The Rev. John Michael Ricker, a Roman Catholic priest best known as “Father Mike” in his ministries across the the Diocese of Toledo and in Latin America and Africa, died Wednesday at the Sacred Heart Home in Oregon. He was 87.
The cause of death was not known. He had not recovered after surgery last month, said Kathleen Ricker, his sister-in-law.
Before that, he was still driving — and working, reporting several days a week to pastoral care at Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center in Toledo and Mercy Health St. Charles Hospital in Oregon.
“That was Mike. He did not want to retire,” Mrs. Ricker said.
He was a resident in independent living at the Sacred Heart Home, where he celebrated Mass and was confessor to the Little Sisters of the Poor there.
“Very simply put, he was a quiet and gentle individual who was a very good priest,” said Msgr. William Kubacki, vicar general of the Toledo diocese. “Even in his retirement years, he had a deep sense of helping and pastoral ministry.”
Born Aug. 22, 1930, in Lima, Ohio, to Mary and Hubert Ricker, he grew up in Delphos, Ohio, and was a graduate of St. John the Evangelist High School, where he was captain of the basketball team and president of his senior class.
“He was always known as ‘Shy Mike,’ ” his brother, Kevin, said. “He was quiet and soft spoken. He was a good listener.”
He was a graduate of St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and attended Mount St. Mary Seminary in Cincinnati. He was ordained Aug. 14, 1955, by Bishop George Rehring.
Father Ricker served as an associate pastor of several parishes in Toledo and northwest Ohio and was an assistant principal for several years of Cardinal Stritch High School in Oregon, from its opening in 1961.
He was pastor of several Ohio parishes, including St. Peter in Upper Sandusky; St. Mary in Vermilion, and Sacred Heart in Fremont.
In the 1970s, he helped form an ecumenical ministry focused on rural clergy. Like his mentor, the late Rev. Albert H. Ottenweller, an auxiliary bishop of the Toledo diocese, Father Ricker worked with migrant farm workers and celebrated Mass in Spanish.
In the late 1980s, he served a three-year assignment in the mission diocese of Olancho, Honduras. In the mid-1990s, he traveled to Zimbabwe and served with the Toledo diocesan mission of accompaniment to the BaTonga people in the Hwange diocese.
He also did missionary work in Bolivia.
“He was a very holy man. He ministered to everybody,” Mrs. Ricker said.
His family knew best his studious and sports-loving sides, his appreciation for basketball and for University of Notre Dame football. St. Vincent colleagues who visited him when he was ill remarked on his wit and his silly side.
“I was surprised when somebody said he loved a good party,” Mrs. Ricker said.
He also collected Snoopy memorabilia.
Surviving is his brother, Kevin Ricker.
Visitation will be from 4-8 p.m. Sunday at St. Ignatius Church, Oregon, starting with a reception of the body and vespers. Funeral services will begin at 11 a.m. Monday at St. Ignatius, with visitation before Mass. Arrangements are by the Hoeflinger-Shank Funeral Home.
The family suggests tributes to the Little Sisters of the Poor.
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