Gomes Hopes to Return in Spring

After suffering from a stroke last month, the Reverend Peter J. Gomes is recovering and hoping to return to his role overseeing Memorial Church by the end of the semester, according to a Memorial Church spokesperson and friends who have visited him in the hospital.

Gomes, who is currently residing at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston, is able to walk and speak clearly despite having suffered from some paralysis, said friend and Harvard Divinity School Professor Emeritus Preston N. Williams.

Gomes—who has overseen the Memorial Church for over three and a half decades—is doing well, according to Williams, who added that Gomes still possesses his sense of humor.

“He’s getting better and stronger everyday and he’s in good spirits,” said longtime friend and Memorial Church Minister Dorothy A. Austin, who has visited him in the hospital. “His mind is still that great mind that it always was.”

The members of the congregation at Memorial Church are anxiously awaiting Gomes’ return and receive bulletins and updates on his progress, Austin said.

“He’s very much loved and missed,” she said. “There is a palpable feeling that we are very much in this together.”

According to Austin, if Gomes is able to return by the end of the semester, his homecoming would likely coincide with Easter. Gomes would especially look forward to delivering the holiday sermon, Austin added.

“It will be a triumphant moment when he returns to the church,” she said. “I think the church will be overflowing.”

Gomes, the Plummer Professor of Christian Morals and Pusey Minister in the Memorial Church, had previously announced plans to retire in 2012 after 40 years at Harvard.

“He’s been a brilliant preacher and has carried the Memorial Church and the heart of the College for decades now,” Austin said.

Since Gomes arrived at Harvard, he has become a prominent figure both on campus and on the national stage, swearing in both Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

“He is an excellent person and 150 percent devoted to Harvard and Memorial Church and to the larger community,” Williams said.

Gomes’ course Religion 1513: “History of Harvard and Its Presidents” will continue this semester despite his absence, said the instructor who will be teaching it, Stephen P. Shoemaker.

Gomes’ weekly Wednesday teas, where students and faculty alike are invited to the Reverend’s home for treats and conversation, have continued in his absence.

—Staff writer Justin C. Worland can be reached at jworland@college.harvard.edu.

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