Let us pray in thanksgiving for the life of Fr. M. John Wymelenberg, SJ, who died on January 18, 2024 at St. Camillus Jesuit Community in Wauwautosa, Wisconsin. He was 97 years old. May he rest in peace.
John was preceded in death by his parents (Elzear and Martha Vanden Wymelenberg), his brother (Richard), and his sister (Donna Pritzl). He is survived by two sisters (Bernice Geurts and Charlene Giesen) and his brother (Carl).
John was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin. He earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Wisconsin before entering the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus on August 8, 1948 at Saint Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant, Missouri. He was ordained a priest on June 16, 1960 at the Church of the Gesu in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and pronounced final vows on August 15, 1963 at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.
While in the Society, John earned a master’s degree in physics (1959) and bachelor’s degree in Sacred Theology (1962) from Saint Louis University.
During regency, John taught at Marquette University High School (1954-1956). After ordination, he taught physics at Creighton University (1962-1977). John then spent sixteen years as a chaplain at Holy Spirit Retirement Home in Sioux City, Iowa, before returning to Creighton University to perform pastoral ministry (1994-2013). In 2014, John was missioned to St. Camillus Jesuit Community to pray for the Church and the Society.
John’s legal name was Marlyn John Vanden Wymelenberg. George Winzenburg remembers that John’s novice master told John that his name was too long and that he had to shorten his name.
Ask any Jesuit about John and you would hear that he was a gentle, sensitive, kind, and holy man. His warmth and smile would light up a room. He loved mathematics. He had an abiding interest in physics, especially around the theory of light. In the early 1990s he was devouring books on protons research. In 1999, he published an article “Three-Dimensional Complex Analysis and Maxwell’s Equations” in Physics Essays. Stress from lofty ambitions prompted a change in ministry. After ending a long term as chaplain in a retirement home in Sioux City, his bishop remarked, “John has a quiet, gentle presence which is a source of joy and peace for people who meet him.” John was proud of his family and its grocery store in Wrightstown, Wisconsin. His siblings loved “Father Marlyn” and stayed close to him. John often told how he enlisted in the Navy in 1943. John suffered from fatigue for most of his life but remained cheerful. He took delight in gardening and enjoyed playing cards, especially hearts. John will be missed.