Fr. Ralph Gillis
ALLOUEZGÇö Fr. Ralph Gillis, longtime pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Crandon, died Oct. 18 at age 81.Fr. Gillis, a Green Bay native, felt at home in ministry in the small northern Wisconsin community. He was assigned to St. Joseph in 1994 and served as pastor at the parish until his retirement to senior priest status on May 1, 2012.GÇ£The people of St. JosephGÇÖs are just wonderful. All are very friendly,GÇ¥ he said during a 2009 interview with The Compass in recognition of his 50-year jubilee as a priest.GÇ£I know it would be hard to get another permanent pastor up here with the shortage and all,GÇ¥ he added. GÇ£So they are going to have to carry me out of here GÇö one way or another.GÇ¥Fr. Gillis said that a combination of many influences led him to the priesthood. He attended St. Norbert College for one year after graduating from Central Catholic High School in Green Bay. He then entered St. Francis Minor Seminary in Milwaukee before studying philosophy at St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana and theology at North American College (Gregorian University) in Rome. In 1959, Fr. Gillis was one of four seminarians from the diocese who met Pope John XXIII during an ad limina visit by Bishop Stanislaus Bona.Fr. Gillis was ordained a priest by Archbishop Martin J. OGÇÖConnor on Dec. 20, 1959, at the Chapel of North American College.In the summer of 1960, Fr. Gillis began serving in parish ministry in the diocese when he was appointed as an assistant at Holy Martyrs of Gorcum Parish in Green Bay. He also served as an assistant pastor at St. Boniface, Manitowoc; St. John, Antigo; and St. Jude, Green Bay. While at St. Boniface, Fr. Gillis also served as chaplain at the Newman Club at UW-Manitowoc and Manitowoc County TeachersGÇÖ College.In 1970, he first became a pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish, Florence, and St. Norbert Parish, Long Lake. He served as pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish, Lena, and Sacred Heart Parish, Manawa, prior to taking a leave of absence in 1992 to join the Cistercian Order. Fr. Gillis returned to the diocese two years later to begin his long ministry at St. Joseph, which included serving St. Mary Parish, Argonne, and the station of St. Michael, Hiles. He also served as pastor of St. Ambrose Parish in Wabeno from 2000 to 2005, while continuing in Crandon.Fr. Gillis was pastor at St. Joseph in October 2007 when a shooting rampage killed six people in the community. He spent considerable time with the victimsGÇÖ families and led prayer services on the anniversaries of the tragedy.Other ministry for Fr. Gillis included serving as defender of the bond and judge for the marriage tribunal and regional vicar.Favorite pastimes for Fr. Gillis included biking and gardening. His garden in Crandon, known as GÇ£PadreGÇÖs Plantation,GÇ¥ featured flowers, plants, raspberries and birds. Fr. Gillis also enjoyed the outdoors, including the trails near Argonne and Trout Lake.Fr. Gillis is survived by a brother, Norbert; sister, Sr. Marian Gillis; sister-in-law, Evie Gillis; nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, Albert and Lillian (De Both) Gillis; a brother, Cletus Gillis; sister, Mildred Steffel; and sister-in-law, Mary Gillis.