La Crosse Priest, Remembered For Missionary Work, Nominated For Sainthood


The Catholic Diocese of La Crosse wants to see one of its former priests become a saint.

Father Joe Walijewski was ordained in 1950 in the Diocese of La Crosse. Throughout his life, the priest worked in Wisconsin parishes and as a missionary in impoverished parts of South America. Fr. Joe formed a parish in Bolivia complete with chapels, a school, medical clinic, and a home for the elderly. In an online video by Fr. Joe’s Guild, he talks about how seeing homeless children living under newspapers in Peru changed his life.

“Now how can I go home to a comfortable bed in knowing that there are thousands of children out there in the street, sleeping outside, cold, hungry, with no hope in their mind? So I thought to myself, ‘I gotta do something about that.’”

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So with financial help from the Vatican, Fr. Joe started an orphanage in Peru.

He died in 2006. Now, La Crosse Bishop William Patrick Callahan says the Diocese wants Fr. Joe to be considered for sainthood. He says he lived a simple and calm life, yet had an ambition motivated by his Catholic faith: “Fr. Joe was always able to bring the light of Christ into some of the most dark areas of humanity.”

This is the first time the Diocese of La Crosse has initiated the sainthood process, and it’s rare elsewhere.

It will be a few years before the pope can decide whether to canonize Fr. Joe. His life and work will be thoroughly reviewed and at least two miracles must occur as a result of someone praying to Fr. Joe.

Only three people born in the United States have become saints.

Watch a video of Fr. Joe talking about the beginnings of his guild below:

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