This is the third of three articles introducing you to the three men scheduled to be ordained priests for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Saturday, May 21, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee.
There’s a tradition in the Wolfe-Bogie family that when a child turns 1 year old he or she,
surrounded by the family, is placed in a chair before three items: a Bible, a piece of bread and money. The item the young child picks up will be an indication of his or her path in life.
Young Michael Wolfe selected the Bible, indicating a life of service to the church, instead of the money which would have indicated wealth or bread which would have meant the child would always have food and shelter.
As Steve Bogie shared this story about his cousin and their German family tradition, he suggested his calling to the priesthood should have come as no surprise to his family, following that early indicator.
Yet priesthood was not a direct path for the 31-year-old, 2003 graduate of Waukesha West High School. And it wasn’t necessarily the path his twin brother, Joe, a family physician, had envisioned for him either.
Recalling the “fun loving, charismatic guy” who on their 21st birthday in Madison designed matching Twin #1 and Twin #2 T-shirts for the duo, and the brother who, along with his friend, dressed as Batman and Robin and were part of a group of “superfans” at Joe’s high school basketball games, Joe admitted he never pictured his brother, who is six minutes his junior and five inches shorter, as a priest.
“I never pictured him that way,” he admitted, adding that he’s come to realize priesthood is the perfect fit for his twin who, as a member of the Community of St. Paul, will be ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Saturday at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist.
“I think it’s a great fit and think it’s really good for the church,” he said in a telephone interview from Madison, where he lives with his wife, Christie, and two young children. “He’s very good at reaching out to people and meeting them where they are. He’s very understanding and tolerant of other people, doesn’t seem to judge and I think he’ll bring a lot of enthusiasm to his ministry.”
Following their graduation from Waukesha West, where both twins were on the football team, and where Deacon Wolfe wrestled and was involved in the drama club, they headed to UW – Madison where Deacon Wolfe entered knowing he wanted to get a second degree in Spanish, believing that if his undetermined first degree did not pan out, he’d enjoy being a Spanish teacher.
The program required a semester abroad, so Deacon Wolfe, who had been involved with his home parish of St. William, Waukesha, contacted the World Mission Office at the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, to inquire about a semester abroad experience.
Then associate director Sinsinawa Dominican Sr. Rosemary Huddleston put him in touch with the archdiocese’s sister parish, La Sagrada Familia, in the Dominican Republic and pastor Fr. Martí Colom. Unbeknownst to him at the time, the journey to the priesthood had begun.
He went to the DR for a week in 2005 to see the parish and the country, liked it immensely and scheduled his semester-long return.
“I went with no intention of joining (the Community of St. Paul),” he admitted, “but while there got to know the Community of St. Paul formation house, Fr. Jose Mario Nieto and Fr. Juan Camacho, Fr. Martí, and during that time we clicked,” he said about his introduction to the public association of Christian faithful, comprised of clergy and laity, with missions in Africa and South America who promote mission awareness internationally.
As he got to know the community, its members and its mission, Deacon Wolfe realized “this is what God is calling me to do.”
The only American member of the community, Deacon Wolfe eventually spent five more years in the Dominican Republic, from January 2007 to May 2012.
“I moved to the DR to live when I was 22 and spent very formative years there, post college life in the DR. I feel like I learned to be an adult there,” he said, noting he thinks the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor, sending him to the DR to join a mission, while he eventually ends up back in the United States studying for the priesthood.
Life in the Dominican Republic was challenging at times, he admitted, especially after his first year when he had spent months without being around an English-speaking person.
“It stopped being fun and everyday life was a challenge,” he said, describing a type of burnout that many people experience with a job.
But with support from the Community of St. Paul, he said he got through that period and came out of it renewed in his journey.
“We all have periods of some doubt, but having gone through a major period, the experience cemented me that I am where God wants me to be and I am very, very grateful for the level of surety in my life, and I know it’s not something that everyone has,” he explained.
In the Dominican Republic, Deacon Wolfe was involved with Haitian ministry and helped with liturgies in Creole for the Haitian immigrants, oversaw a two-year project of establishing a water system that involved working with civil engineers and water specialists, and spent time in an operating room.
He was helping arrange for a visit from a group of eye doctors from St. Mary Parish, Kenosha, and was accompanying the local ophthalmologist. She was scheduled for a surgery and they were short on nurses and she said, “Oh, it’s a simple surgery; you can assist me,” he described as she helped him ready for the procedure.
After it was completed, two surgeons asked him about his specialization and he responded, “‘Spanish literature’ and their faces dropped,” he said. But he quickly added, “Don’t worry, my twin is a doctor!”
Interestingly, when Deacon Wolfe relayed that story to Joe, he said he had a similar experience with a Spanish-speaking patient. He told the patient not to worry, “My brother speaks Spanish.”
In addition to Joe, who said he’s not only proud of his brother but happy that he’s found his place in life, Deacon Wolfe’s family includes parents, Greg, a landscaper for the Elm Grove Public Works Department, and Kathy, an administrator for non-profit Parents Place, Waukesha, and two older brothers, Scott, who works in retail management, and Jim, a civil engineer. Cousin Bogie, who graduated last weekend from the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago, will be ordained a minister in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) this fall.
“We’ve gone through the seminary process together,” said Bogie of his cousin. “He’s going to be a priest, and I’m going to be a minister and we’ve really grown stronger during that time.”
Describing Deacon Wolfe as having “an extremely compassionate heart,” Bogie noted it’s ironic to him that his cousin is being ordained in the Catholic Church in a year that it is celebrating a Year of Mercy.
“He’s extremely bright and will have great things to offer the church,” said Bogie, describing Deacon Wolfe as a great leader who is fun, highly energetic, and having a great sense of humor. “He’s really a gift and will be a tremendous asset for the church.”
With ordination just days away, Deacon Wolfe said he’s looking forward to “being an instrument of God’s mercy in a real way” through the sacraments, especially confession.
Describing an encounter he recently had at his teaching parish, St. Paul, Racine, he said he was walking out of the building about 9 p.m., after a long day of classes and meetings.
“Mike, I know this is a heavy question to ask,” said one parishioner, “but why do you want to be a priest?”
He said he responded, “I have been graced with what I consider a strong relationship with God, and I am very sure of that relationship and I want to share it with people and, clearly, the best way to do that, I think, is as a priest. I think that is where God is calling me,” he said, adding he’s grateful he’s experienced God and his love for his people, “and I look forward to sharing it.”