Services in Bloomington and Hancock County for Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, 50

Msgr. Gregory Ketcham

BLOOMINGTON — A Mass of Christian Burial was offered at St. Patrick Church of Merna here on Monday for Msgr. Gregory Ketcham, 50, pastor emeritus who died at the parish rectory on Feb. 9, 2018 — 20 months after being diagnosed with brain cancer.

“Grace flowed through him,” said Father James Seitz of Msgr. Ketcham, a native of Hamilton whose assignments included eight years as chaplain of St. John Chapel and director of the Newman Foundation at the University of Illinois.

Father Seitz, a priest of the Diocese of Winona and longtime friend of Msgr. Ketcham, was homilist at the funeral liturgy. Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, was principal celebrant.

Looking around the packed church, Father Seitz said all present had somehow “been touched by the grace of this man,” even as he went through the dying process.

“For those who were privileged and honored and blessed to be a part of all of that, you know how he carried his cross with dignity and honor,” said Father Seitz.  (Excerpts from the funeral homily may be read here.)

After additional visitation the following day at Sts. Peter and Paul, Nauvoo, a funeral procession traveled along the Great River Road for a graveside service at Oakwood Cemetery in Hamilton. A memorial Mass was then celebrated at St. Mary Church, Hamilton.


Born Feb. 14, 1967, in Keokuk, Iowa, to Keith H. and Norma Jean Wilkens Ketcham, he was raised in Hamilton as a member of St. Mary Church there. Msgr. Ketcham was graduated from Hamilton High School in 1985 and earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Winona, Minnesota, in 1989.

He completed studies for the priesthood at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein, from which he earned a master of divinity degree and a degree in sacred theology.

Msgr. Ketcham was ordained by Bishop John J. Myers at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria on May 28, 1994.

His first assignment was as parochial vicar of Immaculate Conception, Monmouth; St. Patrick, Raritan; and St. Andrew, Oquawka. He would serve those faith communities for three years.

In 1995, he was named diocesan director of rural life, a post he would hold for eight years.

From 1997 to 2003 he was pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul, Nauvoo, and Sacred Heart in Dallas City. He then became pastor of St. Philomena, Peoria, where he would serve until his appointment to guide the Newman Center at the University of Illinois in 2006.

Among the highlights of his eight years of ministry at St. John’s Catholic Newman Center was the dedication and blessing in 2008 of a $38 million major expansion and renovation project, including a six-story addition that doubled the student resident capacity of Newman Hall. He was also chaplain of the Illini football team.

He was named a Chaplain to His Holiness with the title of monsignor in 2009.


In 2014, Msgr. Ketcham was named pastor of St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington and St. Mary, Downs.

After suffering a seizure during a Sunday Mass on June 12, 2016, Msgr. Ketcham was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. The announcement led to an outpouring of support and prayers — including weekly vigils at St. Patrick Church of Merna — with Msgr. Ketcham keeping present and past parishioners updated on his condition via the parish website.

“The Lord has given me great peace which is even more powerful than hope,” he wrote in his first entry on July 16, 2016, while undergoing treatment at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. “I totally have submitted my life and priesthood into the hands of Jesus through the intercession of Venerable Archbishop Sheen, St. Patrick, St. John Bosco, and St. Dominic Savio.” He frequently closed his updates with a phrase of trust in Christ, which parishioners put on t-shirts: “Jesus reigns.”

Msgr. Ketcham returned to the Bloomington and Downs parishes that September. He was named pastor emeritus last April.

He is survived by three sisters, Kay (Steve) Luft of Olathe, Kansas, Clarisse (Dr. Jonathan) Slater of Bloomington, and Colleen Varner of Hamilton; one brother, Dr. Jeffrey (Annette) Ketcham, Peoria; nine nieces and nephews, and 15 great-nieces and great-nephews.

Memorials may be directed to St. Patrick Church of Merna in Bloomington or to St. John’s Catholic Newman Center in Champaign for a scholarship to be established in his name.



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