In the fall of 1974 on his first day as a teacher at St. Bede Academy, Bernie Moore first encountered Fr. Kevin Gorman.
At the start of his long teaching career, the young and ambitious Moore met with his new colleagues in a faculty meeting and then struck up a conversation with the then St. Bede athletic director about their summers.
“I told him I had been golfing with a few of my friends, but that I was just learning to golf and picking up the game,” Moore recalls. “Well, he said, ‘Oh, golf? We need a golf coach.’ So, nonetheless, with Fr. Kevin’s persuasion, I became the golf coach on my first day teaching at St. Bede.”
Moore lasted only a year as SBA golf coach before getting into football.
But to him, it showed something unique and special about the man who convinced him to coach.
“It’s a good story of how Fr. Kevin could make you want to do something that you really didn’t want to do,” Moore said.
“He was just a phenomenal man.”
On the morning of Nov. 25, The Rev. Kevin Gorman, O.S.B. — a longtime monk and priest at St. Bede Abbey and also the school’s athletic director from 1958-84 — died at age 87 after a lengthy battle with Parkinson’s disease.
While many mourned his loss, they also reflected how Fr. Kevin helped them and others during his time at the Academy.
“He was always encouraging kids,” said SBA football and baseball coach John Bellino, a 1968 alumnus who was later hired to coach both sports by Fr. Kevin. “In those days, you only had a few sports to go out for, but he would encourage everybody to go out and stay out, and a lot of people went out and stayed out because of him.”
Born Jan. 3, 1926 in Monee, Fr. Kevin followed his older brother Monroe to St. Bede in the fall of 1938.
After graduating from the Academy, he entered St. Bede’s monastic community and later earned master’s degrees in Agricultural Economy and Biology, both subjects he taught at SBA.
In 1984, Fr. Kevin was assigned as pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Peru, where he ministered for 10 years.
In 1994, he became pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Cherry and St. Patrick Parish in Arlington, where he served until his retirement in 2008.
After battling Parkinson’s disease, he was laid to rest Wednesday in the abbey cemetery.
“He could just relate with kids,” said Moore, who himself served as SBA’s AD for 20 years. “Obviously, being a priest, having been educated here and then becoming part of the abbey, St. Bede was everything to him, and he was very passionate about St. Bede athletics. I remember how red he’d get in the face yelling at officials sometimes.”
During his time as athletic director, Fr. Kevin did it all, from driving buses to repairing equipment to preparing athletic fields.
“He was just a great guy with this big ole’ smile,” said St. Bede volleyball coach Dawn Williams, a 1983 SBA alumna whose father Don Carlson was a longtime SBA coach and friend of Fr. Kevin.
“Whatever you needed, he would figure out how to do it, even if the school didn’t have the money. Dad would always laugh and say, ‘Yeah, Fr. Kevin has a slush fund somewhere.’ He would help find the money and make it happen — and we didn’t always know how. All of a sudden, things would start happening and Fr. Kevin was usually at the center of knowing somebody who knew somebody who could take care of whatever.”
After St. Bede opened its doors to female students in the early 1970s, Fr. Kevin played a vital role in the addition of female athletics at the Academy.
“When we first came here, girls sports were just getting started,” said Williams, who knew Fr. Kevin for nearly 35 years. “Only one or two full classes had gone through and they still didn’t really know what to do with girls. But Fr. Kevin was the AD who got everything started with the girls programs.”
After leaving St. Bede, Fr. Kevin returned to the Academy for sporting events, including — among other events — the Homecoming football games.
“His passion rubbed off on people,” Moore said. “He was a great believer in keeping the traditions alive, and he just really believed in kids.”
Prior to his death, current St. Bede athletic director Tom McGunnigal created the Fr. Kevin Gorman Award earlier this fall. The award will be given to SBA student-athletes who compete in three sports all four years at the Academy.
It’s a fitting way to honor a cherished man.
“He’s just meant a lot to a lot of people,” Williams said. “He was one of those guys who loved being a priest, who loved being with students and totally embodied all of St. Bede.
“I absolutely loved that man.”
Jared Bell is a NewsTribune Sports Writer. He can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.