Rev. Peter Szleszinski, 78
The Very Rev. Father Peter Szleszinski, 78, of Hudson died Tuesday, Nov. 18 (the anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul) at the River Falls Area Hospital.
Father Peter was born Sept. 11, 1930, at his home in Strickland, the second son of Felix and Anne Szleszinski; along with his four brothers, Leon, Ignace, Felix and John. His parents lived on a farm south of Hwy. 8, on the western end of the town of Strickland.
During his eighth-grade year at school, Fr. Peter decided that he wanted to become a priest and began looking for possible schools that were accepting students for the priesthood. Fr. Peter's parents wanted their son to attend a school which would help him develop a better knowledge of the Polish language, and at the time there were only two schools in the country that offered such an opportunity. St. Mary's High School in Orchard Lake, Mich., was selected. Following his graduation in 1948, Fr. Peter continued his education at St. Mary's College also in Orchard Lake, Mich.
After two years at St. Mary's College, Bishop Albert G. Meyer, then bishop of Superior Diocese, requested that Fr. Peter transfer to St. Francis Seminary in Milwaukee, where he spent six years preparing for the priesthood.
On May 26, 1956, Fr. Peter was ordained a priest by Bishop Joseph Annabring at the Cathedral of Christ the King in Superior.
Since his ordination, Fr. Peter has served numerous parishes throughout Wisconsin. On June 6, 1956, Fr. Peter was assigned to be an assistant at St. Francis de Sales Parish in Spooner, where he assisted Fr. Louis Novak for one year.
Following this assignment, Fr. Peter was transferred to St. Joseph's Parish in Rice Lake, where he assisted Msgr. Peter Meyer and later Fr. Arthur Weber.
In June of 1961, Fr. Peter was transferred to St. Francis Xavier Parish in Merrill, where he assisted Msgr. Gerald Mahon.
In June of 1964, Fr. Peter became the pastor of St. John Vianney Parish in Lake Tomahawk. While he was pastor in that parish, he also served as chaplain to the McNaughton State Correctional Facility and taught Latin at Lakelane High School for two years.
In October of 1966, Fr. Peter was transferred to be the pastor of Francis Xavier Parish in Merrill. One of his more remarkable accomplishments while at St. Francis Xavier Parish was that he was able to lead the people of that parish out of their parish debt and reopen the Catholic school, which was closed before his arrival to the parish.
In June of 1986, Bishop Fliss called upon Fr. Peter to take on another assignment: to become the pastor of St. Patrick's Parish in Hudson, where he continued ministering to the people until his retirement in 2005. During this time of being the pastor of St. Patrick's Parish, it has become the largest parish in the Diocese of Superior, with over 1,800 families (and growing).
To address the needs of a growing community and the need for a new church, with Fr. Peter's leadership, the new St. Patrick's Church was dedicated on June 9, 1999, with seating for 1,000 people and an overflow area for another 600. More recently, another significant building project was also completed -- the expansion of St. Patrick's School, which was dedicated on October 26, 2002. The St. Patrick's School currently educates about 380 boys and girls.
Although Fr. Peter was extremely busy with his ministry in the church, he also enjoyed golf, bowling, watching the Packers play and traveling. Fr. Peter has traveled throughout the United States and has made trips to Europe and Poland.
Fr. Peter was also involved with many fraternal organizations including the Knights of Columbus, Catholic Knights, Catholic Order of Foresters, Catholic Aid Association and the Polish Roman Catholic Union.
Fr. Peter was most active with the Knights of Columbus where he served as chaplain of the St. Croix Council 1762. In the past, Fr. Peter also served as chaplain of the Minocqua Council, Thorp Council and Merrill Council.
Moreover, he served as the Faithful Friar for the Wausau Assembly, Merrill Tomahawk Assembly and the Lawrence P. Gherty Assembly of New Richmond. Fr. Peter also served for many years as the Diocesan Chaplain for the Superior Diocese and State Chaplain from 1986 to 1989. Furthermore, he was the Chaplain for the Hudson Noon Rotary International.
On the Diocesan level, Fr. Peter served in a number of positions, including the Diocesan Presbyteral Council and Diocesan Consulter; he was also a director on the St. Pius Priest Fund Board.
He is survived by daughter-in-heart Cammy (Mike) Westerdahl of River Falls and their children, Tyler, Kailey and Hannah; brothers, John (Ruth) and Ignace (Helen), both of Rockford, Ill., and their families; and special cousin, Frank Marszalek.
He was preceded in death by his parents, Felix and Anne; and brothers, Leon and Felix.
Mass of Christian Burial was at noon on Monday, Nov. 24, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Hudson with Bishop Peter Christensen, Bishop Raphael Fliss and Father John Parr officiating along with several con-celebrating priests who served with Father or simply were his brothers in Christ.
Visitation was on Sunday, Nov. 23, from 3 until 7 p.m. with a prayer service at 7 p.m. at St. Patrick's Catholic Church.
Rosary services was on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. and again on Monday at 9:45 a.m., both at St. Patrick's.
A burial committal mass was Tuesday, Nov. 25, at 11 a.m. at Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church in Strickland, with Father Ron Levra officiating.
Burial was in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Catholic Church Cemetery. Active casketbearers were Tyler Westerdahl, Mike Westerdahl, Billy Frederick, Molly Schwartz, Randy Szleszinski, Carl Szleszinski and Danny Szleszinski.
Memorials are preferred and will be used to establish a scholarship in Fr. Peter's name at St. Patrick's Parochial School in Hudson, which held a special place in his heart.
Funeral services have been entrusted to the O'Connell Family Funeral Home of Hudson, 715-386-3725. www. oconnellfuneralhomes.com.