TRENTON, N.J. (CNS) — Retired Bishop John C. Reiss of Trenton, who served as auxiliary bishop and bishop in his home diocese, died March 4 at Morris Hall, the diocesan home for the aged in Lawrenceville. He was 89.

The eighth ordinary in the diocese’s history, Bishop Reiss served as auxiliary bishop from 1967 to 1980 and bishop from 1980 until he retired in 1997.

Trenton Bishop David M. O’Connell was to celebrate the funeral Mass for Bishop Reiss March 9 at St. Mary the Assumption Cathedral in Trenton. Interment was to take place at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Trenton.

During Bishop Reiss’ tenure, he opened eight new parishes, led a diocesan synod, introduced programs to enhance the spiritual life of the laity and clergy and raised more than $38 million to support diocesan ministries.

The bishop was born May 13, 1922 in Red Bank and was one of 11 children. He was ordained to the priesthood at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Trenton in 1947.

He served in parish assignments prior to earning his doctorate in canon law at The Catholic University of America. In 1953, he was appointed secretary to Trenton Bishop George W. Ahr, a position he held for 10 years before being named an official of the diocesan tribunal.


He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Trenton in 1967 and prior to being named bishop of Trenton in 1980, he held several diocesan roles including vicar general.

One of the first major events for Bishop Reiss came a year after his installation when he led the celebration of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Diocese of Trenton. In 1981, the scope of the Trenton Diocese decreased with the establishment of the Diocese of Metuchen.

Bishop O’Connell said the priests who knew Bishop Reiss well described him as “a kind and humble man, known for his simplicity and gentle manner.”

“He was much beloved by the priests,” Bishop O’ Connell added in a statement, noting that the bishop was “well known for his compassion and personal acts of kindness to so many people in the diocese.”

He also said Bishop Reiss had a great sense of humor, loved good jokes and enjoyed bowling.

“All of this gives a glimpse — but only a glimpse — of a much bigger person: a good and holy priest; a kind and effective bishop; a wonderful shepherd who lived the Gospel after the pattern of the Lord Jesus,” he said.

Bishop Reiss is survived by a number of nieces and nephews, grandnieces and grandnephews.