Father Wendelin Meis, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1884-1961)

Home / Biography / Father Wendelin Meis, C.P., St. Paul of the Cross Province (1884-1961)

Born Charles Meis on May 3, 1884 in St. Michael’s Parish, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his uncle was Father Ferdinand Immekus, C.P. In 1889 he went to St. Mary’s Monastery, Dunkirk, New York. Later he was sent to the novitiate in Pittsburgh and professed his vows on November 13, 1900 and received the name Wendelin. His brother Cyril Meis was a Passionist in the west. First Wendelin was assigned to Louisville to complete his philosophy. A small community, the religious observance was kept up primarily by the students. From there he went to Cincinnati, Ohio and West Hoboken, New Jersey. In 1902 he was part of the student community that wired the Cincinnati house for electricity. In 1906 when the provinces were divided Wendelin was sent to the east and his brother Cyril was sent to the western province. Wendelin was ordained a priest at the Newark, New Jersey Cathedral on June 13, 1908.

After a year of Sacred Eloquence under Father Robert McNamara, he was assigned to St. Mary’s Parish, Dunkirk, New York as an assistant pastor. This was a disappointment to Father Meis. He stayed there for two years. In 1911 he was assigned, because of his good work at Dunkirk, to St. Michael’s Parish, West Hoboken. He then began to work towards preaching parish missions but this was short-lived as in 1913 he was assigned to St. Michael’s, Pittsburgh where he was told to learn German. His tutor was his uncle Father Immekus and with difficulty he learned the language from his strict and demanding uncle. Father Meis’ sermons lasted for about thirty to forty minutes. St. Michael’s, assisted by the Sisters of St. Francis and the Brothers of Mary, was a prominent parish in the Pittsburgh diocese. Veronica’s Veil was produced there and directed by Father Benjamin Wirtz and promoted by Father Meis for the first time. In 1927 he was assigned to St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish, Baltimore, Maryland where he was noted as a confessor. The 1929 Provincial Chapter elected him Rector of Pittsburgh. He almost broke under the strain of the office as there were many changes taking place in the lived expression of religious life at the time. Since Father Meis had been trained in the old piety and austerity new adaptation proved to be a cross. At the same time the outreach of the Passionist Sunday work and parish devotions caused him duress as all the needs could not be met. There were only 14 priests there and 4 of these were full-time missionaries. Compounding this was the Great Depression. People came to the monastery continually for food and clothing. Each month over $1000 in charity was provided. At the same time Pittsburgh was taxed to provide a subsidy for the new Jamaica, New York monastery and the new Holy Cross Prep School at Dunkirk, New York. By the end of his term he was exhausted mentally and physically.

After a short hospitalization Father Meis was assigned to Baltimore. In 1933 he returned to St. Michael’s, Pittsburgh where he stayed until 1959. He served the parish well. Veronica’s Veil and the Sodality of Our Lady won praise in the diocese. Eventually he suffered a stroke. His last two years were in a weakened state at St. Paul’s Monastery in Pittsburgh where he was faithful to the observance. Father James Anthony, the Vice-Master and Brother Xavier Vitacolonna, the Instructor of Bother Novices paid particular care to him in his final years.