Father Paul G. Wohlrab, longtime pastor of Rochester’s Our Lady of Good Counsel Parish and a diocesan priest for more than 65 years, died Sept. 12, 2006, at Greece’s Park Ridge Hospital after suffering a stroke. He was 91 years old.
Father Wohlrab was the beloved retired priest at Spencerport’s St. John the Evangelist Parish, where he resided for the past 21 years and remained highly active.
“He never took a retirement by any stretch of the imagination,” said Father Kevin McKenna, who served as homilist for Father Wohlrab’s funeral Mass. “He was very gentle and very obliging. I would say he would be the last person I would go to, to learn how to say ‘no.'”
Father Wohlrab grew up in Rochester’s Holy Family Parish. He attended St. Andrew’s and St. Bernard’s seminaries and was ordained June 7, 1941. He served as assistant pastor at St. Michael, Rochester (1941-42); Holy Trinity, Webster (1942-43); and Holy Rosary, Rochester (1943-54). Father Wohlrab was then chaplain of St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester from 1954-59, during which time he also served as director of the National Council of Catholic Nurses.
He was assistant pastor, and later pastor, at St. Andrew, Rochester, from 1959-65. He went on to become pastor of St. Michael in Livonia Center and St. Mary in Honeoye from 1965 until he left in 1967 for his pastorate at Our Lady of Good Counsel — a position he maintained until his 1985 retirement.
Father McKenna, currently pastor of St. Cecilia Parish in Irondequoit, had remained good friends with Father Wohlrab for more than 25 years.
“I admired him very much for his pastoral ministry. He was not flamboyant or flashy, but very consistent,” Father McKenna said. “He was very low-key, and I think that made him very attractive to people who came to him for pastoral counseling or help.”
His assistance to parishioners did not end when he officially entered retirement.
“He’s always been there for the people of St. John’s and previous parishes,” said Father Lance Gonyo, pastor at St. John the Evangelist. “He took great concern in everyone.”
Father Wohlrab was a friend of the young and old, frequently paying visits to senior-citizen residences as well as school classrooms.
“He made it his point to try and say Mass every day and cover local nursing homes,” Father Gonyo said, adding that Father Wohlrab drove all over town almost until the time of his death.
Father McKenna observed that Father Wohlrab didn’t limit his service to the Spencerport area: “Any priest who would need coverage, needed only to ask. He was quite generous with his time.”
He also held longtime roles as spiritual director of the Legion of Mary; chaplain to the Knights of Columbus Council 178; moderator of the Catholic Speakers’ Bureau; confessor to the Carmelite order; and spiritual director of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Nurses.
“They call me ‘The Rock,'” Father Wohlrab had quipped in a May 2006 Catholic Courier Monthly story noting the 65th anniversary of his ordination.
Father Gonyo marveled at Father Wohlrab’s ability to remember dates and other details: “A lot of people, they tend to slow down. He was sharp as a tack; he was really a genius of a person.”
The Spencerport pastor added that Father Wohlrab also enjoyed socializing.
“He loved to eat with people, never liked to eat alone. If I wasn’t there, he’d call somebody up and say, ‘I’m coming over to dinner,'” Father Gonyo recalled. “He’s been a joy to live with — it’s a privilege.”
Bishop Matthew H. Clark was scheduled to celebrate Father Wohlrab’s funeral Mass Sept. 16 at St. John the Evangelist Church. Interment was at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.
Father Wohlrab is survived by his nephews, James, Donald and Jon Wohlrab; and niece, Barbara Wohlrab.
Contributions in his memory may be made to the charity of one’s choice.