THE DEATH OCCURRED ON Tuesday, 14th August 2018, of Most Rev. Charles Victor Grahmann, Bishop Emeritus of Dallas, Texas at the age of 87 years. He was a very good friend of Ibadan Diocese.

Bishop Grahmann, the 6th Bishop of Dallas was a priest for more than 62 years, serving in three different dioceses. He was ordained a priest of his home Diocese of San Antonio before the age of 25. Twenty five years later, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of the same diocese. Months after, a new Diocese of Victoria was erected and Bishop Grahmann was appointed its first Bishop. Following seven years in Victoria, he became Coadjutor in Dallas, succeeding after five months.

The period that Bishop Grahmann was Bishop in Dallas witnessed unprecedented growth and developments in the Diocese. The population of Catholics which stood at just over 200,000 when he arrived in Dallas grew to about one million by the time he retired after seventeen years and Catholics became 30% of the population as against 18%.

It was not too smooth all the way. During his time in Dallas, Bishop Grahmann saw some difficult times. Two of them readily come to mind.

When Bishop Grahmann arrived in Dallas, the sex abuse scandal had become an issue in that Diocese in which Fr. Rudolph Edward Kos, now laicized, was sued by a dozen victims of his sexual abuse of minors. It was established that Dallas Diocese did not act effectively to check the activities of Fr. Kos. The Diocese paid millions in compensation to the victims; and Bishop Grahmann issued a public apology to the victims and instituted a comprehensive and stringent programme aimed at preventing abuse -The Safe Environment Program SEP.

In November 1999, Bishop Joseph Galante of Beaumont was appointed Co-Adjutor Bishop of Dallas. Bishop Galante waited uncomfortably for Bishop Grahmann to retire. “I have learned to be patient”, he told a visiting Archbishop from Africa. Bishop Galante’s wait dragged on for more than four years, at which point he was appointed to Camden, New Jersey.

As is always the case in such circumstances, concerned vested interests intervened in efforts at creating a wedge between the bishop and his coadjutor, but both men worked well together, demonstrating mutual respect and sacerdotal dignity. “You need to meet Bishop Grahmann. He is kind and generous-hearted”, Bishop Galante had said. Not surprising, there was no ill-will between the two men of God after all. Before finding themselves in Dallas, Bishop Grahmann and Bishop Galante were former auxiliary Bishops in San Antonio and received their episcopal ordination,eleven years apart, at the hands of Archbishop Patrick Fernandez Flores.

Bishop Grahmann exemplified the virtue of love for all men regardless of tongue or tribe. He was exceptional in his love of the poor wherever they may be and made an indelible mark whichever direction he turned. His generosity was blind to any boundaries.He bought a bus for a seminary in Guatemala, which he personally drove from San Antonio to Guatemala. He did not stop with Guatemala, providing a cheese factory for Christians and Muslims in Aleppo, Syria, buying a hospital in the Philippines and a property for a seminary in Russia. Not only those, he will be remembered for aiding diocesan projects in Honduras and Mexico, parish renovation in Ukraine, aiding hospital in South Sudan, renovation of a seminary and building a Church in Brazil, buildinga new Church for the Melkite Rite in Lebanon, transportation for priests and religious working in rural parts of Argentina, assisting Daughters of Charity in feeding 200 kids a day in Ethiopia andf unding the construction of a Diocesan Centre in Czech Republic.

And in Nigeria, he supported the Youth Programme of Ibadan Archdiocese. He also invited priests of the Diocese to work and study in Dallas. Not only Ibadan, priests from different parts of Nigeria, and from around the world, found a home in Dallas as a result of the welcoming attitude of Bishop Grahmann. When Bishop Edward Burns, on learning that I am a Nigerian, remarked that “There are some very good Nigerian priests working in our diocese”, my mind went to Bishop Grahmann.

Bishop Grahmann lived in line with his episcopal motto: “Walk Humbly with Your God” refusing to live in choice accommodation or ride a fancy car as Bishop. He shunned all the vestiges of his high office, preferring to live the simple life of a good shepherd. Following his retirement, he lived in a simple retirement home for priests where he was the only Bishop at the time of my visit there. On my visit, he insisted on driving the 32 kilometers each way to pick me from the airport and back the next day. During my two-day visit, I observed and drew inspiration from his simplicity. All that time, he directed his thoughts to Ibadan and its Youth Programme.

On April 21, Dallas Diocese held its Silver Anniversary Bishop’s Pro-Life Dinner of Catholic Pro-Life Committee, CPLC. It was 25 years since Bishop Grahmann established what has been “hailed as the most effective diocesan pro-life organization in the world.” At that occasion, Bishop Grahmann appeared very briefly to receive the Bishop’s Founders Flame. It was the last time I’ll see him as the Lord claimed him for His eternal glory less than four months later.

May his soul rest in peace.

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