Father George Vincent Wolf, OSB
Monk of Saint John's Abbey
Born: 15 March 1916
Professed: 11 July 1938
Ordained: 4 June 1944
Died: 20 May 2013
Vincent John Wolf was born in Rockville, Minnesota, to Joseph and Katherine (Knipple) Wolf on March 15, 1916. He grew up with one sister, Margaret, who predeceased him in 1974. Vincent went to elementary school at Holy Cross School in Pearl Lake, Minnesota, from 1922 to 1929, except for a year at McGregor, Minnesota, and a half-year in Minneapolis. He spent his freshman year at Fairmont High School and completed his high school education at Saint John's Preparatory in 1935. Vincent continued at Saint John's University, and after two years of college entered the novitiate of Saint John's Abbey in 1937, receiving the name George. George made his first profession of vows as a Benedictine monk on July 11, 1938. He completed a Bachelor of Arts degree at Saint John's University in 1940, began his theological studies for the priesthood, and was ordained a priest on June 4, 1944.
In July 1944, Father George began his nearly lifelong ministry and commitment to the people of the Bahama Islands where he served indefatigably until he returned to Saint John's in March of 2006. During his 62 years in the Bahamas, he was totally involved in pastoral ministry, but at the same time was a staunch promoter of Saint Augustine's Monastery and the academic excellence of Saint Augustine's College.
Father George's first assignment in the islands was as assistant pastor at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Nassau and then as pastor at St. Anselm's Church, Fox Hill (1944-1948), and then as pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Nassau (1948-1961). During these years he was also able to make regular pastoral visits to St. Teresa's church, Georgetown.
Father George had a special talent for overseeing the construction of churches, schools and convents with limited funds. In 1950, he was appointed business manager in charge of all the diocese's buildings. He was responsible for the building of many churches and schools still in use today: Sacred Heart School (1952), Xavier Lower School (1954), St. Thomas More School and Church (1955), St. Cecilia's School and Church, Aquinas College, St. Bede's School, and additions to St. Joseph's Church and St. Anselm's School, St. Theresa Church and Holy Name School, Convent and Rectory (1960).
In 1965, Father George became pastor of Our Lady of the Holy Souls, in New Providence. From 1969-1971 he was pastor of St. Francis Xavier Cathedral. From 1972-1991 he served as business manager of Saint Augustine's College and Monastery, but during these years remained pastor of Holy Family Church (1972-1973), rector of the cathedral (1974-1978), pastor of the churches of North Eleuthera (five missions) and Harbor Island (1978-1987). He managed this by leaving his business office for pastoral assignments every Friday afternoon and returning from them by Sunday evening, aided by boat and airplane in addition to standard land travel. He maintained the same kind of varied schedule while serving as pastor of St. Theresa's Church, Georgetown, commuting every weekend from Saint Augustine's to Exuma (1987-2006).
Father George's non-priestly duties in the Bahamas included such tasks as serving the community and diocese as diocesan bursar, diocesan consultant, plant manager of Saint Augustine's, and subprior of the monastery. He was also a community builder, believing that if there was going to be a future for the Benedictine presence then it would be closely linked to the monastic community with its rhythm of prayer and work. He was greatly saddened in later years that a monastery in the Bahamas could no longer be sustained because of a lack of monastic personnel. But the missionary work for the monks of Saint John's Abbey which began over 100 years ago would continue in a flourishing diocese whose archbishop was a former student of Saint Augustine's College and in the newly independent school of Saint Augustine's College supported by a special endowment given to it by the assets of Saint Augustine's Monastery and a gift from Saint John's Abbey.
When asked why he stayed in the Bahamas so long, he answered "because of the people. They have been most kind, helpful and patient. I needed them and I figured they needed me."
In 1999, Father George was honored by the Bahamian government and the Archdiocese of Nassau at the Bahamas National Heroes Committee National Awards ceremony. At the same time, he also received the Pontifical Medal Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice in recognition of his more than fifty years of service to the church in the Bahamas.
In the Bahamas, everyone seems to have known and loved Father George. His presence could cut through bureaucratic red tape when something needed to get done. Even though he had a head for business, his natural bent was for people and for the pastoral ministry that served them. His quiet, low-keyed, cheerful, and helpful witness was like a leaven of hope amidst all the difficulties attendant on establishing a Roman Catholic presence in this pioneering missionary country and assisting in its educational endeavors.
Father George died on Monday, May 20, 2013, in the retirement center at Saint John's Abbey. He is survived by nieces, nephews, cousins, many friends in the Bahama Islands and the community at Saint John's Abbey. The Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for Father George, Friday, May 24, 2013, in Saint John's Abbey Church with interment in Saint John's Cemetery following the service.
We ask each community member to offer two Masses according to the manner of his participation in the priesthood of Christ. We commend our brother, George, to your prayers.
Abbot John Klassen OSB
and the monks of Saint John's Abbey