By Catholic News Service
CARY, N.C. (CNS) — Father John Catoir, president and founder of St. Jude Media Ministry and a former director of The Christophers, died April 7 in Cary. He was 90.
A retired priest of the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, he had resided in North Carolina for the last several years. No cause of death was given but since March 22 he had been in hospice care, according to Patricia Martin, executive director of St. Jude Media Ministry.
A funeral Mass for Father Catoir will be celebrated April 11 at St. Michael the Archangel Church in Cary at 11 a.m. EDT. Burial will follow at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church Cemetery in Newton Grove, North Carolina. The funeral will be livestreamed on the late priest’s website, www.johncatoir.com.
“He spent his entire life in service to God and others, but his greatest legacy is being a ‘messenger of joy’ to a world so in need,” Martin told Catholic News Service April 8. “He would invite us all to now carry that light forward — to be joyful in the knowledge of God’s love.”
The priest would often recall a 1980 meeting with St. John Paul II, who he said asked him to become “a messenger of joy.” He worked for several years to fulfill that mission.
In 1995, Father Catoir founded St. Jude Media Ministry to provide “uplifting messages of joy to those most in need through all forms of media.”
The ministry began with national radio “spots” produced and distributed throughout the country and today has expanded to a worldwide outreach via video and social media. His online Christmas and Easter prayer marathons have reached more than 4 million viewers across the globe, according to his website.
Father Catoir began the ministry after his tenure as director of The Christophers, a New York-based organization that uses print and broadcast media to further the Judeo-Christian concept of service to God and humanity.
In that capacity, he hosted the nationally syndicated weekly television series “Christopher Closeup”, for over 17 years. The show was seen on 60 commercial stations and 400 cable systems worldwide.
The early years of St. Jude Media Ministry were spent recording audio messages in a small New York City studio. The tapes were then sent to a variety of national radio stations where late night airtime was purchased. Father Catoir then began utilizing social media, first Facebook and then Twitter, posting more than 20,000 messages of hope and joy.
Father Catoir served as president of three organizations: National Association of Church Personnel Administrators, 1975-1977; Association of Catholic TV and Radio Syndicators, 1983-1985; and what was then called the Catholic Press Association, 1988 to 1990.
In 1993, he received the CPA’s St. Francis de Sales Award for outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism. Named for the patron saint of writers and journalists, the award recognizes “outstanding contributions to Catholic journalism” and is the highest honor given by the association, now called the Catholic Media Association.
In an April 8 statement, Rob DeFrancesco, CMA’s executive director, said: “I am grateful to God for Father John Catoir, who dedicated his life to inviting people to come to know and love Jesus Christ through Catholic media. His joy and enthusiasm for sharing the good news is an inspiration for members of the Catholic Media Association.”
Among its annual journalism awards, the CMA presents one named for the late priest: the Father John Catoir Social Media Evangelization Award.
Father Catoir was awarded the Daniel J. Kane Award for Religious Communication by the University of Dayton, Ohio, in 1993 and the Catholic Actors Guild gave him their St. Genesius Award for his outstanding spiritual service to the entertainment industry in 1990.
He wrote more than a dozen books including the bestsellers “Joy,” “A Simple Guide to Happiness.” “Enjoy The Lord,” “Enjoy Your Precious Life,” “World Religions: Beliefs Behind Today’s Headlines” and “God Delights in You: An Introduction to Gospel Spirituality.” For many years he wrote a regular column for Catholic News Service.
Born and raised in New York City, he graduated from the Fordham University School of Business in 1953. After two years in the U.S. Army, he entered Immaculate Conception Seminary in Darlington, New Jersey, at age 25.
After his May 28, 1960, ordination, he went on to study at The Catholic University of America in Washington, where he received his doctorate in canon law in 1964. He held honorary doctorates from four universities.
He served his diocese in the marriage tribunal and later as pastor of Our Lady of Victories Parish in Paterson.
Prior to taking over the helm at The Christophers, Father Catoir had become nationally known for his work in marriage legislation and church personnel administration.
“We are living in difficult times. Mental health, positive thinking and faith are more critical than ever,” he said in an interview in 2020, the year he celebrated 60 years as a priest. “To seek quiet time with joy-centered content is one way of overcoming our daily stresses. I would invite everyone to become messengers of joy!”