ANTIGO — Fr. Jeremiah Worman, 80, died Saturday, Oct. 27.
For decades, Fr. Worman served the Antigo area. He was appointed pastor at St. Hyacinth Parish in 1994, then as pastor at St. Wenceslaus Parish (1995) in Neva and, later, at SS. Mary and Hyacinth Parish (merged in 2001). He retired in 2008, but continued to serve as priest celebrant at St. John Parish, Antigo, as well as at SS. Mary and Hyacinth and St. Wenceslaus. He also offered weekly Mass for many years at Aspirus Langlade Hospital in Antigo.
Religious Hospitaller of St. Joseph Sr. Dolores Demulling and her sister, Sr. Adele Demulling, knew Fr. Worman for many years.
“I don’t remember Fr. Worman ever giving a homily when he didn’t say, ‘God loves you. God loves you so much,’” Sr. Dolores said. She likened him to the aged John the Apostle who, in his 90s, was carried to his congregation simply to say, “God loves you.”
Sr. Adele added that Fr. Worman “inspired the love of God” as well.
Both sisters were with the priest on the day he died, praying at his bedside. Even though he was not responsive, Sr. Dolores remembers that “he had that little smile — that happy little smile, almost as if he knew: ‘I’m going to a better place.’”
Fr. Zach Weber, a recently ordained priest (2017) assigned as parochial vicar in Antigo, Neva and White Lake, visited with Fr. Worman in his final days.
“He spoke about how he would never complain no matter where God placed him and he would never complain about the people God gave him,” Fr. Weber recalled. “His heart shone in his weakness so I was more aware of how authentically in love he was with Jesus and how Jesus was radiating out of him. He spoke about how he loved being a priest and how he wouldn’t trade his vocation for anything in the world.”
Fr. Worman attended St. John School in Antigo where he and his twin brother were asked to be altar servers in the third grade. When he retired to senior priest status in 2008, he told The Compass that he at first thought altar serving was “just another chore,” but that changed when he served at the first Mass for Fr. Joseph Bauschka in 1955.
“I remember lighting the candle at the side altar and saying to myself, ‘Someday, I could be there,’” he said.
Fr. Worman never told anyone about his call to priesthood until he was a freshman at Antigo High School. He later attended the University of Wisconsin Extension at Wausau, Jordan Seminary in Menominee, Mich., and St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee.
He was ordained on May 27, 1967, by Auxiliary Bishop John Grellinger at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. His first assignment was as assistant pastor at Holy Family Parish in Elcho, followed by Sacred Heart Parish in Oshkosh and then St. John the Baptist in Menasha. He served as temporary administrator at St. James in White Lake and St. Stanislaus in Langlade, followed by St. Mary in Marion.
In 1974, Fr. Worman requested to be incardinated into the Archdiocese for the Military to serve as an Army chaplain. It was something he had considered since his teenage years, when he worked at a local dairy bar and met airmen from the Antigo Radar Base.
For the next 18 years, Fr. Worman served at military bases in Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois; Seoul, South Korea; Karlsrue and Frankfurt, Germany; and Sinop, Turkey. He retired from the Army in 1992 with the rank of major.
In his formal statement of priesthood, which all priests file with the diocese for their records, Fr. Worman spoke of his military service: “I served in foreign countries and many states, from Alaska to Arkansas, Korea to Turkey and Europe. There was a great opportunity to bring Christ to the soldiers in remote cities, to inmates in prisons, from large parishes to small units.”
He returned to the Antigo area in 1994. Besides his service at St. Wenceslaus, St. Mary, and SS. Mary and Hyacinth (2001), he also helped consolidate St. Mary and St. John schools into All Saints Catholic School.
After his official retirement, Fr. Worman became temporary administrator at St Anthony Parish, Niagara, as well as St. Margaret Parish, Pembine, and Sacred Heart Parish, Aurora, and as sacramental minister of Immaculate Conception Parish, Florence (all in 2008). He was minister of sacraments at SS. James-Stanislaus Parish, White Lake/Langlade (2009); Holy Family Parish, Elcho, and St. Mary Parish, Pickerel (2010); temporary administrator at St Joseph Parish, Crandon, and Elcho and Pickerel (all in 2012).
His work in retirement seemed to live out one of his best known sayings: “God isn’t done with me yet.”
Sr. Dolores said that Fr. Worman’s continued service was just another example of his innate generosity. “He was a very giving person; nothing was ever too much for him,” she said. “He was a very giving person; nothing was ever too much for him. He never refused anyone when they asked to come. A very, very generous man.”
Fr. Worman’s funeral will take place in Antigo. A reception of the body will be held at 3 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at SS. Mary and Hyacinth Church (819 Third Ave.). Visitation preceeds a wake service at 6 p.m.
The funeral Mass will be celebrated on Friday, Nov. 2, at 11 a.m. at St. John Church (415 Sixth Ave.), with Bishop David L. Ricken as celebrant. Visitation on Friday will be held at the church from 10 to 11 a.m.
Survivors include three brothers, Robert and Michael Worman of Milwaukee and Waterpower Lake, Lawrence (Linda) Worman of Atchison, Kan., and a sister-in-law, Elaine Worman of Laurel, Md. Burial with military honors will take place at Queen of Peace Cemetery in Antigo at a later date.