Maryknoll Father Mike Gould, a native of Merna, marks 65 years in priesthood

Father Mike Gould, MM

Father Mike Gould, a native of Merna who celebrated the 65th anniversary of his ordination as a Maryknoll priest this summer, is spending August in the Midwest visiting with family and reflecting on a missionary career that included almost six decades serving in Bolivia.

“I’m working on a booklet of my memoirs,” said Father Gould, who turned 92 on Aug. 13. It promises to be an interesting read.

Father Gould, the second oldest of a family of 10 children raised in a home next to the former St. Patrick Church in the McLean County town of Merna, is a 1945 graduate of Trinity High School in Bloomington. While there he read “Men of Maryknoll,” a book gift from his godmother written during World War II that told stories of Maryknoll priests at work in China, Japan, the Philippines and South America.

“It stayed in my mind,” said Father Gould, so much so that he left Marquette University in Milwaukee early in his freshman year and boarded a train to Scranton, Pennsylvania to attend Maryknoll Apostolic College in nearby Clarks Summit. He earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy at Maryknoll Seminary in Ossining, New York, and was ordained on June 12, 1954, in Maryknoll, New York.

60 YEARS IN BOLIVIA

Forty-five of his nearly 60 years in Bolivia were spent in the same rural parish in Santa Cruz that served 30 area villages in the region’s sub-tropical lowland. The area included many Japanese immigrants from Okinawa. Father Gould helped train lay leaders and catechists, organize agricultural cooperatives and credit unions, and worked with parishioners to build more than 20 chapels in the mission stations.

To reach the remote areas, he learned to pilot an airplane, often landing on strips cleared in the grass by his parishioners.

“People would pick me up on a motorcycle or a horse and buggy,” he recalls. He averaged 500 baptisms a year for much of his ministry.

For the past 18 months, he assisted Maryknoll Father Bill Donnelly — also a native of the Diocese of Peoria — at St. Patrick Parish in Canutillo, Texas, near the western edge of El Paso. (See related story on their reaction to the Aug. 3 massacre.)

“Maryknoll has been down there with old retired guys from missions in Latin America that want to help out a little bit,” said Father Gould. Noting his heart required a pacemaker two months ago, Father Gould said he likely will not be going back to El Paso, but will move after Labor Day to a Maryknoll property for retired priests in California.

Father Gould celebrated his 65th jubilee with members of the Maryknoll community June 29-30 in Ossining.

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