mary School, which was renovated for use as a parish center, is named in his honor.

Two brothers were ordained priests and five sisters entered religious life.

Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein was the principal celebrant for the Mass of Christian Burial on April 25 at St. Margaret Mary Church. Burial followed at Calvary Cemetery in Terre Haute.

Msgr. Frederick Easton, vicar judicial of the archdiocese, was the homilist and remembered Father Dede as a friend, priest, pastor, canonist and liturgist.

“[Father] John Dede truly touched the lives of many people in his 80-plus years,” Msgr. Easton said in the homily. “He whose first love was the study and celebration of the sacred liturgy consented to study at the Pontifical Lateran University the laws of the Church—canon law—so that as a member of the Society of St. Sulpice he might share that knowledge with seminarians who needed that formation.”

Father Dede “shared with me and my classmates at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore the love of the law of the Church and its role in and among the people of God,” Msgr. Easton said. “He did it also at St. John’s Seminary in Plymouth, Mich. It is said that he was the only one his community members knew who could make the study of canon law interesting.”

Msgr. Easton said Father Dede truly felt honored to have been appointed rector of St. Mary Seminary and to serve the Church in Metropolitan Tribunals in two archdioceses.

“He used his pastoral skills as the pastor of St. Margaret Mary [Parish], where he is remembered for so many good things—celebrant of the Eucharist [and] his love and care for the sick and the poor.”

Msgr. Easton said Father Dede’s “love and passion for the liturgy” was expressed in his prayerful manner of leading the assembly and his interest in the work of the Second Vatican Council.

“He also loved the Liturgy of the Hours,” Msgr. Easton said. “At his request, the open breviary lies upon his chest in the coffin. This is symbolic of his love for the official prayer of the Church.”

Providence Sister Mary Beth Klingel, parish life coordinator of St. Margaret Mary Parish, said Father Dede served the south side Terre Haute parish for 24 years and she ministered with him there as a pastoral associate for 21 of those years.

“He recognized people’s gifts and he enabled them to use their gifts [in ministry], ” Sister Mary Beth said. “He really believed in people assuming their roles. He also was very committed to serving the sick and the shut-ins. He visited them regularly, and he also had a real devotion to serving the poor. Our food pantry outreach started while he was pastor here.”

She also remembered Father Dede as a priest who loved the liturgy and eagerly implemented the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council.

“He also was an extremely knowledgeable canon lawyer,” Sister Mary Beth said, “and many people turned to him for advice.”

She said Father Dede completed many years of distinguished ministry in formation work for seminarians with the Society of St. Sulpice.

“Obviously, they saw him as a capable person as a teacher of canon law,” she said. “I also think they recognized his administrative abilities because he did, I guess, a fantastic job at the seminary. He utilized his education well in service of the Church.”

John F. Dede was born on April 30, 1922, in Terre Haute to Arthur H. and Helena (O’Leary) Dede. He attended St. Ann School in Terre Haute then completed his high school and seminary education at the former minor seminary and college at Saint Meinrad before graduating from the Saint Meinrad School of Theology.

He earned two master’s degrees and a canon law degree while studying at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., the University of Fribourg in Germany, the University of Detroit in Michigan for coursework in clinical psychology and the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome for canon law.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Paul C. Schulte on May 27, 1947, at Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church then was released to the Society of St. Sulpice, which he served for 25 years.

Father Dede celebrated his first Mass on June 1, 1947, at St. Ann Church in Terre Haute, his home parish. His first clergy appointment was serving as a professor at St. Charles College in Catonsville, Md., in 1947.

In 1949, Father Dede pursued graduate studies at the Lateran University and University of Fribourg.

In 1952, Father Dede began serving as a professor at St. Mary Seminary and University in Baltimore, and also was appointed academic dean there. He also served the Archdiocese of Baltimore as a censor of books.

In 1963, he was named a professor and academic dean at St. John Seminary in Plymouth, Mich., while also serving the Archdiocese of Detroit as a pro-synodal judge in the Metropolitan Tribunal.

In June 1966, Father Dede was named president-rector of St. Mary Seminary and University in Baltimore, where he served until June 30, 1972, when he took an academic leave of absence to study at the University of Detroit.

On July 5, 1973, he was named pastor of St. Margaret Mary Parish in Terre Haute, where he served until his retirement on July 2, 1997.

Father Dede also served the archdiocese as dean of the Terre Haute Deanery for two terms, beginning on Oct. 18, 1982, and Oct. 18, 1985.

On May 4, 1984, he began 13 years of ministry as a judge for the Metropolitan Tribunal in the archdiocese.

He moved to Florida two years ago.

Surviving are a brother, Father Paul Dede, who is pastor of St. Jude the Apostle Parish in Spencer, and four sisters, Providence Sister Eileen Dede, Providence Sister Mary Mark Dede, Providence Sister Kathleen Dede and Benedictine Sister Patricia Ann Dede.

He was preceded in death by his parents as well as a brother, Father James Dede, and a sister, former Providence Sister Angele (Marcella) Dede. †


Local site Links: