Fr. Dennis Worzalla, jubilarian, dies

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | June 18, 2015

ALLOUEZ — Fr. Dennis Worzalla, who recently marked the 65-year anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, died on June 13 at age 90.

Fr. Dennis Worzalla
Fr. Dennis Worzalla

Fr. Worzalla, a Stevens Point native, served as a chaplain, teacher, spiritual director and parish priest during his 44 years of active ministry in the diocese. During his youth, he would visit relatives who were priests and religious sisters in the St. Cloud Diocese of Minnesota. He recognized the importance of the clergy, but was hesitant about preaching. His mother and the parish priests encouraged him to pray about it.

Following high school, he attended St. Mary Preparatory in Orchard Lake, Mich., and then studied philosophy and theology at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Health problems created challenges for Fr. Worzalla during formation and throughout his priesthood. He required radiation treatments to treat an illness and was almost sent home as a deacon. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 3, 1950, by Bishop Stanislaus Bona at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay. Less than a year after his ordination, while serving as associate pastor at St. John Nepomucene Parish in Little Chute, he lost partial sight in one eye. Bishop Bona appointed him chaplain at Mercy Hospital in Oshkosh to keep him close to medical care.

The day Fr. Worzalla arrived at Mercy Hospital, he was admitted with a 105-degree fever. Despite suffering kidney damage, he was able to serve and lead a normal life. During his free time, he enjoyed playing tennis, fishing and picking wild mushrooms.

Fr. Worzalla taught psychology and medical morality to students in the school of nursing at Mercy Hospital.

Ten years later, he was appointed a teacher and chaplain to the all-female student body at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, where he served from 1962 to 1969. In 1963, he also began as a teacher and spiritual director at Sacred heart Seminary in Oneida.

“All of a sudden I was transferred from a totally female environment to a totally masculine environment — all the boys and college students and the teachers — except for a few nuns who took care of our food. It was fine, too, and I enjoyed it,” he said in a 2010 interview with The Compass.

Fr. Worzalla was appointed administrator at St. Denis Parish, Shiocton, in 1969. Later that year, he became pastor at St. Joseph Parish, Wautoma.

During his time at St. Joseph, 700 people attended each of three English Masses and one Spanish Mass through the diocesan Hispanic outreach, including tourists and migrant workers. Fr. Worzalla decided to learn Spanish through a four-month immersion program in Cuernavaca, Mexico. Following that experience, he spent his annual vacation assisting at mission parishes in Mexico served by Fr. John Reuter, a priest of the Green Bay Diocese.

Fr. Worzalla served 15 years in Wautoma. His final appointment was as pastor of St. Mary Parish, Bear Creek, where he continued assisting migrant workers.

Following his retirement on Oct. 31, 1994, Fr. Worzalla, who grew up the youngest of seven children in his family, moved back to Stevens Point to serve at St. Peter, his home parish. He assisted the pastor for 14 years as a priest in residence.

Fr. Worzalla described the priesthood as a spiritual adventure.

“It’s exciting to experience all the different cultures and variety of people,” he said. “It was good for them to have me with them and it was good for me to have them to minister to.”

He is survived by many nieces and nephews. Preceding Fr. Worzalla in death were his parents, John and Caroline (Kroll) Worzalla; one infant brother; five brothers: Edmund, Richard, Erwin and Norbert Worzalla and Vincent Kroll; and two sisters: Loretta Ropella and Alice Foster.

The funeral Mass was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Friday, June 19, at St. Peter Church, Stevens Point, with Bishop Robert Morneau as the celebrant and Msgr. Paul Koszarek as the homilist. Burial will follow in Guardian Angels Cemetery, Stevens Point.

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