APPLETON — Capuchin Fr. Pius Cotter, 89, who served as pastor of several parishes in the Diocese of Green Bay, died March 3 at the Fidelis Friary after struggling with cancer.
Fr. Pius was born Aug. 18, 1928, to George and Wivine Mary Cotter, in Appleton, the oldest of six children. He was invested in the Capuchin Order on March 18, 1945, perpetually professed his vows on August 19, 1949, and was ordained a priest on June 3, 1988.
In an interview with The Compass in 2013, Fr. Pius said he always wanted to be a priest, even as a young boy, when he dreamed of going as a missionary to China.
But for the first 37 years as a Capuchin, he was a religious brother who served in internal ministries throughout the Capuchin Province. It was during this time, he said, that he had the privilege of working with Blessed Solanus Casey, first in Detroit and then in Huntington, Ind.
During part of that time, Fr. Pius not only prayed and ate with Blessed Casey, he also shared the duties as doorkeeper with him. “He always used to say, ‘Thank God ahead of time for all the things he’s going to give you,’” Fr. Pius told The Compass. “I always tried to keep that in mind.”
Fr. Pius studied for the priesthood at Holy Apostles Seminary in Cromwell, Conn., and after his ordination in 1988, he first served as associate pastor of St. Veronica Parish in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
In 1989, he was named parochial vicar at St. Joseph Parish in Appleton. During that time he taught religion at his boyhood parish, St. Mary.
In 1992, he moved to Sacred Heart Parish in Oshkosh as parochial vicar, and in 1993 he was assigned to St. Joseph Parish in Wautoma as minister of the sacraments. He then served as temporary administrator at St. Anthony Parish in Tigerton and St. Mary in Marion. In 1994, he was assigned as pastor of St. Francis and St. Mary Parish in Brussels, where he served until his retirement in 2013.
Reflecting on his priestly vocation, Fr. Pius told The Compass in 2013, “I love the priesthood, I love hearing confessions and I love to preach.”
Fr. Pius is survived by a brother, James, of Greenville, and three sisters: Lois Shandonay, Neenah, Mary Peterman, Kingwood, Texas, and Ann Uehlein, Kaukauna, as well as his Capuchin brothers with whom he lived and prayed for 73 years. He was preceded in death by his sister, Therese Benard.
A Liturgy of Christian Burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 10, at St. Joseph Church, 404 W. Lawrence St., Appleton. Visitation is from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday and after 9 a.m. Saturday at the church. A vigil service will be held at 7 p.m. Friday. In lieu of flowers, send donations to St. Fidelis Friary for the Capuchins in Assisted Living Care.
Monica Sawyn contributed to this story.