August 11, 2011
Rev. Peter Goldbach,C.M., has been a part of the St. John’s
community for almost 60 years, bringing comfort and joy to everyone
he meets. His delight in helping others, his deep spirituality, and
his openness and honesty epitomize what it means to be Vincentian.
“His constant good humor is a delight to be around,” said Fr.
Henry Bradbury, who, like Fr. Goldbach, lives in St. John’s Rev.
John B. Murray House — the building on the Queens campus where
the University’s Vincentian priests reside. Sally Argentieri,
Office Manager of Murray House, who has known Fr. Goldbach for the
last five years added, “I always feel better after I talk to him.
His presence makes a real difference in the House.”
Another resident, Fr. Joseph Lin, a Vincentian who came to St.
John’s from China, noted, “He also has the ability to make
you feel peaceful.” Fr. Lin has often been asked to enlarge the
print on Fr. Goldbach’s reading materials — Fr. Goldbach suffers
from macular degeneration. “He is so appreciative of everything
people do for him,” Father Lin said.
As he approached his 100th birthday on August 16, Fr.Goldbach
reminisced about his life, injecting his infectious good humor into
his comments. While marveling at the honor he was granted as a
priest of being able to hear confessions and help people in despair
find peace, he modestly acknowledged that “without my mother’s
guidance, I never would have realized my vocation.” After
suffering a difficult first pregnancy that threatened her life and
that of her daughter, his mother was told not to have any more
children for at least five years. Defying her doctor’s orders, she
told Fr. Goldbach’s dad that she wanted another child right away,
adding, “I want a boy and I want him to be a priest.” With that
exchange, “my fate was sealed,” said Fr. Goldbach with a wide grin
on his face.
Along the road to ordination, he took many early detours. At one
point, Fr. Goldbach revealed, he even considered getting married.
He took payroll management jobs at Equitable Life Insurance
Company, The Daily News and other places and
started seminary studies several times. “But, something always
interceded,” he said, “to prevent me from finishing my training.”
For example, on the evening before classes were to begin at a
Brooklyn neighborhood seminary (he grew up in Brooklyn), Fr.
Goldbach was felled by severe appendicitis which landed him in the
hospital, causing him to miss his first semester.
The turning point took place when he was introduced to Fr.
McGuire by his local church pastor who knew of Fr. Goldbach’s
ambition to be a priest. “He was the first Vincentian priest I ever
met. When Father McGuire told me about the Vincentian values, I
immediately knew that I had found my vocation,” he said. He readily
embraced the Vincentian commitment to do good works and help the
needy and the belief that God is present in every human being. “I
decided that I wanted to join the Vincentian community —
clearly, my blessed mother was watching over me.”
Although he planned to continue working at the News for
a while to help support his family through the Depression, his
mother persuaded him that pursuing his true vocation was more
important. “It was the right decision,” he said.
Ordained in 1944, Fr. Goldbach joined St.
John’s University in 1955 where he taught
Philosophy. “I traveled back and forth from the
University’s Lewis Ave. site; classrooms were hard to come by and
faculty members had to scramble to find empty spaces to sit in
between classes,” he added. But, despite the initial
inconveniences, Fr. Goldbach said, “I found my home here. This is
where I belong.”
In 1980, he took an administrative position with the Office of
Student Information. “That’s when I first met Fr. Goldbach,” said
Jeanne Umland, Associate Vice President, Institutional
Advancement. “He was our resident Vincentian and he taught us
all about the Vincentian value system,” she fondly recalled. “He
also took a personal interest in everyone, asking about our
families and earning our utmost respect for his unselfish devotion
to his mother, who he referred to as ‘the tiger.’” Fr. Goldbach
moved his mother near campus, seeing her every day, cooking her
meals, taking her all over the world on vacation and tending
to her needs until she died at 101.
As he reaches the century mark, Fr. Goldbach still combines the
temporal with the spiritual. He regularly takes his turn at hearing
confessions, says Mass every day, stays in touch with former
students, sees his many on-campus friends, and actively
participates in the John B. Murray House community. He also takes
daily walks, works out several times a week in the Murray House
basement gym and continues to share his love of humanity with all
who are lucky enough to meet him.
If he has any regrets, it is that “time has moved too fast.”