Fr. Larry Gerend, Navy veteran who was ordained at age 49, dies

ALLOUEZ — Fr. Lawrence Gerend, who served 21 years in active ministry as a priest in the diocese, died Jan. 4 at the age of 92.

Fr. Gerend was born in Kaukauna to the late Lawrence S. and Elizabeth A. (Gossens) Gerend. He knew that he wanted to be a priest at a young age, and explored becoming a monk or a missionary. Following high school, he joined the Navy near the end of World War II.

Fr. Lawrence Gerend

After completing his military service, Fr. Gerend attended St. Charles College in Catonville, Md., and St. Norbert College, De Pere. He completed his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and classics at St. John University in Collegeville, Minn.

The call to monastic cloistered life for Fr. Gerend led to 12 years at King of Martyrs Priory in Fifield in northern Wisconsin. Monks from St. Precopious Abbey in Illinois attempted to start the monastery, but it eventually closed.

“(I) still felt I had a vocation, (but) I didn’t think I had a vocation to the diocesan priesthood,” said Fr. Gerend in an interview for his 25-year jubilee.

Fr. Gerend turned to teaching Latin and English at Wisconsin high schools, including Shawano, Kaukauna, Slinger and Oakfield. He earned a master’s degree in English from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Fr. Gerend worked for a year in the department of education for the Diocese of Green Bay. He then received a fellowship to study theology at the Divine Word International Centre for Religious Education in London, Ontario, Canada.

When he returned to the United States, he entered major seminary at St. Francis School of Pastoral Ministry in Milwaukee.

“I decided to join my diocesan family’s fathers in 1972,” he said. “I spent 25 years trying to find a monastic cloistered life. … It was the church of Green Bay that welcomed me home to serve our God.”

Fr. Gerend was ordained to the priesthood at age 49 on June 6, 1976, at his home church, Holy Cross, Kaukauna, by Auxiliary Bishop John Grellinger.

Fr. Gerend’s first appointments were as assistant pastor of St. John Parish, Antigo, and St. John Parish, Menasha. In 1980, he was appointed pastor of St. Joan of Arc Parish, Goodman, where he served for two years. In 1982, he was appointed pastor of St. Ambrose Parish, Wabeno, with its station at Blackwell. He served as administrator of St. Joseph Parish, Norman (in Kewaunee County), from 1983 to 1987. Fr. Gerend retired to senior priest status on Sept. 30, 1997.

While serving in Norman, Fr. Gerend was able to somewhat fulfill his missionary interest when he was introduced to ministry in the Dominican Republic. He took vacations to the country to visit seminarians that he sponsored. Fr. Gerend assisted with Masses as a senior priest and did some writing, including sonnets about “the mysteries of the Christ year in the liturgy.”

The funeral Mass was held Jan. 9 at Holy Cross Church, Kaukauna, with Fr. Daniel Felton as celebrant. Fr. Tom Pomeroy served as the homilist. Burial followed in Holy Cross Cemetery.