ONEIDA — Fr. George Lenzner, who served as director of St. Joseph Orphanage in Green Bay for 15 years and pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Oneida, for 23 years, died Jan. 2 at age 87.
Fr. Lenzner was born in Mattoon to George and Isabel (De Broux) Lenzner. He attended high school and junior college at St. Lawrence in Mount Calvary. He then entered St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, where he studied philosophy and theology. Fr. Lenzner was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Stanislaus V. Bona on June 1, 1957, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Green Bay. Fr. Lenzner served as an assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Parish, Shawano, and St. Philip the Apostle Parish, Green Bay, before being named director of the orphanage in 1963.
Fr. Paul Demuth, who served as the homilist at the funeral Mass, said that he had spoken about Fr. Lenzner with a retired social worker from the Diocese of Green Bay who had assisted with adoptions at the orphanage.
“She said, ‘What a sweet and understanding man Fr. George was. The kids just loved Fr. George,’” said Fr. Demuth.
In addition to his quiet, compassionate, humble demeanor, Fr. Lenzner was also determined and tough, added Fr. Demuth. He recounted how Fr. Lenzner confronted Bishop Bona about monetary needs for the orphanage.
In 1978, Fr. Lenzner was appointed associate pastor of St. Jude Parish, Green Bay, to serve with Msgr. Peter Klauck. The following year, he was appointed pastor of St. Joseph Parish. Fr. Lenzner served in Oneida from 1979 to 1992.
“He spoke fondly of those years, of the relationships he built,” said Fr. Demuth.
“When I went into the priesthood, I never asked for any assignment and, yet, I never got any assignment I didn’t love,” said Fr. Lenzner in a 2017 interview with The Compass for his 60-year jubilee. “My attitude was just, whatever assignment you get, you just know that you are there to serve. You don’t run the parish really. You’re just there to bring out the faith and the goodness and the love.”
Fr. Lenzner also served two terms on the Priest Personnel Board. Prior to being granted senior priest status in 2002, he assisted as temporary administrator at Immaculate Conception Parish, Oneida, and St. John the Baptist School, Seymour.
During retirement, Fr. Lenzner helped Green Bay area parishes with daily Masses and reconciliation. When he was no longer able to assist, Fr. Lenzner found a new ministry at the Bellevue Retirement Community.
“He was with folks his own age. They had the same aches and pains,” said Fr. Demuth. “Together, they prayed, they sang, they shared the Eucharist.”
Fr. Lenzner was preceded in death by his parents; three brothers, Roger Lenzner, Tom Lenzner and Henry “Dick” (Donna) Lenzner; three sisters: Phyllis (Gordon) Burr, Gen (Joe) Mraz and Evelyn (Palmer) Swanke. He is survived by numerous nieces and nephews; and a sister-in-law, Katie Lenzner.
The funeral Mass was celebrated on Jan. 7 at St. Joseph Church, Oneida. Fr. Dan Felton was the celebrant with Fr. Demuth as concelebrant and homilist.