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Remembering Father Ray Moeggenberg
Father Raymond “Ray” Moeggenberg, 92, a senior priest of the Diocese of Saginaw, died just before Christmas on Dec. 20, 2022.
He celebrated 65 years of priestly ministry last year, and friends remember him as being both uniquely himself and a devoted pastor.
He served in many parishes during his many decades as a priest, and as a senior priest he learned the Spanish language and ministered to the Hispanic community.
Pastor and Vicar for Clergy, Father José Maria Cabrera said when he asked people to describe Father Ray in one word, one of the responses he received was “Mexican.”
“I love that one,” Father José said. ‘Moeggenberg’ doesn’t sound very Mexican. But he had a special place in his heart for the Hispanic community. I called him Padre, and he always called me ‘Padrecito.’”
Other words people used to describe Father Ray included genuine, determined and loyal.
“Every time there was something diocesan, he was there,” said Father José at the vigil service for Father Ray. “I remember him during ordinations, going up the front steps of the Cathedral with a walker. By himself. We were so worried he could fall, but no … he was going to do it on his own.
“He would drive through a snowstorm to get to church, even when Masses were canceled due to weather.”
Father Fred Kawka, who preached the homily at Father Ray’s funeral, chuckled a bit, recalling how Father Ray had his own unique way of doing things, including the time he drove a motorcycle from Michigan all the way to California.
“And, at the same time, Father Ray was a devoted pastor, faithful minister and sacrificing shepherd,” Father Fred said.
Shepherd, Father Fred noted, happens to be the name of Father Ray’s hometown. Father Ray was born there on Feb. 25, 1930, the son of the late August and Gertrude (Vorderlandwehr) Moeggenberg. He attended Allen School in Gratiot County and received his secondary education at St. Joseph Seminary in Grand Rapids.
Father Ray continued his priestly formation at St. Joseph Seminary and Séminaire de Philosophie in Montreal, Canada, where he graduated with a degree in philosophy, and at St. John Provincial Seminary in Plymouth, where he graduated with a degree in theology.
He was ordained to the priesthood on June 2, 1956 by Bishop Allen Babcock at the Cathedral of St. Andrew, Grand Rapids as a priest of the Diocese of Grand Rapids and on was incardinated into the Diocese of Saginaw on July 20, 1971, due to diocesan restructuring.
Father Ray served as pastor at St. Edward, Lake Odessa; St. Cyril, Nashville; St. Athanasius, Harrison and Our Lady Help of Christians, Saginaw.
Father Ray became a senior priest of the Diocese of Saginaw on Aug. 1, 2000 and continued to serve as sacramental minister at St. Philip Neri, Coleman; St. Anne, Edenville; St. Cecilia, Clare; St. Henry, Rosebush; St. Charles, Leaton; St. Michael, Wilmot; and Our Lady of Guadalupe, Bay City, where he celebrated the Mass and sacraments in Spanish for parishioners. He also ministered as chaplain at St. Mary’s Hospital, Saginaw. Father Ray loved sports and enjoyed water skiing, handball and golf in his younger years.
“He had a long and beautiful ministry at St. Mary’s Hospital as chaplain, he learned Spanish and loved the Hispanic community, he was part of a big family – he had 12 siblings and 86 nieces and nephews – he loved priests and we were always glad to see him,” Father Fred said.
Father José recalled his last visit with Father Ray on the day before he died.
“He was unconscious,” Father José said. “I sang to him many of the songs that we use at the Guadalupe Novena, and he could hear me. He was unable to speak, but he squeezed my hand. And as I looked at the monitor, his heart was racing. He was trying to sing along. ‘It’s ok Padre. It’s okay to go if this is your time.’ And his time came the next day.”
Father Ray’s funeral Mass was celebrated Dec. 27 at St. Vincent de Paul Parish of Shepherd. The second reading came from 1 Corinthians:
I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus, that in him you were enriched in every way, with all discourse and all knowledge, as the testimony* to Christ was confirmed among you, so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.
“That was Ray,” Father Fred said.
May Father Ray rest in eternal peace.