NEWARK, NJ -- John J. Myers, who led the Archdiocese of Newark from 2001 until 2017, died in Illinois on Sept. 24 at age 19. Prior to his installation in Newark, he served as a bishop in the Diocese of Peoria, IL, for over a decade. Archbishop Myers was ordained as a priest in 1966 and earned a Doctorate in Canon Law from Catholic University in 1977.
Myers led the Archdiocese through the difficult period after the Sept.11 attacks and encouraged parishes to remain open for people to pray and hold services for those who perished in the attacks. He also wrote a pastoral letter, If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? Reflections on Faith and Terrorism, in October 2001. In doing so, he sought to assuage the suffering of families who had lost loved ones, provide spiritual guidance and counsel, and reinforce the Church’s teaching on God’s divine mercy.
In 2003, Myers oversaw the 150th anniversary celebration of the Archdiocese of Newark. He was a member of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and also served as Trustee of the Papal Foundation and Chair of the Foundation’s Investment Committee. 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.
Upon hearing the news of Archbishop Myers’ passing, Cardinal Joseph W. Tobin, Archbishop of Newark, issued a statement: “On behalf of my brother Bishops and the entire family of God here in our local Church of Newark, I extend my heartfelt prayers and condolences to his family. Let us thank God for Archbishop Myers’ service and his love of our Church. I entrust him to the loving arms of our Blessed Mother Mary, and I pray that Our Lord grant him peace.”
Myers tenure was not without controversy, however.
In 2003, Michael Mautone filed a complaint with the Newark Archdiocese alleging that Father Kevin Gugliotta had sexually abused him in the 1980s when Gugliotta was his Boy Scout leader. Although the Archdiocese initially suspended the priest, Myers later reinstated him because the accusation of abuse occurred before Gugliotta was ordained. The archbishop later assigned Gugliotta to St. Bartholomew’s Church in Scotch Plains, where he served as a youth minister for a number of years. (In 2016, Gugliotta was arrested for possession of child pornography, served time in prison, and registered as a sex offender.)
Following the news of Myers death, Mautone posted on Facebook: "I am so very disappointed this man will not be held accountable in a court of law and I hope his biggest secrets did not die with him. This is the man who failed to heed my warning in 2003 and went on to assign my perpetrator at Saint Bartholomew’s."
In 2017, Myers also drew the ire of many Catholics following media reports that the archdiocese planned to spend $500,000 on an addition at his retirement home in Hunterdon County. In January of this year, the archdiocese sold the property when Myers moved back to Illinois to be cared for by his family during his final days.