Fr. Karl J. Voelker, S.J., died on December 8, 2020, from injuries suffered on November 27, 2020, when the bicycle he was riding was struck by a vehicle. He was 79 years old.
Born in Milwaukee to Eugene and Margaret (Kleiner) Voelker and raised in St. Francis, he graduated from Marquette High in 1959 and entered the Society of Jesus. After completing his studies in Missouri, Minnesota, and Toronto and earning master’s degrees in history, divinity, and theological studies, he was ordained a priest in 1972. He taught at Creighton Prep in Omaha and Campion High School in Prairie du Chien; directed retreats in the Twin Cities and Barrington, IL; and was pastor in Mankato, MN, and at Gesu Church in Milwaukee.
Karl was always in the moment with people and delighted in helping them to encounter Jesus. No matter what role he played -- pastor, student counselor, or retreat director -- he cared for a person's body and soul. The concern and attention he freely bestowed helped many to understand -- and "sort out" -- their conflict and confusion. Many of those who experienced his welcoming manner, humor, and grace said they were especially touched by his gift for healing. He loved the people he served and never failed to let them know it. He listened well; he shared his vulnerabilities. He anticipated people’s needs and supported them with pastoral care and sacramental ministry.
Karl enjoyed traveling and delighted in keeping in touch with extended family and friends. He was an avid fan of all Wisconsin college and professional sports, especially the Green Bay Packers. He found comfort in and loved the beauty of the outdoors.
He was preceded in death by his parents and his sisters Marilyn Tilley, Carol Cottrell, and Margaret Zielski. He is survived by his sister Connie Vandre of Sheboygan. He will be greatly missed by her, his cousins, his many nieces and nephews, and their extended families. Due to Covid-19, a private Mass of Christian Burial will take place at a later time in Milwaukee. In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be sent to Jesuit Retreat House, 4800 Fahrnwald Road, Oshkosh, WI 54902.
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