Father Eugene Zoeller dies at 81

Father Eugene Zoeller (Record File Photo)
Father Eugene Zoeller (Record File Photo)

Father Eugene L. Zoeller, a former professor at Bellarmine University, died April 9. He was 81 and had been a priest of the Archdiocese of Louisville for more than 55 years.

Father Zoeller, a Louisville native, attended the now-closed St. George School, St. Mary’s College in St. Mary, Ky., and the University of Louvain in Belgium, where he had classes with Charles Moeller, Gerard Philips, Louis Janssens and others who served as key experts on the commissions of the Second Vatican Council.

He was ordained to the priesthood on June 29, 1958, in Louvain.

Father Zoeller’s early assignments in Louisville took him to Christ the King, St. Leonard, Holy Spirit, St. Ignatius Martyr and St. Raphael churches where he served as associate pastor. He taught at Flaget High School, Trinity High School and Bellarmine-Ursuline College during those years. He also studied and taught briefly at the Catholic University of America.

In 1968, Father Zoeller began teaching at Bellarmine College, now Bellarmine University, where he served until his retirement in 2001. During his more than three decades at Bellarmine, Father Zoeller focused on Christology, ecclesiology and ecumenics.

According to a colleague at Bellarmine, “Father Zoeller repeatedly reminded his students that we have ‘a responsibility to implement all the possibilities envisioned in the documents of the (Second Vatican) council.’ He considered one of his most important courses to be ‘Catholicism,’ a systematic study of all the ‘catholic’ traditions of the church, especially the Lutheran, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox as churches that share with the Roman Catholic Church a worldwide communion of churches.”

He also brought his interest in ecumenism to the broader local community. He promoted parish covenants between the Episcopal Diocese and the Archdiocese of Louisville. He was a founding member of the local Lutheran-Catholic dialogue. And he served as an officer of the North American Academy of Ecumenists in the 1980s.

Father Zoeller introduced his students to the Abbey of Gethsemani and celebrated Mass once a month with the Sisters of Loretto, with whom he collaborated in ministries of peace and justice.

The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Assumption, 433 South Fifth Street, on April 14 at noon. Burial will follow in Calvary Cemetery.

Visitation will be at Ratterman Family Funeral Home, 3800 Bardstown Road, on Sunday, April 13, from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Monday from 10 a.m. to noon at the Cathedral.

*Updated to include additional biographical information 4/14/14.


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