January 6, 2011

Obituary for Fr. Michael H. Wolf

SAGINAW – The Rev. Michael H. Wolf, 96, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Saginaw, died Wednesday, January 5, 2011 at his St. Francis Home residence.

Father Wolf 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 and made its way to Bay City, where they were members of St. Boniface Parish.

He received his elementary education at St. Boniface School and went on study for the priesthood at St. Joseph Seminary in Grand Rapids and St. Mary Seminary in Baltimore, Md. He 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.

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.

Father Wolf’s other parish assignments included Sacred Heart and the Cathedral of Mary of the Assumption, both in Saginaw, where served as an assistant pastor. He served as administrator at St. Patrick in Palms and Sacred Heart and Gladwin, where he later also was named pastor. He also served tenures as pastor at St. Anthony of Padua in Helena, St. Vincent de Paul in Shepherd and St. Leo the Great in Winn, St. Roch in Caseville and St. Felix of Valois in Pinnebog, and St. Francis Borgia in Pigeon. He also was a Fourth Degree member of the Knights of Columbus served as chaplain to various local councils.

He is survived by two brothers: John Wolf of Bay City and Robert Wolf of Evanston, Ill., and several nieces and nephews. In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his brother, Herman Wolf.

The funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11:00 a.m. on Tuesday, January 11, 2011 at St. John the Evangelist Church, 614 Pine St., in Essexville. The Most Rev. Joseph R. Cistone, Bishop of Saginaw will preside. The Rev. Jack R. Johnson will preach the homily. The Rite of Committal will follow in the Priests’ Section of St. Patrick Cemetery in Bay City.

Visitation will take place from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Monday, January 10, 2011, at St John the Evangelist Church. The Transfer of the Body to Lie in State will begin the visitation time at 2:00 p.m. with the Rev. Patrick C. O’Connor presiding. A Vigil Liturgy will take place at 7:00 p.m. with the Rev. Craig L. Albrecht presiding and the Rev. Thomas J. McNamara preaching.

Arrangements have been entrusted to the care of W. A. Trahan Funeral Chapel.

1 comment:

Mathew Treadwell said...

Jerome Birchmeier and I were the first pair of altar boys in our class at St. Mike's in Maple Grove Twp. We were trained by high school seniors Joe Birchmeier and Joe Princinski Fr. Wolf was our gentle and longsuffering pastor who guided us cassocked and surpliced rookies through the confusing array of bell ringing, ceremonial raising of his cape, endless bowing and genuflecting, various offertory and consecration deliveries, Latin incantations and responses, holding the paten under the chin of every communicant at the communion railing without chinking it against adams apples, necklaces or the chalice, while catching errant and unseen crumbs from the Blessed Sacrament hosts, etc.

Fr. Wolf also made regular visits to the school classrooms where he was a special guest for catechism, history or math classes. Toward the end of the school year, he'd load two buses with altar boys, choir members and 3 or 4 of our Dominican chaperon/prison guard nuns and we'd spend the day at The Brockway Skating Rink in Saginaw or Lake Lansing Amusement Park just east of MSU, as his way of saying thanks for contributing to our parish family.

Fr. Wolf was a tall, friendly man who had a fast gait and walked erect except for a small forward lean from the shoulders up. He was quick to flash a smile and ask how one was doing on that particular day -- a decided improvement over his grumpy fellow German heritage predecessor Fr. Bosler, who was genuinely feared by every St. Mike's school kid and by at least 98% of their parents.

I can't imagine how many lives Fr. Wolf affected for the good -- I'd never witnessed any conversions that his obit describes -- as everyone in Maple Grove was absolute Catholic in those days (fear of Fr. Bosler probably had something to do with SRO crowds at Sunday and Holy Day of Obligation masses alike).

Fr. Wolf finally got some help for several years from Fr. Larry Greiner (another German - note a pattern here?), who was the first priest that we'd ever met who was likely to start the mass with a brief monologue. He didn't exactly have perfect pitch for those "high mass" celebrations, but we saw the priestly pair as a great working team for our growing parish. Besides celebrating daily and Sunday masses, they hosted weekly confessions by the hundreds, visited hospitalized parishioners in Saginaw, Flint and Owosso weekly, administered all the parish affairs, and along with a dozen nuns, put on a an annual May Day celebration complete with a parade in and around the massive church, that featured hundreds of bouquets of live flowers picked from the area fencerows, ditchbanks and woodlots, countless flowery dresses and white first communion style suites, and lots of songs including "Oh Mary We Crown Thee", cued up by a nun with a pitchpipe. When Fr. Griener was eventually transferred to the parish is Onaway in Presque Isle County, his quip gave away his preference to stay with his St. Michael Parish family: "They call it Onaway because it's Onaway to Alaska!" Fr. Wolf received sporadic assistants from the diocese after that as he reassumed the full burden of administering to his parish family.

Fr. Wolf was a Godly man who most could benefit by emulating. He served the people of St. Michael Parish with distinction, patience and grace...a mentor by example and a true priest of the people. God Bless you Father Michael Wolf.

Bob Bishop
Maple Grove St. Mike's Class of 1964
Residing in DeWitt MI with wife Kathy (Smith from Saginaw),
Members of the Catholic Community of St Jude.