Deacon Gau was known for personal, caring ministry

Deacon Jerome “Jerry” Gau wasn’t one to lead large ministries in the archdiocese or at his parish, St. James in Omaha.

Instead, he mastered a simple one-on-one ministry and affected countless lives, said Deacon Tom Schulte, a longtime friend.

Deacon Gau died Dec. 10 of complications of COVID-19. He was 87.

His funeral Mass was held Dec. 15 at St. James Church, with interment at Forest Lawn Cemetery, also in Omaha.

“He wasn’t flashy, but he influenced everyone he talked to, everyone he’d meet” – mostly by giving them his ear and his heart – Deacon Schulte said of his friend.

His ministry was one of “listening and attentiveness,” and his heart was that of a servant, said Father Richard Reiser, former pastor of St. James who now leads St. John Vianney Parish in Omaha.

Diaconate training helped Deacon Gau, an extrovert by nature, become attuned to people who were down or hurting, Deacon Schulte said.

“Immediately he went into listening mode,” said the friend of 50 years. “He was so good at that. … His heart was so big. He took in people that needed to be taken in. He was someone who listened and cared.”

Both men were ordained in 1979 and worked together for many years at Western Electric, which later became Lucent Technologies, in Omaha.

Deacon Gau was known for his one-liners and “could be just about as goofy as anyone you know,” Deacon Schulte said. “But he could just as easily go deep.”

Deacon Gau was born in Westphalia, Iowa, moving to south Omaha with his family when he was 9. He attended the former Immaculate Conception School and graduated from South High School before serving for two years in the U.S. Army.

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