January 5, 2011

Fr. Michael H. Wolf, the Diocese of Saginaw’s most senior priest, dies this morning at 96

SAGINAW – The Rev. Michael H. Wolf, 96, the eldest and longest serving priest of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, died this morning, January 5, 2011 at his St. Francis Home residence.

He was born on December 8, 1914 in Düsseldorf, Germany, the first-born of four children, all sons, to Veronica and Hubert Wolf. The family immigrated to the United States in 1923.

"I have a very vivid recollection of being at Ellis Island as an 8-year-old boy," Father Wolf said during a 2007 interview with FAITH Saginaw magazine on the occasion of his 65th anniversary as a priest. "I can still see the hallways and all the people being led in and out of different rooms … For me, as a young boy, it really was an adventure, but it must have been a very hard and frightening time for my parents."

The Wolf family made its way from New York to Bay City, Mich., where relatives already were settled. They joined St. Boniface Parish, which was the town’s ethnic German church community at the time and young Michael began his American education at St. Boniface School, where he began to hear God calling him to his vocation.

"We came in as immigrants and we could not speak a word of English and they just took us in," Father Wolf said of the priests and religious sisters who ministered at St. Boniface. "They were my inspiration as a kid. I never had an idea of being anything but a priest."

With the help of his parish priest, young Michael went on from St. Boniface School to study at St. Joseph Seminary in Grand Rapids and would later complete his theology formation at St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore, Md.

Father Wolf was ordained to the priesthood on May 30, 1942 by the Most Rev. William F. Murphy, the first Bishop of Saginaw, at the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption in Saginaw.

During his 34 years of active ministry, Father Wolf served 13 parish communities, including his native St. Boniface Parish. His longest tenure was from 1953 to 1967 at St. Michael Parish in Maple Grove. Following his retirement in 1984, he maintained residence at St. John the Evangelist Parish, where he continued to celebrate weekend Mass on occasion until 2007, when he moved into the St. Francis Home.

"Wherever I have gone, the people have been very good to me," Father Wolf said in that 2007 interview with FAITH Saginaw. "(And) I value, very highly, my brother priests because I have been blessed for so long by their support."

He also held a special place in his heart for converts to the Catholic faith, especially those who he helped enter into the Church as a pastor.

"There is great joy in sharing the truth of our faith with those seeking the journey home," he said.

"For all of them, it’s the same – it’s about the truth. They discover the truth of the Church that Christ established more than 2,000 years ago and they want to embrace it more fully … And, for most of them, the turning point, the thing that finally draws them in, is the Eucharist. They see Jesus’ real presence in the Eucharist and they want to embrace it."

"It always makes me appreciate my faith, which was given to me, more fully."

Father Wolf also spoke of his deep gratitude to God for his life and vocation during that 2007 interview with FAITH Saginaw magazine.

"I’ve always considered myself just lucky to be here," he said. "I’ve never considered myself a wise person. As I celebrate my 65th anniversary of as a priest, I just can’t be grateful enough for the grace God has given me as a priest to share his grace with his people."

Funeral arraignments for Father Wolf are incomplete at this time. Look for his complete obituary later on the DoS News Blog.

To read the complete 2007 FAITH Saginaw interview with Father Wolf, see pages 20 and 21 of that year’s Summer issue.

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