Father Joe – An Orphan No More

Father Joe – An Orphan No More

Category : News

At last I am an orphan no more.

As we ponder the life and works of the Servant of God, Father Joseph Walijewski, we may ask ourselves what would inspire someone to work so hard and for so long in a place so far from one’s homeland? What was it that fuelled his energy and gave him consolation for so
many years?

Clues to answer those questions are found in some of his early writings.

When Father Joe was finishing his first year of seminary in Michigan, it was determined that he didn’t fit their profile so he was told to pursue another calling. Perhaps his simple upbringing or his difficulty with some college level classes raised doubt in the minds of the Michigan seminary. For whatever reason, young Joseph
Walijewski needed to find out if God’s plan for his life was the priesthood, and if it was, it would have to be for another diocese.

Displaying early on his character of seeing a problem and determining to do something about it, he decided to send letters of application to the neighboring dioceses asking if they would take him as a seminarian. After several letters went unanswered, someone suggested he contact Bishop Alexander Joseph McGavick of the Diocese of La Crosse. Within two weeks, Bishop McGavick responded to young Joe with a letter asking him to come for an interview. It was that letter that opened the door for him to continue as a seminarian for the Diocese of La Crosse.

A few years later as Joseph was starting his third year at St. Joseph Seminary in Milwaukee, Bishop John Patrick Treacy was named the fifth Bishop of La Crosse. Here is what he wrote to his new bishop in February of 1949, “I owe my whole life’s work for the diocese of La Crosse. I wish I could express my gratitude, for all that your Excellency has done for me. I was on the verge of despair in my attempts in seeking a diocese that would adopt me as one of their sons. I was a seminarian without a diocese, no one would accept me. Then a friend of mine suggested the diocese of La Crosse. At last I am an orphan no more.”

Father Joe knew how it felt to be orphaned as he was looking for a diocese that would adopt him as one of their sons. In response to the kindness shown to him by the Diocese of La Crosse, he pledged his whole life’s work. Little did he know where that would take him or to what extent his service done in gratitude would enable the Gospel of Jesus Christ to be told. Many thanks for your years spent in service to the countless people who received the gift you passed on to them.