Monsignor Charles F. 'Buck' Muth, parish priest

December 21, 1992|By Mark Guidera | Mark Guidera,Staff Writer

Monsignor Charles F. "Buck" Muth, a Roman Catholic priest who served parishes in Dundalk and Riviera Beach more than two decades each, died Dec. 10 of heart failure following kidney surgery. He was 72.

A Mass for Monsignor Muth, a priest for 47 years, was offered Dec. 14 at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Roman Catholic Church in Riviera Beach, the parish he served for 21 years before retiring in 1991.

More than 700 attended the funeral service, including more than 150 priests, and an estimated 1,000 people came to view the body as it laid in state at St. Jane Frances Church, said family members.

A wake service was conducted Dec. 13 by Baltimore's Archbishop William H. Keeler. Archbishop William D. Borders conducted the funeral Mass, assisted by Bishops P. Francis Murphy, William C. Newman and John H. Ricard.

Remembered as a man who favored wearing a 10-gallon cowboy hat that an airline pilot had sent him from Texas, the priest had a reputation for humor and compassion among colleagues and parishioners, noted George Gonce, a personal friend for more than 40 years.

"The church was just packed. . . . The turnout really said something about the kind of person he was," said Mr. Gonce, owner of the George J. Gonce funeral homes in Pasadena and Brooklyn.

Mr. Gonce said that in retirement Monsignor Muth "kept saying Mass and stayed in touch with many people he'd served in his parish work."

Born in Baltimore, Monsignor Muth grew up in a family of eight children. He began his studies for the priesthood at the former St. Charles preparatory college and later studied at St. Mary's Seminary, both in Baltimore.

Following his ordination on March 17, 1945, he was assigned to serve the parish at St. Rita's Roman Catholic Church in Dundalk. He remained there for 22 years. In 1967, he was appointed pastor at Most Precious Blood Roman Catholic Church in Dundalk.

Three years later, he was named a monsignor by Pope Paul VI and shifted to serve as pastor of St. Jane Frances de Chantal in northern Anne Arundel County.

Bothered with health problems when the time came to retire, he nevertheless stepped down reluctantly, telling an interviewer from The Sun: "I don't want to leave, but I've always been preaching to accept the will of God in all kinds of circumstances. That's what I tell my people; that's what we're supposed to do on Earth."

More than half his parishioners at St. Jane Frances paid him a compliment by signing a petition requesting that the archdiocese retain him at the church as an assistant priest, without the burdens of administration.

"He's very devout," explained George Wagner, president of the church's Society of the Holy Name. "He's humorous. He lets us know what's going on by writing a pastoral letter every month. And he's a priest's priest -- he's what you'd want your priest to be."

About the petitioning, the monsignor said, however: "I don't want to spearhead any rebellion. If this is the will of God that I step down, I'm willing to do that."

He was living at the St. William of York Church rectory in West Baltimore at his death.

Monsignor Muth was active in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal charity, and the Holy Name Society, which promotes reverence for the holy name of Jesus and develops lay apostolic programs.

He also took pains to keep family ties together. Each summer on a trip to visit a sister living in Spokane, Wash., the priest would take two or three nieces and nephews from the Baltimore area so they could meet their West Coast relatives, recalled a niece, Donna Muth.

"Uncle Buck, as he was known by friends and family," she said, "was a big hit with his many nieces and nephews while they were children.

"He would always be the one who dressed up as Santa Claus for our family Christmas get-togethers. None of the children knew it was Buck. He had a great time with it."

Monsignor Muth suffered from diabetes and had lost several toes as a result of the disease, said friends and family members. But the disease did not keep him from his duties as a priest -- or his love of golf.

He is survived by a sister, M. Charlotte O'Brien of Spokane, and about 30 nieces and nephews.

The family suggested memorial donations be made to the school endowment fund of St. Jane Frances Church, 8499 Virginia Ave., Riviera Beach, Md. 21122.

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