Father Paul Wendel was born in Lancaster, New York, a town in upstate New York on the Erie Canal just east of Buffalo, where he attended St. Mary’s parochial school and high school. He graduated from high school in 1939 and in 1942, with American entry into World War II, he was drafted into the army and saw action in North Africa, Sicily and Italy in a medical battalion of the Fifth Army. Discharged in October 1945 he came home and made prompt use of the G.I. Bill to attend college.
The family had been Notre Dame football fans, members of the “subway alumni,” and Paul came to the University of Notre Dame for his college education. The atmosphere on the campus, the many opportunities for prayer and his contact with Holy Cross religious led him into the Congregation of Holy Cross upon graduation in 1949. He was ordained in his home parish in 1955.
Fr. Wendel regards himself as having been blessed at every turning point in his life as a priest. He didn’t choose assignments but was always invited to take the next step. These steps included teaching high school, rector of a Notre Dame residence hall, university administration, seminary formation, pastor of a parish, and the work that he most enjoyed, directing retreats and giving spiritual direction. In 2004 he retired to Holy Cross House on the edge of the Notre Dame campus. Looking back on the last 56 years, he sees himself as having responded to the invitations when they came. This has led to a very fulfilling life.
Fr. James Connelly, C.S.C., is the Superior of Holy Cross House, the medical care for facility for Holy Cross priests and brothers of the United States Province. Along with Fr. Nick Ayo, C.S.C., he profiles some of the heroes in Holy Cross for the Spes Unica blog. Learn more about our heroes in Holy Cross, including our blessed founder and our first canonized saint.