Our Native Son
Bishop John C. Reiss, who died March 4, 2012, was the first native son of the diocese to become Bishop of Trenton.
Born in Red Bank May 13, 1922, John Charles Reiss studied for the priesthood at The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and Immaculate Conception Seminary, Darlington.
He was ordained a priest May 31, 1947, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, by Bishop William A. Griffin. Father Reiss returned to The Catholic University of America in 1950 to earn a doctoral degree in canon law.
After serving as an associate pastor, he was appointed master of ceremonies and secretary to Bishop George W. Ahr in 1953. Later, he was named assistant chancellor, then vice chancellor.
In 1963 Father Reiss was named Officialis of the Diocesan Tribunal. In October 1963, Pope Paul VI named him a Domestic Prelate, with the title "Monsignor."
He was appointed pastor of St. Francis of Assisium Parish, Trenton, in 1965. Msgr. Reiss was appointed auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Trenton by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 25, 1967. He was consecrated a bishop Dec. 12, 1967.
Bishop of Trenton
Bishop Reiss was named the eighth bishop of Trenton by Pope John Paul II March 11, 1980 and was installed as bishop April 22, 1980, in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral.
In 1982, Bishop Reiss ordained Bishop Edward U. Kmiec as Auxiliary Bishop of Trenton. Ten years later, he congratulated Bishop Kmiec on his appointment as the Bishop of Nashville, TN.
Other significant events taking place under his spiritual leadership included:
- initiating the Emmaus program of priestly spirituality in 1982;
- implementing Renew, a process of lay spiritual renewal between 1985 and 1987;
- implementing the Fourth Diocesan Synod, which opened with Mass Jan. 13, 1991, and closed on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8, 1991;
- conducting Faith-In-Service, a $32 million diocesan capital and endowment fund campaign from 1992 to 1995. In all, Faith In Service raised $38 million to provide financial stability for diocesan services;
- constructing a new Morris Hall facility to include St. Joseph Hall Skilled Nursing Center and St. Mary Hall Assisted Living Residence. The new facility was dedicated Oct. 28, 1994;
- constructing Villa Vianney, a residence for retired diocesan priests. The facility was dedicated Oct. 18, 1995;
- expanding the Diocesan Chancery. The newly constructed addition tripled the size of the diocesan office building was completed in 1997.
On Nov. 21, 1995, Bishop John M. Smith was named Coadjutor Bishop of Trenton, to one day succeed Bishop Reiss as Diocesan Bishop. Bishop Smith, a native of the Newark Archdiocese and a former Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, at the time was Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee, FL.
On reaching the age of 75, Bishop Reiss submitted his letter of resignation to Pope John Paul II. The letter was accepted, effective July 1, 1997, and that day he became Retired Bishop John C. Reiss.
In retirement, Bishop Reiss assisted Bishop Smith with the administration of Confirmation in numerous parishes in the diocese.