Father Francis F. Welsmiller, 91, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw and founding director of the Casa San José de los Huerfanos orphanage in Colima, Mexico, died Thursday, June 5, 2008 at home in Bradenton, Fla.
Father Welsmiller was born on March 5, 1917 in Saginaw, son of Frances (Lengst) and Frederick Welsmiller. He was baptized at Sacred Heart Parish in Saginaw and attended Sacred Heart and St. Mary Cathedral schools in Saginaw.
He studied for the priesthood at St. Joseph Seminary in Grand Rapids, St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore, Md., and Our Lady of Angels Seminary (Niagara University) in New York. He was ordained on June 3, 1944 by Bishop William F. Murphy at St. Mary Cathedral.
Within the Diocese of Saginaw, Father Welsmiller served as chaplain of St. Mary’s Hospital in Saginaw and as assistant pastor at SS. Peter & Paul Parish in Saginaw, St. Bernard Parish in Alpena and SS. Peter & Paul Parish in Ruth.
In 1951, he left Michigan to take residence in a warmer and dryer climate due to health reasons and ministered in California and Florida.
In 1973, he founded the Casa San José home for orphans and homeless, abused, and disadvantaged children ages 2 to 17. He served as the home’s director for more than 25 years.
Father Welsmiller’s funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 12, 2008 at St. Bernard Parish in Holmes Beach, Fla. He will be buried near his parents at the Skyway Memorial Gardens in Palmetto, Fla.
Memorial donations may be made to the St. Joseph Family Foundation, 2412 Clark Ave., Bradenton, FL 34207, to benefit Casa San José.
(In the photo: Father Welsmiller is seen with a group of children at the Casa San José de los Huerfanos orphanage in Colima, Mexico, in 1994.)