ALLOUEZ — Fr. Roger Strebel, who served 44 years in parish ministry and 40 years as chaplain of the Boy Scouts, died Feb. 18 at age 80.
Fr. Strebel, the son of Martin and Grace (Paque) Strebel, was born in Green Bay. He joined the Boy Scouts at age 11 in 1950, around the same time he discovered his vocation to the priesthood.
“The basic promise of Scouting offers duty to God and service to others. I saw the ordained priesthood as the best way to live out that promise,” said Fr. Strebel in a 2016 interview with The Compass, marking his 50-year anniversary as a priest.
Fr. Strebel attended minor seminary at the College of Sacred Heart Seminary in Oneida, and studied philosophy and theology at St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee. He was ordained to the priesthood by Auxiliary Bishop John B. Grellinger on May 28, 1966, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay.
Fr. Strebel’s first priestly assignment was as an assistant at Nativity of Our Lord Parish, Ashwaubenon. The long list of parishes he served includes St. Margaret Mary, Neenah; Holy Innocents, Manitowoc; St. Philip the Apostle, Green Bay; Sacred Heart of Jesus, Marinette; St. Anthony, Tigerton, and St. Mary, Marion; Immaculate Conception, Glenmore, and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Stark; St. Hyacinth, Antigo; St. Mary’s of the Lake, Lakewood, with stations at Crooked Lake and Silver Cliff; St. Joseph, Walsh, and St. Edward, Wagner; St. Mary, Peshtigo; St. Augustine, Wausaukee, and St. Agnes, Amberg; St. Mark, Redgranite, and Sacred Heart of Jesus, Poy Sippi; Holy Family, Elcho, and St. Mary, Pickerel; and SS. James and Stanislaus, White Lake and Langlade. He retired in 2010, but continued to help out at parishes as an administrator and priest celebrant.
Other ministries for Fr. Strebel included serving as a field advocate for the diocesan marriage tribunal, part-time instructor at Marinette Catholic Central High School, chaplain at Marinette General Hospital and chaplain of the Calix Society.
In 1976, he was named chaplain of the Boy Scouts. He was appointed regional chaplain and executive board member for the Bay Lakes Council. Fr. Strebel was also a life member of the national executive board of the National Catholic Committee on Scouting, as well as a life member of the Girl Scouts of America.
Fr. Daniel Schuster, who succeeded Fr. Strebel in ministering to the Scouts and now serves as chaplain to the Catholic Committee on Scouting, said that Fr. Strebel was very influential in Scouting on a national level. He wrote textbooks about Scouting emblems and was a longtime camp staff member.
Fr. Schuster, who served as the homilist at the funeral Mass for Fr. Strebel, met him at Gardner Dam Boy Scout Camp, where Fr. Schuster was on summer staff.
“We became pen pals,” said Fr, Schuster, pastor at Holy Trinity Parish, Casco/Slovan, and Immaculate Conception Parish, Luxemburg. “He supported me through prayer as a seminarian.”
When Fr. Strebel led prayer at Scout camp, he had to appeal to a wide range of faith backgrounds, said Fr. Schuster.
Those who met Fr. Strebel won’t forget his handshake, added Fr. Schuster.
“He had the most gripping handshake on the planet,” he said. “He would bring you to your knees.”
Fr. Strebel pursued higher education throughout his lifetime. He earned a bachelor’s degree in education at Holy Family College in Manitowoc in 1971. He attended St. Mary University in Baltimore, Md., in 1986, where he earned a doctorate in ministry. Through Clayton College in Birmingham, Ala., Fr. Strebel earned a doctorate in natural health, a doctorate in naturopathy, a Ph.D. in nutrition and a degree as a master herbalist.
“People want to become better,” said Fr. Strebel. Whether through Scouting, ministry or natural medicines, “I have always taught people to take care of themselves and take care of other people. The more we learn to help one another, the more we come together and the more memories we all share.”
The funeral Mass was celebrated on Feb. 25 at St. Mary’s of the Lake Church, Lakewood. Bishop David Ricken presided. Burial will be at Allouez Catholic Cemetery at a later date.