Rev. Gerald Peter “Jerry” Wilmsen died on April 6, 2021 at St. Elizabeth Manor in Bristol, Rhode Island. Born on September 17, 1934, and baptized in St. Basil's Church on the South Side of Chicago, he was the son of the late Peter Charles Wilmsen and Pauline C. (Rudman) Wilmsen. He is survived by his brother Lee Wilmsen of Hayward, Wisconsin.
Jerry received his early education in Chicago parochial schools before entering Quigley Prep in 1948. It was there that he had his first contact with the Columbans when he attended a Father & Son Holy Name Society Communion Breakfast at his Chicago parish. Fr. Robert Degnan had just returned from China and spoke about his mission experience there. Jerry was impressed, and with the blessing of his pastor, transferred to St. Columban’s Seminary in Silver Creek, New York, for his three remaining years of high school. The rest of his seminary education was spent at the Columban seminaries in Milton, Massachusetts; Bristol, Rhode Island; and Navan, Ireland. He was ordained at St. Columban's Major Seminary on December 19, 1959 by Archbishop Harold Henry of Kwangju, Korea. His first mass was celebrated at St Richard’s Church in Chicago.
After ordination, he was appointed to serve in Korea, arriving there in November of 1960. After a year of language study, he was sent as assistant pastor to Cathedral parish Chunchon, his first assignment in the country. He also went on to serve in Chunchon, Mukho, Cheju, Pusan, and Seoul.
During a short assignment in the United States, he did vocation work while living at the Korean Center in Chicago. He took a course in clowning at Daley College and incorporated that skill into his ministry back in Korea.
In 1988, he responded to a call for volunteers to teach in China. He prepared by learning to speak Taiwanese and completing a Master's Degree at St. Michael’s College to teach English as a second language.
For most of the next decade he taught at universities in Wuhan and Guangzhou. He returned to the United States in 2000 and lived outside Hayward, Wisconsin. While there he was available for mission appeals and parish supplies in the Superior Diocese. In 2015, he decided it was time to move to St. Columban’s House in Bristol where he spent five years.
There will be a funeral mass at St. Columban’s, Bristol, Rhode Island, and burial will be in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Bristol. A memorial mass is being planned at St. Joseph’s Parish in Hayward, Wisconsin, on September 17th, which would have been his 87th birthday.
Arrangements are with the George C. Lima Funeral Home.