The Rev. Alfred Dettmer devoted his life to serving God and helping others, his family and friends said.
The Rev. Charles Niblick succeeded Dettmer as the pastor at St. Maria Goretti 12 years ago, and the two men became friends. Despite the fact he had retired, he remained active at the church, performing baptisms, weddings and funerals whenever Niblick needed him to fill in.
“He was charming, and endeared himself to all kinds of people,” Niblick said. “He never, ever once displayed impatience or anger. He loved being a priest and all that went into it.”
Dettmer, 83, of Munster, died Dec. 24. Before arriving at St. Maria Goretti Church, he served at Queen of All Saints in Michigan City for 20 years. Other assignments included St. Joseph Church, Hammond; St. Joan of Arc, Merrillville; and St. Margaret Mary Church, Hammond.
Born in Germany, Dettmer was one of seven boys and one girl. His sister became a nun, and his brother became a monsignor serving in Africa. Dettmer’s niece, Linda Lux, said his siblings’ involvement with the church played an important role in him devoting his own life to God.
Dettmer was devoted to his family, and often organized family reunions for his siblings and their children. He was often a calming presence during times of trouble, she said.
“He was a quiet, gentle man who had a calming way of making you feel like everything was going to be OK,” Lux said.
He was constantly helping others, often sponsoring people from Germany and Lithuania to help them come get established in the United States, Lux said.
He also was actively involved in helping the people of Bosnia, sending schoolbooks and soliciting funds to help the war-torn country. On his trips to Bosnia, he stayed at the cardinal’s home.
Villa Mockiene first got to know Dettmer as a priest, but he became a close friend and a father figure to her. She also served as his caregiver.
“He became like a family member to me,” she said. “As my son said, he was our angel.”