Msgr. Ralph Martin, a priest of the Diocese of Wilmington for 55 years, died early on Jan. 12. He was 88.
Msgr. Martin was born in Connellsville, Pa. A graduate of St. Mary’s High School and King’s College, both in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., he was ordained to the priesthood in May 1965 by Bishop Michael W. Hyle.
He served as an associate pastor at St. Thomas the Apostle, Resurrection and St. Matthew’s, all in Wilmington; and Good Shepherd in Perryville, Md. After his first assignment at St. Thomas, he earned a master’s degree in religious education and joined the faculty at Saint Mark’s High School for three years, with residence at Corpus Christi, Elsmere.
He received his first pastorate in 1980 at St. Catherine of Siena in Wilmington. In 1995 he attended the Institute of Continuing Theology in Rome, and upon his return to the Diocese of Wilmington, he was appointed administrator, then pastor, of St. Polycarp in Smyrna. He retired from the pastorate in 2002 and became the director of seminarians and newly ordained priests for the diocese, a position he held until 2007. He was the first person to hold that position after it was created by Bishop Michael A. Saltarelli.
Bishop Saltarelli told The Dialog in 2001 that then-Father Martin would be a good role model for future priests.
“He enjoys the esteem and reverence of not only his people (at St. Polycarp), but his fellow priests. He’s certainly a proven pastor, in the pastoral sense of the word, and will be a good example of priesthood for our young men,” Bishop Saltarelli said.
Upon his appointment to that position, Msgr. Martin spoke of the joy he found in being a pastor. “Since we are a diocese that primarily calls its priests to parish ministry, I feel that sharing my experience with the seminarians will be a blessing for both the seminarians and myself.”
In 1990, while he was pastor at St. Catherine of Siena, his parishioners wrote a letter to him in the parish newsletter on the occasion of his 25th anniversary as a priest.
“We are honored to be able to celebrate with you and honored to be able, in a small way, to give back something for all you have done for us and all the people you have come into contact with through your 25 years,” they wrote. “You’ve played so many roles under the title priest Each of us has been touched by you as you wear many hats.”
In addition to his parish assignments, Msgr. Martin was dean of the Millcreek Deanery, a member of the diocesan Pastoral Council, and sub-chairman of the diocesan committee to prepare for the celebration of Jubilee 2000. He also was a Knights of Columbus chaplain in the 1970s.
Funeral arrangements have not been finalized. Check back for updates.