Father John Otterbacher

Father John OtterbacherCINCINNATI (November 25, 2009)—Father John Otterbacher, 81, a native of Sand Lake, Mich., and a Glenmary Home Missioner for 57 years, died suddenly Nov. 23, 2009, at the Glenmary residence in Cincinnati, Ohio. Father Otterbacher was ordained in 1956. He served as associate pastor of Glenmary missions in Ohio and Virginia and as pastor of missions in Virginia, Tennessee, West Virginia and North Carolina. In addition, he directed Glenmary's religious education department. He received Glenmary senior-member status in 1993 and in later life became a skilled woodcarver and devoted vegetable gardener. He had been living in Treadway, Tenn., up until October, when he moved back to Cincinnati.

"Father Otterbacher was a gentle, sensitive man who had a deep love for rural America and its people," said Father Dan Dorsey, president of Glenmary. "Because of ill health, he had to leave assigned ministry a bit younger than most, but his love and passion for the missions never wavered over the years."

John Otterbacher first heard of the home missions when Glenmary Father Raphael Sourd spoke at St. Joseph Seminary in Grand Rapids, Mich., where John was studying in the mid-1940s. Following a visit to Cincinnati and a meeting with Glenmary founder Father William Howard Bishop, the young man decided that the home missions were his calling.

After completing his studies at St. Gregory/St. Mary Seminary and Glenmary Seminary in Cincinnati, he was ordained in May 1956. Five months later, Father Otterbacher was assigned as associate pastor of Glenmary's mission in West Union, Ohio. His first Christmas there was very memorable—he offered Mass three times for a total of four persons!

He also served as associate pastor in Norton, Va., before embarking on his first pastorate in Appalachia, Va., in 1961. He went on to lead Glenmary missions in Pulaski, Tenn., and Spencer, W.Va, prior to his two-year assignment as the society's religious education department head. Then he moved on to pastor the mission church in Jefferson, N.C., for five years until his health required him to take disability status.

In his later years as a senior member, Father Otterbacher refined his skills as an expert woodcarver—creating unique, intricately designed walking sticks and canes that he gave away as gifts. He also planted and tended a large vegetable garden up until 2008, and he shared his harvest with other people. "You can take the boy off the farm, but you can't take the farm out of the boy," says Glenmary Father George Mathis, one of his oldest friends.