||A priest reaches out to touch the casket bearing the body of Bishop George O. Wirz, retired auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Madison, during the closing procession of the funeral Mass on November 30 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Madison. Bishop Wirz was later buried at Resurrection Cemetery in Madison. (Catholic Herald photo/Kat Wagner)
MADISON -- Over 77 priests and nine bishops joined hundreds of people from throughout the Diocese of Madison and beyond to pray for Bishop George O. Wirz, retired auxiliary bishop, at his Mass of Christian Burial on November 30 at St. Maria Goretti Church in Madison.Bishop Robert C. Morlino welcomed those attending the Mass, starting with his fellow bishops who “loved him as an exemplar of priestly service.”
Bishops attending included Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee, Bishop William H. Bullock, bishop emeritus of Madison; Bishop William P. Callahan of La Crosse; Bishop Thomas G. Doran of Rockford, Ill.; Bishop Paul J. Swain of Sioux Falls, S.D., former vicar general of the Diocese of Madison; Bishop Robert J. Banks, bishop emeritus of Green Bay; Bishop Richard J. Sklba, retired auxiliary bishop of Milwaukee, who was asked by Bishop Wirz to be the homilist; and Bishop Robert F. Morneau, auxiliary bishop of Green Bay.
Bishop Morlino also noted the large number of brother priests who came “out of love and affection for Bishop George.” Bishop Wirz was the former rector of Holy Name Seminary in Madison and director of the diocesan Office for the Continuing Education for Priests for many years, among many other ministries throughout his priesthood and years as a bishop.
The Knights of Columbus provided an honor guard and Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre attended the Mass.
Deacon of the Word was Deacon Tim Reilly, Green Bay, a friend of Bishop Wirz, and Deacon of the Eucharist was Deacon Joe Stafford, Sun Prairie. William Emmeneger, a cousin, was the reader and a gift bearer along with Sr. Joan Wirz, CSA, the sister of Bishop Wirz.
In his homily, Bishop Sklba said that Bishop Wirz asked him to preach the homily at his funeral 30 years ago. “And kept repeating the invitation in no uncertain terms,” Bishop Sklba said.
He described Bishop Wirz as an “ever faithful priest, a bishop who took his ministry seriously, kind, intelligent, an avid reader, loving the Church with all its strengths and weaknesses, cooperative and compliant, occasionally over timid (at least in my experience), but then suddenly exercising such forceful Swiss stubbornness to the utter surprise of everyone around the table when he was convinced of something . . . a faithful disciple ever on the road to Emmaus, talking about all the things that happened in Jerusalem when the Lord died for us, but then also rose to new life with and for all of us!”
(The complete text of Bishop Sklba’s homily is published in the special tribute section in this week’s Catholic Herald.)
Bishop Morlino’s words
Before the final commendation, Bishop Morlino thanked Msgr. Michael Burke and his staff at St. Maria Goretti Parish. “Bishop George felt at home here,” he said.
He also thanked Dr. Patrick Gorman and the Diocesan Choir for the beautiful music.
“As a diocese we suffer a great loss as Bishop George goes home to the Lord,” said Bishop Morlino.
“Bishop George was an outstanding example of holiness. Bishop George was spiritual father of so many priests as rector of Holy Name Seminary. I feel a loss as do these brother priests. So many of you have lost a spiritual father.”
Bishop Morlino said it is strong Catholic teaching that we never know for sure if someone is in heaven, so we continue to beg for the Lord’s mercy and love. “But a local gentleman told me that the only way he could imagine Bishop George going to Purgatory would be to help others out,” said the bishop.
He added, “Bishop George, we know how much we love you. We’re willing to entrust you to the mercy of Jesus for whom you gave your life.”
In the prayer of commendation the bishop said, “We take comfort in the hope that we will see Bishop George again.”
Bishop Wirz was laid to rest at Resurrection Cemetery in Madison near Bishop Cletus F. O’Donnell, second bishop of Madison.
Reception of body, vigil service
The day before the funeral, the body of Bishop Wirz was brought to the Bishop O’Connor Center in Madison as the bells tolled. At the entrance to the chapel, Bishop Bullock prayed and sprinkled holy water on the casket. Diocesan staff, friends, and relatives sang, “Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.”
Msgr. James Bartylla, vicar general, lit candles around the coffin after it was carried to the front of the chapel. The bishop’s mitre was placed on the casket.
At the Vigil Prayer Service for Bishop Wirz on Monday evening, Nov. 29, Bishop Bullock said, “The Church entered into its yearly celebration of the season of Advent yesterday. It is a time of waiting, expectation, and hope.
“For Bishop Wirz and those who have died, there is a different waiting — a wait to be purified before their full entry in the Kingdom of Heaven. Bishop Wirz’s life spoke clearly and definitively to his active belief in heaven. He worked, prayed, and promoted the Kingdom of God on Earth in the Church he loved and served well. We now assist him by our prayers and sacrifices.
“His beautiful Episcopal motto was simply what he lived as person, priest, and bishop, ‘Thy Kingdom Come,’ and so we pray that Bishop Wirz may soon hear these words, ‘Come, ye Blessed of my Father into the Kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of time.’ May the fullness of heaven be present to Bishop George and may he rest in God’s eternal peace. Amen.”