Death of Rev. Msgr. Richard A. Behl

November 28, 2016

Diocese announces funeral arrangements for Rev. Msgr. Richard A. Behl

Msgr. Richard A. Behl, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Old Bridge and diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, passed away on Friday, November 25. He was 75.

Monsignor Behl’s body will be received by the Rev. Msgr. Robert J. Zamorski, Episcopal Vicar for Middlesex County, on Wednesday, Nov. 30 at 1 p.m. at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, One St. Thomas Plaza, Old Bridge.  Public visitation will follow until 7:15 p.m. The Most Rev. Paul G. Bootkoski, Bishop Emeritus of Metuchen, will preside at the Mass of Commemoration at 7:30 p.m. and Rev. Charles A. Sabella will be the homilist.

The Most Rev. James F. Checchio, Bishop of Metuchen, will celebrate the Mass of Christian burial on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 11 a.m. also at St. Thomas the Apostle Church, and Rev. Jerome A. Johnson will be the homilist. Interment will be at St. Joseph (Bound Brook) Cemetery in Bridgewater.

Obituary for Rev. Msgr. Richard A. Behl

Msgr. Richard A. Behl, pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Old Bridge, passed away on Friday, November 25. He was 75 years old and on December 17 would have celebrated the 50th Anniversary of his priestly ordination.

Msgr. Behl was born to the late Harold R. and Mae L. Homall Behl on June 5, 1941. Raised in Middlesex Boro, he attended St. Joseph School, Bound Brook, and St. Peter the Apostle High School, New Brunswick. Msgr. Behl earned a degree in Philosophy from St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, and four years later, his Bachelor of Theology degree from Gregorian University in Rome. In 1975 he earned a Doctor of Ministry degree at Princeton Theological Seminary.

Msgr. Behl was ordained for the Diocese of Trenton on Dec. 17, 1966, in St. Peter Basilica, Rome, by Most Rev. Francis F. Reh, rector of the North American College. He celebrated his First Mass in the chapel of the Generalate of the Society of the Divine Word in Rome. His first assignments were as parochial vicar of St. Mary Parish, South Amboy; St. James Parish, Red Bank, and Nativity Parish, Fair Haven. During these years, he served on the faculties of St. Mary and Red Bank Catholic High Schools. In 1972, Most Rev. George W. Ahr, Bishop of Trenton, appointed then-Fr. Behl director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and of the Holy Childhood Association.

Msgr. Behl was appointed pastor of Our Lady of the Mount Parish, Warren Twp., in 1977. He was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish, Bernardsville, in 1985, and in 1995 was named the second rector of the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, Metuchen, where he served for 12 years. In 2007, he was appointed pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Parish, Old Bridge, where he was serving at the time of his death.

In 1975, Msgr. Behl was named a Chaplain to His Holiness, with title of “Rev. Msgr.,” by Pope Paul VI. In 1991, he was named a Prelate of Honor to His Holiness, also carrying the title “Rev. Msgr.,” by Pope St. John Paul II.

Since the Diocese of Metuchen was established in 1981, Msgr. Behl served as diocesan director of the Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies and was a member of the Pontifical Mission Societies National Board of Directors. He also served as the first diocesan Vicar for Catholic Charities and Social Ministry and was chair of Catholic Charities Board of Trustees. He served at various times as a member of the diocesan Pastoral Council, Presbyteral Council, Board for Seminary Education, and the Advisory Committee for the New Jersey Catholic Conference.

In 1992, Msgr. Behl received the Consolata Award of Distinction and in 1999 was named a delegate of the United States to the Pan American Missionary Congress in Argentina. He received the Flame of Charity Community Servant Award in 2003 and was named a Knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem in 2008. In 2009, he received the U.S. Mission Media Award and was appointed to the Board of Governors of St. Joseph High School, Metuchen. He was honored with the Life Choices Lifetime Service Award in 2010.

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Read a recent letter from Bishop James F. Checchio to Msgr. Behl congratulating him on his 50th anniversary of ordination: 

                                                                                                August 31, 2016

Rev. Msgr. Richard A. Behl
St. Thomas the Apostle Church
One Saint Thomas Plaza
Old Bridge, NJ 08857

Dear Msgr. Behl,

It is with great joy that I extend to you my sincere congratulations on your 50th anniversary of ordination. 

I thank you for your self-sacrifice and service to our Diocese and its people throughout your 50 years of priesthood.  You have so much to be proud of as you reflect back on these years of service since your return from your seminary formation in Rome at the Pontifical North American College.  You are admired for your “ministry of presence” in St. Thomas and in the other parishes you have faithfully served.  You have been a source of comfort to your parishioners and school families and in addition to being a devoted pastor, you have served the larger diocesan and Universal Church with your support of Respect for Life programs and work with the Commission for Pro-Life Action and the Pontifical Mission Society – since their inception here at the diocese. 

Thank you for saying yes to our Lord’s calling 50 years ago!  I join so many others today in assuring you of my gratitude and my prayers and ask that our Lord bless you abundantly as you continue with your good priestly ministry.

With renewed best wishes, I remain

Yours in Christ,
Most Reverend James F. Checchio, JCD, MBA
Bishop of Metuchen