The Rev. Catherine I. Godboldte, 86, of Philadelphia, a senior associate pastor at Salem Baptist Church of Roslyn, and a longtime community activist, died Sunday, June 7, at home of Alzheimer’s disease.
A native of South Philadelphia who grew up in North Philadelphia and later settled into family life in Mount Airy, Dr. Godboldte traveled the country in the 1980s in a variety of roles that included director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Office of Minority Business Enterprise, director of the State Grants Administration for the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, and vice chair of the Philadelphia Human Relations Commission.
“She was great role model for us,” said daughter Cathy Godboldte-Hazzard. “You always had to be positive around her. She made it clear that serving was what we did.”
When Dr. Godboldte traveled to attend meetings and conferences, she often took her daughters, Cathy and Andrea-Jyl Godboldte, along for the experiences.
“We went to Miami, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, and Washington,” Cathy said. “We got to see her in action our whole lives.”
Ordained in 1985, Dr. Godboldte was the first woman to serve as recording secretary and controller of the Progressive National Baptist Convention. She worked as director at both the School of Christian Ministry, and of continuing education at Palmer Theological Seminary, then known as Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
She also founded “Bridges to the Community,” a faith-based recovery program for women and children.
“She made a tremendous personal influence because of her resilience, fortitude, and strength,” said Robert Dabney Jr., a family friend. “She showed us how to live.”
Dr. Godboldte was also involved with the African American Heritage Foundation and the Center for Church Business Management. She hosted Spiritual Treasures, a gospel music program on the local radio stations WHAT-AM and WURD-AM and wrote several books, including Soon-a Will Be Done about African American funeral traditions.
She was the first female agent with the Main Line Agency of the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Co., her family said.
“Rev. Godboldte’s was a unique and needed voice for women, culture, and creativity in the church,” the Rev. Marshall Mitchell, the pastor of Salem Baptist Church, said in a tribute. “Her unbridled energy, insightful mind, poignant words, and loving touch were hallmarks at Salem and the wider community of faith."
Born to parents who preached social awareness, Dr. Godboldte graduated from Philadelphia High School for Girls and received a degree in math from St. Joseph’s University, a master’s in religion from Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. in religion and African American studies from Temple University.
She enjoyed swimming and dancing and often took her daughters to plays in New York. She followed Philadelphia sports teams with a passion. Special in her heart were the St. Joseph’s Hawks.
In 1996, Dr. Godboldte suffered a brain aneurysm at age 62 and spent the next few years in rehabilitation. But she recovered nearly fully and continued her writing and community service.
In addition to her daughters, Dr. Godboldte is survived by two grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and two sisters. Her husband, Wilbur Godboldte, died in 1978.