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Bishop George O. Wirz, retired auxiliary bishop, dies Print
Clergy obituaries
Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2010 -- 12:56 PM
Interment was in Resurrection Catholic Cemetery, 2705 Regent St., Madison, following Mass.

According to a press release sent by the Diocese of Madison November 23 (PDF), Bishop Robert C. Morlino, current Bishop of Madison, was notified immediately of Bishop Wirz's passing. He reflected, "Bishop Wirz was a tremendous support and resource and a faithful brother to me, to Bishop William Bullock, our bishop emeritus, and, I know, to Bishops O'Connor and O'Donnell, our predecessors. He was certainly one of the most beloved priests in our diocese and with his death we lose not only a man who lived the history of our diocese, but one who embodied the Gospel."

Life as a priest

Bishop George Otto Wirz, 81, was born in Monroe, Wis., on January 17, 1929, the son of Otto and Ida (Huber) Wirz.

He attended Monroe and Argyle Public Grade School and Argyle High School. He studied at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1948. He studied at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and earned a licentiate in sacred theology in 1952. Later, he studied at Marquette University, Milwaukee, and earned a Master of Arts in Education Administration in 1964.

He was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop William P. O'Connor on May 31, 1952, at St. Raphael Cathedral, Madison. He was named Monsignor and Papal Chamberlain to Pope John XXIII in 1960 and was given the title Prelate of Honor by Pope Paul VI in 1967. Bishop Wirz was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Madison on December 20, 1977, and ordained Auxiliary Bishop on March 9, 1978.

Bishop Wirz served the diocese as assistant pastor at St. Bernard Parish, Madison, from 1952-1954; chaplain of the Catholic Information Center and bishop's secretary and chancellor from 1954-1963 (vice chancellor from 1956-1958; chancellor from 1958-1963); and founding rector of Holy Name Seminary, Madison, from 1963-1973. He took a sabbatical year of study at Harvard Divinity School in Cambridge, Mass., from 1973-74. He served as pastor of St. Bernard Parish, Madison, from 1974-1984; pastor of St. Patrick Parish, Madison, from 1984-1989; diocesan administrator from 1992-1993; and continued as auxiliary bishop until retiring from active ministry in 2004.

During his years of service in the Diocese of Madison, Bishop Wirz also served as assistant diocesan director of CCD from 1953-1963; charter member, Governor's Commission on Migrant Labor from 1955-1961; secretary, First Synod, Diocese of Madison, in 1956; instructor, Queen of Apostles Seminary, Madison, from 1954-1963; attended Opening and First Session, Second Vatican Council, in 1962; Presbyteral Council from 1966-2002; Priest Personnel Board from 1967-1988; Diocesan Pastoral Council from 1970-1980; co-chair, Lutheran/Methodist/Roman Catholic Dialogue from 1975-1986; Diocesan Consultor from 1977-1980 and 1998-2003; Bishops' Committee for Priestly Formation from 1979-1987; Papal Visitation of Seminaries Committee from 1981-1987; Bishops' Committee of the North American College, Rome, from 1990-1993; Censor Librorum from 1993-1999; and diocesan director, Implementation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church from 1994-1999. Bishop Wirz served as a member of the following boards in various capacities throughout his tenure in the diocese: St. Raphael Retirement Fund, Diocesan Corporate Board, Catholic Charities, and Office for Continuing Education of Priests.

A genuine blessing

He is survived by his sister, Sr. Joan Wirz, CSA, of Fond du Lac; his step-brother, Fr. Robert Buholzer of Stoughton; his step-nephews Ron (Sue) Buholzer of Monroe, David (Glenda) Buholzer of Monroe, and Steve (Thea) Buholzer of Monroe; two step-grandnephews, one step-grandniece; and several cousins in the United States and Switzerland.

"He was a genuine blessing to our diocese for many years," said Bishop William H. Bullock, bishop emeritus of the Diocese of Madison. "As a native bishop of the area, he served extraordinarily well as pastor, as rector of Holy Name Seminary, and as an auxiliary bishop. He enjoyed a beautiful relationship with many of his fellow bishops and was a wonderful celebrant at the Sacrament of Confirmation.

"His final days with Parkinson's disease made life difficult for him, yet he bore the cross of suffering and embarrassing falls with dignity and resignation and offered his pain and suffering to the Lord with whom he was very close. His many friends, fellow priests, his wide and vast network of relationships, particularly with graduates of the former Holy Name Seminary, were a vital part of his life.

"He stood tall. He was a master Latin scholar and loved to read, debate, and share his well culled knowledge with all of us at the Bishop O'Connor Center. May God give him peace and may his beautiful life cause all of us to reflect on his life of dedication and holiness," said Bishop Bullock.

Memorials and prayer

Memorials for Bishop Wirz may be made to the St. Raphael Fund, which is used to support retired priests for the Diocese of Madison. Memorials may be sent to the Office of Stewardship and Development, 702 S. High Point Rd., Madison, WI, 53719.

The Diocese of Madison asks that the faithful pray for the repose of the soul of Bishop Wirz. "He was a happy and holy priest for almost 59 years and it is our great hope that today he has seen the Risen Face of Our Lord Jesus Christ, in Heaven," the press release said.

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