The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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February 25, 2000 Issue
Local News

Holy Angels pastor retires

Fr. Fuller, Darboy, ordained in 1958

By Joanne Flemming
Compass Correspondent

For more than 40 years, Fr. Donald Fuller has been in love with his priesthood. In that time, the pastor of Holy Angels Parish in Darboy has shared that love with aspirants to the priesthood in two special ways.

The first was as vocation director with the Blessed Sacrament Fathers seminary in Waupaca shortly after he was ordained in 1958. The native of Gardner, Mass., spent almost eight years driving 40,000 miles a year visiting high schools throughout the Midwest and as far away as New Mexico.

After the seminary closed in the early 1970s, Fr. Fuller joined the Green Bay Diocese. The diocese also recognized his talent for "vocation work." He was asked to mentor pastoral interns - students in their third year of major seminary who spend a semester working in a parish. He has worked with three interns at Holy Angels - two have been ordained - "bringing out their strong points" and "trying to help mold them in what you hope will be good pastors."

This month, Fr. Fuller faces another challenge - retirement. The heart surgeries he has had in the last two years were the major reasons behind that choice.

The priest recalled that he did not consider a vocation until he was two years out of high school. He had played baseball against Blessed Sacrament seminarians. One of them invited him to tour the seminary. After the tour, he went back for a retreat.

He was thinking about enlisting in the Air Corps when a "simple thought" occurred to him: "If I am willing to serve my country, what with the shortage of priests, I should see if God wanted me to serve him in the priestly vocation." From there, "everything seemed to fit into place."

After joining the Blessed Sacrament order, he attended St. Jerome's College in Canada for a crash course in Latin - four years in one. Then it was back to Massachusetts for two years in the Blessed Sacrament novitiate, followed by two years of philosophy and four of theology at St. Joseph's Seminary in Cleveland.

After ordination, he was sent to Waupaca as vocations director. Eight years later, he was named religious superior at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Chicago. When the seminary rector became ill, he returned to Wisconsin to take over that position. Part of his job was overseeing the closing and sale of the seminary.

Because he liked the state and especially the Fox Valley, he asked to stay in the Green Bay Diocese. His first assignment was a year as an associate pastor at Holy Name Parish in Kimberly. He then spent 13 years as pastor at St. Aloysius in Kaukuana and five years at St. Jude in Green Bay. He is completing his eighth year at Holy Angels.

Besides recruiting and mentoring future priests, Fr. Fuller said he enjoys working with parishioners. Because of Vatican II, he said, the church is "not just a priests' church." It belongs to "the people of God.... Lay people are stepping forward more and more."

He said another of his strengths is "the ability to get (people) to take leadership in parishes and accomplish things." The major lesson he said that he has learned as a priest has been that "people are very good and very generous and very willing to help out.... Community is the big thing we all have to strive for."

Fr. Fuller, a charter member of the Fox Valley Racquet Club, enjoyed playing tennis before his surgeries. While at Waupaca, he drove 40 miles one way on his day off to play tennis in Appleton. While at St. Jude, he played with a Green Bay racquet club.

Fr. Fuller will live in retirement at St. Pius X Parish rectory in Appleton. He wants to "play a little sheepshead" and spend the winters in a warmer climate. When his health improves, he hopes to help in various parishes.

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