A Life of Joy
By Penny Wiegert
On April 7, there was a little less joy in the world. You may not have realized it, but anyone who knew and loved Father John Catoir will understand.
The following was part of a notice sent out by the current director of The Christophers, Toni Rossi:
“It is with sadness we report that Father John Catoir, who served as Director of The Christophers from 1978 to 1994, died yesterday — April 7, 2022 — at age 90. For 17 years, Father Catoir was the face and voice of The Christophers, a job which included hosting our syndicated television talk show ‘Christopher Closeup,’ on which he interviewed a diverse array of guests including Henri Nouwen, Ruby Dee, Cesar Chavez, Arthur Ashe, James Cagney, Milton Berle, and Bob Newhart.
“During his tenure with The Christophers, Father Catoir also served as president of the Catholic Press Association (receiving its highest honor, the St. Francis de Sales Award in 1993.) He went on to create St. Jude Media Ministry. In particular, Father Catoir felt called to be a ‘messenger of joy’ after meeting with Pope John Paul II in 1980 and hearing him use that term. Father Catoir continued to spread that message through MessengerOfJoy.com and JohnCatoir.com.”
I have written about Father Jack, as he was known to most, previously in this column space. And I do so again because in my many years in the Catholic press, I have known many priests in my diocese, in the U.S. and internationally. While I have great admiration and respect for all priests and their vocations, there are some who will forever have a special place in my heart and memory. Father Jack is one of those priests. And I think because Father Jack was called to spread joy, it is appropriate that I
share this memory of him as we await the joy of Easter.
I first met Father Jack when I was about 27 years old at a Catholic Press Association meeting. From that moment on, our paths continued to cross, and we called each other friends. 
For many years, while director of The Christophers, Father Jack’s column was featured in The Observer and Christopher Closeup was featured on WREX TV, Rockford, just after our diocesan Catholic Mass each Sunday. The motto of the Christophers is, “It is better to light a candle, than curse the darkness.” And I always felt that “light” best described Father Jack even before he became known as a “messenger of joy.” 
He always faithfully participated in the work of the Catholic press and communications and supported others in that work. He wrote me notes of support and never failed to see “how it was going” while I served as both vice-president and president of the Catholic Press Assn. 
One story that will always stand out for me is one he told during a meeting in Denver, Co. The story illustrates to me his genuine love for all God’s people. 
An elderly woman used to send a very small, but regular contribution to the Christophers. He would write her a short note of thanks each time. During one of his travels, Father Jack realized he would pass through the city where this long-time correspondent of his lived, and he paid her a visit. He wanted to put a face to the name so to speak. There is more to the story, but to me, this describes so much about Father Jack as a man, servant and priest. 
Hearing of his death, I read from a prayer book he gave me published in 2001, Joyfully Living the Gospel Day by Day. The meditation for his death date, April 7, was from Psalm 107:8-9. Father Jack wrote this as the reflection and prayer: 
“The prayer of thanksgiving is itself the prelude to the prayer of praise. When we pause in quiet praise of God, the need for words diminishes and we enter an atmosphere of joyful silence. This quiet time is restful and full of peace. It is called the gift of contemplation, and it flourishes in a grateful heart.”
His prayer read, “Father humbly, I bow before You, and bathe in the warmth of Your Love.”
My dear Father Jack, you were truly a wise mentor of kindness. You accomplished much joy. It is now up to all who knew you to perpetuate that joy in your honor. But for now, dear Father Jack, I am confident that your prayer written so many years ago, “to bathe in the warmth of God’s love,” is now fulfilled for you. 
Rest in joyful peace dear friend.