ALLOUEZ — Fr. William Rickert, the senior priest of the Diocese of Green Bay, died Nov. 5 at age 95. Fr. Rickert was not only the oldest living priest of the diocese at the time of his death, but also had served the longest — 71 years. In January of 2015, Fr. Rickert celebrated the 70th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood with a Mass at Annunciation Church in Green Bay.
Fr. Rickert, the oldest of seven sons of Joseph and Laura (Bosman) Rickert, grew up on the family farm in Freedom. He attended high school at St. Joseph School in Appleton prior to St. Lawrence Seminary, Mount Calvary. He graduated from St. Lawrence at age 16. His education continued at St. John Seminary in Collegeville, Minn., where he studied philosophy and theology. Fr. Rickert was the first priest ordained by Bishop Stanislaus V. Bona on Jan. 31, 1945, at St. Joseph Orphanage Chapel in Allouez. He was only 23 years old when he finished seminary in November of 1944, so he had to wait until her was old enough under church law to be ordained.
Fr. Rickert’s first assignment was at St. Mary Parish, Menasha, where he served for 13 years. He was also the St. Mary High School administrator, athletic director dean of boys and acting principal when the pastor was gone. The boys’ basketball team won two state championships during Fr. Rickert’s time at the school. For many years, Fr. Rickert attended St. Mary class and team reunions.
In 1958, he became pastor at Sacred Heart Parish, Spruce, and St. Wenceslaus Mission at Klondike. Fr. Rickert also served as pastor at Holy Angels Parish, Darboy; St. Mary, Oshkosh; SS. Peter and Paul, Weyauwega; and St. Francis, Hollandtown. He also served as administrator of St. Patrick Parish, Askeaton, from 1990 to 1996, when he retired to senior priest status. Other ministries included diocesan consultor, rural life director, personnel board member, vicar and spiritual advisor to the St. Vincent de Paul council. Fr. Rickert was also the co-founder and first president of the Diocesan Clergy Credit Union. In retirement, he continued to serve sacramentally in numerous parishes and at nursing homes.
“The best thing in my life was the priesthood,” said Fr. Rickert in a 2010 interview marking his 65-year jubilee. “The two gifts the church gives to people are the Eucharist and confession. A priest has great powers to bring this gift of Mass and Eucharist to the world and to the people.”
Fr. Rickert’s pastimes over the years included hunting, fishing, golf and the card game Skat, which he played often with Fr. Leander Nickel.
Fr. Rickert is survived by four brothers: Roy (Vi) Rickert and Joe (Patricia) Rickert of Appleton, John (Joan) Rickert of Bluffton, S.C., and Tom Rickert of Green Bay; nieces, nephews, cousins, fellow clergy and friends, including Therese Weiss.
Fr. Bill was preceded in death by his parents; a sister, Anna Mae, who died during infancy; brothers and sisters-in-law, Richard and Dorothy Rickert and Robert and Beatrice Rickert; two sisters-in-law, Kay Rickert and Norma Rickert, a special aunt, Leone Bosman and special family member, Annie Sanderfoot.
The funeral Mass is scheduled for 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11, at St. Nicholas Church in Freedom. Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau will be the celebrant. Fr. Willard Van De loo will serve as the homilist. Burial will follow in St. Nicholas Cemetery.
View photos from Fr. Rickert’s 70th anniversary Mass on our Flickr page.