Funeral Mass in Mahomet for Fr. George Wuellner

MAHOMET — A Mass of Christian burial was offered at Our Lady of the Lake Church here on Friday, Aug. 14, for Father George E. Wuellner, a former vicar of the Champaign vicariate whose artistic talents were known throughout the diocese.

Father Wuellner, pastor emeritus of St. Boniface Parish in Seymour who had been on senior priest status since 2001, died on Saturday, Aug. 8, 2009, at the age of 87.

A parish priest for most of his 55 years in the priesthood, his skills as an illustrator — as well as his sense of humor — appeared frequently on the pages of The Catholic Post. Father Wuellner was the co-producer of a regular cartoon feature called “Graffiti from Cathedral Walls” that offered a comic look at diocesan news in the 1970s and 1980s. His Lenten and Advent “walk” calendars, drawn for parishioners, were also frequently shared in the diocesan newspaper.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, was principal celebrant of the funeral Mass. Homilist was Father Tom Royer, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, Champaign.
Interment was in St. Boniface Cemetery in Seymour.

Born Oct. 18 in Alton to Joseph and Marie (Knapp) Wuellner, he attended St. Mary’s Grade School and Marquette High School there before his family moved to the Urbana area. After graduating from Urbana High School, he then studied industrial design at the University of Illinois. After earning his degree in 1943, Father Wuellner was commissioned as an officer in the U.S. Navy.

He served in the Pacific during World War II, and his participation in the invasions of Guam and Iwo Jima earned him two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart, in addition to other awards and ribbons.

After his discharge from the Navy, he worked for an industrial design firm in Chicago and later taught commercial design at the University of Illinois. He would later say that “something was lacking” in his life and, before renewing his teaching contract, he attended a retreat at a Jesuit retreat house in Decatur.

“I don’t recall a thing about the retreat, but when I left, I knew I wanted to be a priest,” he told The Catholic Post on the occasion of his 50th jubilee of ordination in 2004.

After a year of study at St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, he completed his preparation for the priesthood at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana.

Father Wuellner, whose brother Frank was also a priest of the Diocese of Peoria, was ordained on June 6, 1954, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria.
His early assignments were as parochial vicar at St. Bernard’s Parish, Peoria; St. Edward’s, Chillicothe; and St. Mary of the Woods, Princeville. He served one year as assistant director of Catholic Social Service before seven years as parochial vicar at St. Pius X, Rock Island.

In 1967, he was appointed pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish, Morton, where he served for five years. Father Wuellner was pastor of St. John’s, Peoria, from 1972 to 1974, then served as part of the South Side Team Ministry, serving four parishes on Peoria’s South Side until 1977.

Father Wuellner was an assistant at Holy Family, Peoria, from 1977 to 1979 and administrator of St. Mary’s, Loretto, and Sacred Heart, Campus, from 1979 to 1980. He was an assistant at Holy Cross, Champaign, and Our Lady of the Lake, Mahomet, for one year before becoming pastor of the Mahomet parish in 1981.

He served 11 years as pastor in Mahomet, and for 10 of those years he was also pastor of St. Boniface Parish in Seymour. In 1992 he was named pastor emeritus of St. Boniface, but continued to serve as parish administrator in Seymour until 2001.

He is survived by one sister, Betty Suter of South Bend, Ind.; one sister-in-law, Terry Wuellner of Decatur; 31 nieces and nephews and many great-nieces and great-nephews. He was preceded in death by his brothers, Father Frank, William, Joseph, and Charles Wuellner; two sisters-in-law, Helen Wuellner and Ollie Wuellner, one brother-in-law, Frank Suter; and one niece, Barbara Jean Wuellner.

Memorials may be made to Empty Tomb in Champaign or Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Peoria.

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