March 18, 2022

Msgr. Joseph Riedman: a kind pastor who helped people

By Sean Gallagher

Msgr. Joseph RiedmanMsgr. Joseph Riedman, a retired archdiocesan priest, died on March 4 at his home in Connersville. He was 93.

The Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on March 15 at St. Gabriel Church in Connersville.

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson was the principal celebrant. Retired Father J. Nicholas Dant was the homilist.

Burial followed in the priest circle of St. Michael Cemetery in Brookville.

For the last several years of his life, Msgr. Riedman suffered from dementia, a progressive condition that degrades a person’s memory, thinking and judgment skills.

By the time he arrived at the 64th anniversary of his ordination on May 3, 2020, Msgr. Riedman could not recognize most people he had known for years.

On that day, Father Dustin Boehm, pastor of St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville, came to Msgr. Riedman’s home in the southeastern Indiana town to celebrate Mass for him on his ordination anniversary.

“He slept through the entire Mass,” recalled Father Boehm of Msgr. Riedman on that day. “But he woke up during the words of consecration, and he said them with his hand out, just as any concelebrating priest would.”

That moment, for Father Boehm, showed just how much being a priest meant to Msgr. Riedman.

“He had entirely forgotten who I was and lots of other people,” Father Boehm said. “But he never forgot the most important words of his priesthood, which are the words of Christ becoming present among us.”

That moment had special meaning for Father Boehm, who received his first Communion from Msgr. Riedman some 30 years ago when he was a 7-year-old member of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish in Greenwood, where Msgr. Riedman served as pastor at the time.

The first Communion Mass took place on a Saturday morning.

“I asked my father after the Mass, ‘Dad, can we go to Mass tonight as well?’ ” Father Boehm recalled. “Msgr. Riedman created a parish where a 7-year-old boy could discover a hunger for Christ in the Eucharist.”

On the day that Msgr. Riedman died, Father Boehm was able to return the gift he had received from the dying priest when he was a boy, bringing Christ to him in the sacraments, this time in the anointing of the sick.

Retired Father J. Nicholas Dant served as an associate pastor under Msgr. Riedman at Our Lady of the Greenwood from 1980-83. He noted that Msgr. Riedman, who was lovingly known as “Father JJ” to his parishioners and brother priests, showed forth Christ to his parishioners in the kind way he ministered to them.

“He modeled Christ in the way he was open to everybody, his kindness to everybody, his concern for the well-being of everybody,” Father Dant said. “He modeled Christ in his openness to all people, no matter their background.”

Msgr. Riedman was not afraid to enter into the messy aspects of his parishioners’ lives when they needed his help. He was also at ease in getting messy in being a handyman around the parishes in which he served.

“[Father] JJ was one of those people who was just as happy working on a boiler as he would have been working with people,” Father Dant said. “He was very technically and mechanically oriented. One of his gifts to me was a set of tools.”

David Bethuram, now the executive director of archdiocesan Catholic Charities who served for 11 years with Msgr. Riedman on the staff of Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish, experienced Msgr. Riedman’s mechanical savvy firsthand after he offhandedly told the priest that he had a problem with his dishwasher at home.

“I got home, and we were having dinner,” Bethuram recalled. “All of a sudden, the doorbell rings. Msgr. Riedman is there with his toolbox. He walks in and says, ‘Let me look at that dishwasher.’ He had it fixed in half an hour. That was not unusual for him to do, even with parishioners.”

Whether it was fixing appliances or tending to people’s souls, Bethuram remembers Msgr. Riedman as a strong pastoral leader who desired to help people.

“Even though he was short in stature, his presence was very prominent,” Bethuram said. “He was a strong leader, but very approachable, just a strong, solid man of faith. He was willing to get himself dirty in order to help people in need, kind of like what Pope Francis talks about.”

Joseph G. Riedman was born on Feb. 20, 1929, in Connersville to Joseph and Mary Riedman. He grew up as a member of St. Gabriel Parish in Connersville.

After graduating from Connersville High School, he became an archdiocesan seminarian and received priestly formation at the former Saint Meinrad College in St. Meinrad and later at Theological College at the Catholic University of America in Washington.

Msgr. Riedman also later earned a master’s degree in math at Ball State University in Muncie.

Archbishop Paul C. Schulte ordained Msgr. Riedman a priest on May 3, 1956, at the Archabbey Church of Our Lady of Einsiedeln in St. Meinrad.

His first pastoral assignment was as associate pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Indianapolis, where he served from 1956-60. He also began at the time 17 years of ministry as an instructor at Father Thomas Scecina High School in Indianapolis, where he served in a part-time capacity from 1956-60 and full time from 1960-73.

Msgr. Riedman also served as assistant pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Indianapolis from 1960-71; as chaplain for the Indianapolis convent of the Sisters of St. Francis from 1971-72; and as administrator pro-tem for St. Thomas More Parish in Mooresville from 1972-73.

Beginning in 1973, Msgr. Riedman began 37 years of ministry leading three parishes in and around Indianapolis.

From 1973-80, Msgr. Riedman served as pastor of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield. He then was assigned to lead Our Lady of the Greenwood Parish, where he remained until 1993.

In that year, he was assigned as pastor of Holy Spirit Parish, where he stayed until his retirement from active ministry in 2009.

While at Holy Spirit, Msgr. Riedman also served as dean of the Indianapolis East Deanery from 1995-2001. He ministered for brief periods as administrator of St. Philip Neri Parish in Indianapolis in 1996; of St. Therese of the Infant Jesus (Little Flower) Parish in Indianapolis in 1997; and of St. Michael Parish in Greenfield in 1997.

In 2011, Pope Benedict XVI named him a chaplain to his Holiness, with the title of monsignor.

Msgr. Riedman is survived by a brother, James Riedman of Connersville.

Memorial contributions may be sent to St. Gabriel Parish, 232 W. Ninth St., Connersville, IN 47331-2099. †

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