Province  Bulletin  Board

Remembering Hugo Wreisner

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Michael Monshau   ( - Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, Berkeley, CA...On 9/19/01 at 12:54 PM.
- The news of Hugo's death has saddened me. I lived with Hugo twice in my early Dominican life and in both instances I was touched by his love for the brotherhood of our Province.

Hugo re-entered the Order as I was nearing the end of my years at the Studiuum in St. Louis. It was immediately apparent to us younger friars that Hugo's return was simply the homecoming of a much beloved brother whose absence had never been expected to last forever.

Hugo and I were ordained on the same day. Since we were ordained in alphabetical order, Wreisner was ordained about two minutes after Monshau. For our first assignments after ordination, the two of us were chosen by the Provincial to open a new house for the Province in Fargo, North Dakota. Hugo was to be the Catholic chaplain for the various hospitals in Fargo and I was to be director of the diocesan retreat center. We shared many a laugh at being sent so far away just as we were leaving the Studium. Apparently the bishop had asked for friars and therefore had agreed to accept whomever the Provincial sent. Therefore, when we arrived in Fargo and were introduced to the bishop, he was not interviewing us, but receiving us. He turned toward me first and eventually asked how long I had been ordained. I responded "About a week, Bishop." The bishop was clearly disconcerted to learn that a newly-ordained priest had been assigned to assume the direction of his diocesan retreat house. The bishop then turned to Hugo (who was obviously senior to my 36 years), expecting a bit more experience, and continued, "And you Father Hugo, how long have you been ordained?" Hugo's face beamed mischievously as he responded gleefully, "About two minutes less than Father Michael!"

The memory of that playful incident always brings Hugo's joyful spirit to my mind, but perhaps most of all, I recall his love for the brotherhood of our Province. Living with Hugo was a wonderful opportunity for someone like myself who entered the Order after the Winona, Dubuque and River Forest-Studium days had ended, and after the brothers who went South had already departed, to become ever-more deeply immersed in our Chicago Province brotherhood. God bless Hugo for that and for all the other gifts he brought to us.

Walter O'Connell   ( - River Forest...On 9/14/01 at 8:47 AM.
Psalm 132:14 "This is my rest for ever;
      here will I dwell, for I have chosen it."

- Fifty-one years ago Hugo and I entered the Dominican Novitiate in Winona, Minnesota; since then the world has turned upside down. His was a long and difficult road to ordination. He suffered from a slight case of epilepsy and Canon Law at the time kept him from ordination. He finished his studies with us, one year novitiate, three years philosophy, and four years theology.

After his studies he worked as secretary to the Dominican Provincial in our House of Studies. At some point he decided to do more to contribute to the order, so he got a job as an entertainer in nightclubs -- he was a talented musician and singer.

After Vatican II the physical requirements for the priesthood were somewhat eased and he returned to the order, studying for several years at our seminary in St. Louis, MO, and then was ordained to the priesthood. Following ordination he held various jobs at Fargo, Albuquerque, Madison, and River Forest.

All these things tel us something about the man. Now I would like to tell you something about the person.

Hugo had a bubbly, infectious personality that made him a delight to be around. He had a near perfect photographic memory; he could leave a class and repeat large parts of what the professor had said (in Latin, mind you) complete with any peculiar mannerisms. He was a musical genius. When we had a movie he would pick out the melody the next day, and, in a day or so, would play the entire song, complete with words, plus the many songs he already knew.

Lastly, he was a superb comic. Our recreation was often the scene of his antics. Among his favorite impersonations were Judy Garland, Betty Davis, English royalty, a french waiter (in French of course) and Sister Mary Holywater. He would life this capuce over his head like a sister's veil and proceed to hold court. I often laughed so hard that my sides hurt. In short he was a delight in any community.

On the priestly side he loved being a Dominican priest; he often remarked that he loved to preach and say Mass.

Recent years afflicted him with diabetes and accompanying health problems. Two nights before he died I was sitting up with him and he was sleeping fitfully. At one point he turned to me and said: "Walter, I feel so loved," then he turned over and went back to sleep. What a beautiful expression of fraternal love. What a beautiful expression of our Dominican Constitutions. Every Friday we used to read the Rule of St. Augustine, the basis of our Dominican Constitutions. The first few sentences sum it up:
"Before all things, most dear brothers, we must love God and after Him our neighbor; for these are the principal commands which have been given to us: that you dwell together in unity and in the house be of one mind and one heart in god, remembering that this is the end for which you are gathered here."

Hugh Wreisner was my friend, my brother in St. Dominic, and I loved him....he will be sorely missed.

May Jesus Christ welcome him into the land of the living, wipe away every tear from his eyes, and grant him everlasting rest.

In my Father's house there are many mansions"..."Come, Hugo, enter my father's house."

[Note: This sermon was never given publicly, but I did read it to him quietly, the night he lay in state.]
---Rev. Walter O'Connell, O.P.

Albert Judy   ( - RF...On 9/10/01 at 3:12 PM.
- As a student I can remember the summmer at camp when Hugo and Paul Ryan would sit side by side at the piano in the boat-house rec room and work their way through their favorite Broadway shows, playing and singing without missing a lyric. I was blown away by their joy and delight.

May Hugo's joy be full and final. I'll miss him.

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