Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
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Father Dan Wetzler, pastor of St. Paschal Parish, retires after 39 years of
by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff
(From the May 2, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)
Come July 1, three Spokane diocesan priests will start a new chapter in their lives: retirement.
Ending their active parish ministry are Fathers Edward Caffrey, Eugene Glatt, and Dan Wetzler.
Taken in sum, the three priests have devoted a total of 127 years of service to the diocese.
With 45 years of service. Father Caffrey is the dean of the group. Father Glatt has served 43 years, and Father Wetzler, 39 years. (Editor's note: Father Caffrey's interview will appear in a future issue of the Inland Register. Father Glatt very graciously asked to be let off the hook for an interview, and we complied.)
Father Wetzler, who ends his pastoral service at St. Paschal Parish in Spokane, will begin his retirement by taking some time off this summer. "I'm not going to do much for a while," he said.
But he won't be idle for long. Father Wetzler wants to take the opportunity to be available for evangelization, and will eventually take to the road for retreats, conferences, and workshops.
"Some doors have already opened for me," he said.
He doesn't plan to rush anything, however, or put any limits on what may come. "I'm going to combine a Scriptural waiting on the Lord with discernment to learn what the Lord wants," he said.
Father Wetzler's 39 years of service to the diocese include teaching high school boys at Mater Cleri Seminary, starting in 1966, and then high school girls at Marycliff High School in 1969. In 1976 he became a pastor, assigned to the parishes in Tekoa and Rockford. Other parish assignments followed, in Othello, Connell and Eltopia, and finally at St. Paschal.
"I like to think one of the better (gifts) I brought as a priest was a sense of stability to the places I served," he said. He stayed six years in the Tekoa-Rockford assignment, 10 years in Othello, and 10 at St Paschal. And while he gave stability, he also tried to give fellowship. "I enjoyed the people wherever I've been and I've always tried to make wherever I was (my) home," he said.
Another gift was helping his parishioners "have a sense of community and of their identity as church," said Father Wetzler. "People also have to come to a sense of ownership of their church." That means calling forth their gifts for service. In his wake are parishioners who are involved in all kinds of ministry, from Bible studies to baptism preparation to carpentry.
In 1976 Father Wetzler was named diocesan liaison for the charismatic renewal, which was coming into prominence then. The priest credits the renewal for deepening his relationship with Christ.
“Those were the years when many Catholics were leaving," he said. “If the Lord hadn't stirred my heart (through the renewal), I don't know where I would have been, as a Catholic or as a priest."
Father Wetzler has given notice to the diocesan renewal service team that he will continue "ex officio" until a replacement can be found. He also wants to be on hand for a national meeting of renewal liaisons in Spokane in May 2003, a meeting which he helped arrange.
Father Wetzler also enjoys using his talents as an artisan-crafter. Years ago he worked in stained glass, and hopes to "get back into it." Wherever he lives, which "will be somewhere around here," he said, he hopes to have "a place where I can have that set up."
After 39 years of ministry, what advice would Father Wetzler give to new priests?
"All we priests have to humble ourselves," he said. "And we all must come to a personal relationship with Christ. That's who we preach. He is Lord and we're not."
Father Patrick Hartin, who has been in residence at St. Paschal Parish since 1995, will become the parish’s sacramental minister. Don McKenzie will become pastoral administrator.
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