Father George Wenzinger
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Father George Wenzinger

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Date of Ordination:
June 10, 1978
Influences:
Carl and Margaret Wenzinger, an uncle and aunt who raised him after the death of his parents, and Father Robert Wilhelm, a former teacher from Holy Spirit Seminary.
Interests:
Swimming, weight-lifting, and reading, especially books on spirituality.
Best thing about priesthood:
“The Sunday liturgy where all the people come together as one.”

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“. . .it is a fabulous lifestyle of being able to love and to be loved.”

The seed of Father George Wenzinger’s vocation was planted in tragedy.

When he was just 3, his parents and 17-year-old sister were killed in an auto accident. It was an experience, he says, that plunged him into the paschal mystery and eventually led him to the priesthood.

Father Wenzinger recalls being aware at the time that something very significant had happened to him. Indeed, he and his siblings were separated in the aftermath. Two older brothers, 13 and 10, went to live with an aunt and uncle in Port Clinton, O., and Father Wenzinger and his 2-year-old brother went to the homes of their respective godparents. For Father Wenzinger, that meant New Bavaria, O., to live with his Uncle Carl and Aunt Margaret, who also was his godmother.

“I can remember just in my little childlike way wondering who am I, where do I belong, who do I belong to,” Father Wenzinger says more than 50 years later. “And I think living in a rural environment fostered a contemplative attitude – being able to wonder about the mystery of life and my part in it. It was a good place to be.”

In his new home, Father Wenzinger said he experienced the Church through the faith of his aunt and uncle. Later, as a student at Sacred Heart School, he was encouraged by the Adrian Dominican sisters to consider the priesthood and to attend the former Holy Spirit Seminary as a high school student.

From Holy Spirit, he went to St. Meinrad Archabbey in Indiana for college and seminary studies, and slowly, what he calls a natural attraction for priesthood began to unfold. “It just felt right,” he says.

His first assignment as a priest was as associate pastor at St. John’s Parish in Defiance, where he had been baptized. “Who would have known that I would go back to the church of my baptism to be the ‘Father’ among people who remembered my parents better than I did?”

From St. John’s, Father Wenzinger went to St. Patrick of Heatherdowns in Toledo as an associate pastor and then was assigned to his first pastorate at St. Michael’s Ridge and its sister parish, Junction St. Mary’s. He later returned to Defiance St. John’s as pastor and in his 25th year of priesthood took a one-year sabbatical that included a 30-day Ignatian retreat, 100 days at the Sangre de Cristo Center in Santa Fe, N.M., and an internship in spiritual direction at the Jesuit Center for Spiritual Growth in Wernersville, Pa.

Upon his return, he became pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Leipsic, where he has been for four years. Since he is a “lone-ranger” pastor with no associate pastor on staff, Father Wenzinger recognizes the importance of being faithful to his day off, exercising regularly (he swims, walks, and lifts weights), praying at least twice a day, and taking time for interests such as reading.

He currently is reading The Mission Driven Parish by Patrick Brennan. Asked whether he ever reads anything light, he laughs. “Not really. It’s all like spirituality books . . . That’s what I’m interested in.”

What Father Wenzinger loves most about being a parish priest is the Sunday liturgy, where everyone comes together as one. “We pray . . . ‘the one Father gathered together all who share the one bread and the one cup into the one body of Christ.’ It’s a mystical thing to behold – the prayer in the midst of the people.” He also has a special love for the sacrament of reconciliation because it enables him to pray with people one-on-one and help them connect with God.

In the difficult times, he says, “I try to be honest with my feelings and share them with people I trust and then I take it to prayer or spiritual direction and try to see how even the disappointments and tragedies of life can carry within them some kind of blessing and goodness. How it’s all part of that paschal mystery again, the dying the rising and that we share in that not only as a thought but as a reality.”

Asked why someone would want to become a priest today, Father Wenzinger says, “I think the priesthood today for the person who is truly being called by God . . . is a fabulous lifestyle, of being able to love and to be loved and to have a life that’s full of meaning and value.”

 
   
 


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