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.