Fr. Rallen Stencil, 87, dies; was strong Catholic schools advocate

ALLOUZ — Fr. Rallen Stencil, 87, died April 16. “Fr. Rallie,” as he was known by many, had been pastor at St. Mary, Antigo, and St. Mary, Hilbert. In retirement, he helped at St. Joseph in Kellnersville from 2005 until a serious car accident in 2009. Even after, he would visit for some parish functions.

Fr. Rallen Stencil

“Wherever he went, he had a school — he loved the children and he had many special Masses and get-togethers for them,” recalled his sister, Diane Rabideau, who was with her brother when he died. “When he was at Antigo, he was out on the playground with the kids playing ball. He loved the schools and tried with all he could to keep them open. That was a big part of what he really wanted to accomplish. He also spent a lot of time visiting with people. He was a great visitor – and in his retirement, he was always seeing this one and that one.”

Fr. Rallen Henry Stencil, the second of four children of Thomas and Clara (Pingel), was born in Green Bay on July 3, 1930. He attended Central Catholic High School and East High. (His sister said he switched schools because Central Catholic “didn’t have woodworking.”)

After school, he worked in construction and then joined the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War with his friends. An infection led to a medical discharge. “He was broken-hearted,” his sister said, adding that he then joined the Navy. He served in the South Pacific and later in the Naval Reserves.

While working with his father at the A and P warehouse, he decided to enter the seminary at Mt. Calvary and then attended St. Paul Seminary, University of St. Thomas, in St. Paul.

Fr. Stencil was ordained on June 1, 1963, by Bishop Stanislaus Bona at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay. He served as parochial vicar at SS. Peter and Paul in Green Bay, St. Josaphat in Oshkosh, St. Aloysius in Kaukauna and Most Precious Blood in New London. While at New London, he was also chaplain at Community Hospital there.

In 1972, he became pastor at Antigo. In 1975, he served on the diocesan board of education.

In 1987, Fr. Stencil was named pastor at Hilbert, where he remained until his retirement to senior priest status on June 30, 2002.

Fr. Ron Colombo, who served his first assignment as a priest at St. Mary in Antigo, remembers Fr. Stencil’s love for schools and children.

“He loved a parish with a school. He loved kids,” said Fr. Colombo, who also worked with Fr. Stencil at Kellnersville.

“He told me that he probably wouldn’t go to a parish without a school.”

He added that Fr. Stencil was “a very generous man” who was frugal with his own needs but not with other people.

“He fought for our Catholic schools. He would often send checks to different institutions that were struggling. We found out about that,” Fr. Colombo said.

Fr. Stencil also cared about pro-life issues and would march outside a Green Bay clinic when abortions were performed there. He also wrote letters to his congressional representatives, according to Fr. Colombo.

At the time of his retirement in 2002, Fr. Stencil told The Compass that he also loved working with the laity.

“It’s a wonderful privilege to work in our Lord’s vineyard and to share in his work,” he said. “I was fortunate that in all my parishes there were lots of good people.”

“The changes of Vatican II,” he added, “especially, have given the laity a reminder that they are the church, too. It’s a good change, that lay people are called to step forward to do the things only priests used to do. As more parishes are without their own priests, the laity will do more of the business of the church.”

Fr. Stencil was assisted at some of his parish assignments by his mother, Clara. After the death of his father, Clara served as her son’s housekeeper in both Antigo and Hilbert, every other weekend. Fr. Stencil often spoke of how the house was filled with the smell of baking when she was there. For Christmas 1987, Clara shared some of her favorite recipes with The Compass, including her beef stroganoff.

Fr. Colombo remembered Clara’s work at St. Mary in Antigo, “except that she was never allowed to clean (Fr. Stencil’s) desk,” he said.

“It was neat, in my priesthood, that I started out with him,” Fr. Colombo added, “and then that I could be his boss for a while after he retired and he helped me out (at Kellnersville and surrounding parishes at Denmark, New Denmark and Cooperstown).

Visitation for Fr. Stencil will be at St. Philip the Apostle Church, 312 Victoria St. in Green Bay, on Monday, April 23, from 9 to 11 a.m. The funeral Mass will follow at 11 a.m. Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau will be the celebrant and Fr. Colombo with be the homilist.