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Msgr. John Dewane, longtime diocesan administrator, dies

Msgr. John Dewane visits with a former neighbor, Ed Krummal, after Mass at St. Agnes Church in Green Bay. (File Photo | On Mission)

Valders native was ordained a priest in Rome in 1962

SHEBOYGAN — Msgr. John Dewane, who served 14 years in administration for the Diocese of Green Bay, died Feb. 15 at age 89.

Msgr. Dewane was born in Valders and lived in both Seymour and Stangelville during his childhood. Following graduation from Kewaunee High School, he enrolled as an engineering student at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. He later decided to attend seminary, but needed to learn Latin, so he took classes at St. Francis de Sales Seminary near Milwaukee. Msgr. Dewane, who served in the United States Army Reserve from 1953-1961, then moved on to St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn.

His education continued at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, from which he received a Bachelor’s of Sacred Theology in 1961 and Licentiate of Sacred Theology in 1963.

On Dec. 19, 1962, Msgr. Dewane was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Martin O’Connor at Christ the King Church in Rome. He started his ministry as an assistant pastor (parochial vicar) at St. Jude Parish in Green Bay (1963); St. Mary Parish in Kaukauna (1963) and St. Mary Parish in Menasha (1964). In 1970, Msgr. Dewane became the administrator of Lourdes Academy in Oshkosh until his appointment as co-pastor of St. Mary in Kaukauna in 1978. Msgr. Dewane became the pastor of Nativity of Our Lord Parish in Ashwaubenon in 1979. In 1983, he was appointed the commissioner of ecumenical affairs, pastor of St. Mary Parish, Peshtigo, and administrator of Catholic Central High School in Marinette.  

In 1986, Msgr. Dewane was appointed pastor of St. Mary Parish, Kaukauna (kind of a return from 1963). Two years later, he moved into administration for the Diocese of Green Bay.

In 1988, Msgr. Dewane was appointed vicar of priests for the diocese. From 1994 to 2004, he served as vicar for administration, vicar general and moderator of the diocesan Curia.

Throughout his priesthood, Msgr. Dewane expanded his education. He earned a Master of Arts in counseling from Marquette University, Milwaukee, in 1970, and a Doctor of Ministry from St. Mary Seminary and University, Baltimore, in 1990.

In 1997, he was named a Prelate of Honor to His Holiness (receiving the title of “monsignor”).  

After receiving senior priest status in 2005, Msgr. Dewane served as temporary administrator of St. Bernard Parish, Appleton; Stella Maris Parish in Egg Harbor; the Quad Parishes in Green Bay; St. Mary Parish, Bear Creek, and St. Rose Parish, Clintonville.

In 2006 Msgr. Dewane became spiritual director at the Casa Santa Maria in Rome, which serves English-speaking priests who are studying in Rome. He returned to the U.S. in 2011 and taught at Sacred Heart Seminary and School of Theology in Hales Corners until 2017. He continued to celebrate Mass at many parishes within the Diocese of Green Bay until 2019.

Tour guide was another title held by Msgr. Dewane, who enjoyed travel. He led trips to various locations over a 17-year period.

“I would do one per year. I’m not a historian per se, but I collect history, which helps you know little tidbits that are interesting,” he said in a 2012 interview for his 50-year anniversary as a priest. “We didn’t call it a pilgrimage, but it always had a religious tie.”

Memories shared by Msgr. Dewane at the time of his 50-year jubilee included being in Rome during the Second Vatican Council and when St. John Paul II died in 2005. In the diocese, he was proud to be part of the first diocesan school board and involved in the grassroots efforts of the Cursillo movement.

During his years as a senior priest, slowing down was not an option, he said.

“God won’t be able to call me home for a while because I have too many things in the works,” said Msgr. Dewane.

He added that he took life as it came to him.

“If you look forward in your life, you don’t know where it’s going to take you,” he said. “When it comes along, you deal with it at the time. My life has been driven by the Holy Spirit. I see it as the hands of God at work.”

Msgr. Dewane is survived by his brother, Lawrence (Ann) Servais; sisters-in-law Marlene Dewane and Linda Servais.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Alice (Cisler) and Rolland Dewane; siblings, Beverly (Ben) Stangel, Gerald Dewane and Leland Servais; and stepfather, Clarence Servais. 

The funeral Mass was celebrated on Feb. 27 at St. Lawrence Church in Stangelville. Bishop David Ricken was the celebrant. Fr. Mark Vander Steeg concelebrated and served as the homilist. Burial followed at St. Lawrence Cemetery in Stangelville.

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