Msgr. Wolf served as diocesan co-vicar general, co-chancellor
WARSAW — Msgr. James Wolf, pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Warsaw, died Tuesday evening, Aug. 31, after a prolonged illness. Msgr. Wolf served as former co-vicar general and co-chancellor of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and co-rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Fort Wayne. He served faithfully as a priest for over 40 years.
Born Jan. 21, 1940 in Fort Wayne to Walter J. and Ester B. Wolf, Msgr. Wolf was one of six children. He attended St. Jude School and Central Catholic High School, both in Fort Wayne, and entered St. Joseph’s College, Rensselaer, where his intended major was chemical engineering.
He also attended Resurrection College in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, and Mount Saint Mary Seminary in Cincinnati. Ohio. He was ordained to the priesthood on May 31, 1969 by Bishop Leo A. Pursley at St. Jude Church, Fort Wayne.
In an interview with Today’s Catholic last year marking his 40th jubilee as a priest, Msgr. Wolf said, “I didn’t choose the priesthood. God chose me.”
Bishop-emeritus John M. D’Arcy said, “Msgr. Wolf thought of himself, and I too considered him the quintessential parish priest. As pastor of St. John, Fort Wayne and later as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish, Warsaw, he gave his whole heart to the work of Christ. The pastoral love which he poured out for both parishes and more recently that important parish at the mid-point between our two major cities was returned by the people who truly loved him.”
Msgr. Wolf’s appointments included the following: Assistant at St. Matthew Cathedral in South Bend from 1969 to 1973; assistant at St. Mary Church, Decatur, from 1973-1977; associate pastor at St. Anthony Church from 1977 to 1980; as well as chaplain of Saint Joseph’s High School in South Bend in 1977; pastor of St. John the Baptist, Fort Wayne, 1980-1986; appointed consultor to the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and reappointed to the Committee for Retired Clergy in 1982; appointed co-vicar general, co-chancellor for the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend in 1986; and appointed co-rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception effective May 5, 1986; reappointed to the Board of Consultors for a five year term in 1988 and in 1994; appointed by the Holy See as Chaplain for His Holiness, “monsignor” on July 1, 1995; appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Warsaw, on Sept. 5, 2000; reappointed to the Board of Consultor in 2001; and appointed episcopal vicar for Region C for a three-year term in 2003.
His years as co-rector at the cathedral included the seven-month restoration of the church from April to November of 1998. He also oversaw a renovation and addition at Sacred Heart Church and School in 2008-2009.
Bishop D’Arcy told Today’s Catholic, “Msgr. Jim Wolf served along side his dear friend, Msgr. Bill Lester, co-vicar for the diocese and co-rector of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception for many years. Especially moving to me was their friendship, their sense of humor and above all their common devotion to the work of Christ and to the building up of this local Church.”
Bishop D’Arcy said, “He will be welcomed in Heaven by the Good Shepherd, whom he served, and by Our Lady and by his coworker, Msgr. Lester,” Bishop D’Arcy added. “I know also that they will pray for our diocese; and let us all pray that the good Lord will give us good priests like these exemplary shepherds.”
Sacred Heart School Principal Jim Faroh had only known Msgr. Wolf for a year, but forged a genuine respect for the pastor of the parish. He said of Msgr. Wolf, “I had the honor and pleasure of carrying out God’s work with him for only one short year. In that time I grew to know him as a gentle, quiet man of great wisdom, strength and faith. … He was an instrumental part of the wonderful success that Sacred Heart enjoyed as a school and family.”
Faroh reports that Msgr. Wolf knew the names and personalities of each student at the school and took great joy in his interactions with them at weekly Mass and various school events. One notable event that will live in the memory of the students and staff is the day Msgr. Wolf took a pie in the face during the volleyball championship celebration last year.
Laura Gillis has worked with Msgr. Wolf as the parish secretary at Sacred Heart in Warsaw for the past 10 years.
“Whenever I hear the hymn at Mass ‘Make Me a Channel of Your Peace’ based upon the Prayer of St. Francis, I think of Msgr. Wolf,” she said. “He lived it! And I don’t know how he did it!”
Mary Barnes agrees. The youngest sister of Msgr. Wolf’s five siblings, Barnes and her husband Mike speak joyfully of their family’s priest. “You couldn’t ask for a better brother,” Mary said. “He was always there. His family was very important to him. We could always count on him.”
Of his priestly ministry Mary said, “He was so pastoral. Nothing went to his head. He always thought of others first. He was a parish priest at heart.”
• Monday, Sept. 6, Sacred Heart Church, Warsaw
Reception of the Body: 2 p.m.
Visitation: 2-5 p.m.
Rosary: 4:45 p.m.
Visitation: 6:30-8 p.m.
Evening Prayer Vigil Service: 7:30 p.m.
• Tuesay, Sept. 7, Sacred Heart Church, Warsaw
Visitation: 10 a.m.
Funeral Mass: 11 a.m.
Burial: 3 p.m. at Catholic Cemetery, Fort Wayne
Msgr. Wolf was preceded in death by his sister, Jeanette Gayda, brothers Thomas and Allen. He is survived by sisters Carolyn Grogg of Oxnard, Calif., Mary (and brother-in-law Michael) Barnes of Fort Wayne, and sister-in-law Sue Wolf of Fort Wayne,16 nephew and nieces, 25 great nephews and nieces, and one great-great niece.
Additional coverage will be in the Sept. 19 issue of Today’s Catholic.
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