Father James Wuerth, missionary priest who served Hispanics, dies

Father James Wuerth, a member of the Missionaries of the Holy Family congregation, ministered to families for more than four decades. (2019 Record File Photo by Jessica Able)

Father James Wuerth, a priest of the Missionaries of the Holy Family, died March 7 at Nazareth Home. He was 78 years old.

As the oldest of seven children, the priest’s youth centered around family and parish life. The Wuerth family first attended the old St. Ann Church and later Most Blessed Sacrament Church.

From a young age, Father Wuerth said he felt a tug toward the priesthood.

“I had it in my mind ever since I was a little boy, God willing. Even through the ups and downs” the idea of serving as a priest never left him, he said.

He was ordained on June 13, 1971, at Most Blessed Sacrament.

Following his ordination, he was assigned as associate pastor and hospital chaplain in Los Angeles. For the bulk of the 1970s, 80s and 90s, he moved between Missouri, south Texas and California. He served for a brief time at his home parish of Most Blessed Sacrament.

In an article published last year in The Record, Father Wuerth recalled the thousands of people he ministered to, noting with particular fondness the people of south Texas. He spoke Spanish and established connections with families there, he said.

He also taught courses in philosophy, theology and liturgy at Holy Family Seminary in St. Louis; served his community in a variety of leadership roles; and worked as a hospice chaplain.

In 2015, he retired from active ministry following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. He moved to Nazareth Home last year.

Survivors include his siblings: Ruth Ann Wuerth, Lucille Wuerth Tangel, Mary Frances Wuerth Wright, Bob Wuerth, Joe Paul Wuerth and Bill Wuerth; 54 nieces, nephews and great-nieces and nephews.

The Funeral Mass was celebrated at Most Blessed Sacrament March 10. Burial in Calvary Cemetery will follow at a later date.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Missionaries of the Holy Family, 3014 Oregon Avenue, St. Louis, Mo., or online at www.MSF-America.org.

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