By Fr Josef Butscher
After more than four decades of service in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, Father Wendelin Johann Lorenz SAC (25th January 1930 – 16th April 2017) was remembered at a funeral Mass on 28 April at the Pallottine Chapel in Rossmoyne.
Fr Lorenz was known for his warmth and sense of humour and was unshakable in his belief in the eternal life and the power of the Risen Lord. He lived his entire life with an unwavering faith in the Risen Lord and his whole life was governed by this belief.
Arriving in Australia as a 29 year old priest in June of 1958, less than a year after his ordination in Germany, Fr Wendelin was thrust into pastoral work in the Parish of Box Hill in Melbourne.
After a year in Melbourne, in January of 1961, he was sent to WA where he spent the rest of his life serving God’s people.The first three years were carried out at Wandering Mission, following some 45 years in various towns across the Kimberley, including Beagle Bay, Balgo, Kununurra and Derby before retiring to Rossmoyne in 2004.
Fr Lorenz often spoke about how he was sent to the missions without being adequately prepared or trained for the work he was assigned to. But with a true missionary spirit and a compassionate heart, he applied himself to the work at hand.
Fellow teacher at Wandering Mission Regina Moran recalls he was full of vim and energy, and brought cheerfulness and determination to make the Mission as comfy and efficient as he could for the children.
“He was in charge of the boys’ dormitory. He hated seeing the boys walk across the frosty paddocks to breakfast in the Mission dining room on freezing winter mornings, so he brought every boy a pair of rubber boots which they never wore,” she said.
Fr Lorenz had a generous heart. About five years ago he received a substantial sum of money in a bequest which he promptly donated it to a seminary in Mysore, India. The presbytery in Derby was always a place of welcome to all visitors. His kindness and his hospitality were second to none.
Derby Hospital was just across the road from the presbytery so Fr Lorenz would visit the patients every day. When I was at Beagle Bay, the people who were treated at Derby Hospital would inevitably tell me how he would visit them at the hospital to administer the Sacraments.
He loved the Kimberley and in particular Holy Rosary Parish and the surrounding stations around Derby, so found it hard coming to Rossmoyne for his retirement.
But after a few months at Rossmoyne he found his niche at Margaret Hubery Home for the elderly. He got involved in the pastoral care of the residents there for many years and made many friends.He had a great sense of community. He would ring me regularly every three or four weeks during the six years that I was at Beagle Bay, as well as making a point of keeping in touch with all the Pallottines in the Kimberley while he was at Derby.
Fr Werner Kriener use to tell us how in the mid-1980s Fr Lorenz would often ring him at Halls Creek asking him to ring the presbytery at Derby and talk to Fr Alphons Bleischwitz who was staying with him (Fr Wendelin) at the time. Fr Lorenz would tell Fr Kriener that Alfie was feeling a bit down and so needed a phone call from him to be cheered up.
At the Clergy gatherings in Broome, Fr Lorenz would often bring the out a couple of bottles of special wine from the vineyards of his family in Germany. I think he quite enjoyed those Clergy Retreats at the beach house and the Clergy gatherings at Bishop Saunders’ house in Broome.
He had a wonderful attitude of detachment, a willingness to accept whatever life threw at him. He had St Ignatius of Loyola’s ‘spirit of indifference’, not preferring a ‘long life to a short life, health to sickness or wealth to poverty’. He accepted everything that came his way with gratitude.
He also enjoyed the finer things of life; good food, great wine, and nice things but when he didn’t have them, it didn’t worried him unduly either.
Fr Lorenz was greatly devoted to Our Lady and to the Rosary. He often recounted how Our Lady saved his brother’s life during the war. In the last few years when he was having difficulties praying the Divine Office, he asked me if it was okay to pray the Rosary instead of Breviary. He loved the Rosary and I have no doubt that Our Lady is now looking after him. Like Mary, he willingly surrendered his life to God. And like Mary, he responded to God’s call with a Yes, ‘Let it be done unto me according to your Word’, and he never took back this YES.
So with Mary in the Magnificat, we can ‘glorify the Lord because the Almighty has done great things for Fr Lorenz’. For God has looked on his lowliness and raised him up as an example for all of us to emulate in our own lives. So let us thank God for the gift of Fr Lorenz, his faithfulness to God, his love for the people entrusted into his care and his commitment to the Pallottines, Society of Catholic Apostolate.
As the author of the Book of Apocalypse assures us in the First Reading, “Happy are those who die in the Lord! Happy indeed, the Spirit says; now they can rest forever after their work, since their good deeds go with them.” Fr Wendelin Lorenz is now enjoying Eternal rest. Let us pray for one another and for all the people significant to Fr Lorenz, especially the people of the Kimberley.