COLORADO SPRINGS. Father Paul Wicker, who served as pastor of Holy Apostles Parish for more than 35 years, died May 31 at age 83.
Public visitation will be held on June 5 from 1-5 p.m. at Shrine of Remembrance, America the Beautiful Chapel, and on June 6 from 5-7 p.m. at Holy Apostles, with a rosary and vigil service at 7 p.m. Mass of Christian Burial will take place June 7 at 11 a.m. at Holy Apostles, with a reception afterwards in the parish hall. Burial will follow at 3 p.m. at Shrine of Remembrance. A livestream of the funeral Mass will be available at www.holyapostlescc.org.
Paul Francis Wicker was born Oct. 21, 1937 in Wichita, Kansas, to Paul and Cleo Wicker. The family later moved from Wichita to Parsons, Kansas. From 1952-1956, he attended St. Francis Preparatory Seminary in Victoria, Kansas, which was run by the Capuchin Franciscan order. After he finished high school, the family moved to Denver, where he began his seminary studies at St. Thomas Seminary. From 1960-64, he studied at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Denver on Dec. 18, 1963 at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Father Wicker returned to Denver in 1964 and served as assistant pastor at St. John Parish until 1969. From 1969-1973, he served as assistant pastor and pastor at St. Patrick Parish in Denver. He served as pastor of All Saints Parish in Denver from 1973-1981.
In 1981, then-auxiliary Bishop Richard Hanifen asked Father Wicker to move to Colorado Springs and become pastor of Holy Apostles Parish. As pastor, he oversaw the planning and construction of the current parish church, which was dedicated on Sept. 20, 1987.
“Father Paul was dedicated throughout his ministry to the concept of ‘Mission over Maintenance,’” said Bishop Emeritus Hanifen. “He loved the people he served, especially by inviting their involvement and creativity and then allowing them to act.”
In 1994, Father Wicker established Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine (CONU), a ministry dedicated to helping the Catholic Church in Ukraine rebuild after decades of Communist oppression.
“When I first met him in November 1994 at Holy Apostles Parish, he asked me how the parish could help us,” said Bishop Vitaly Skomarovski of Lutsk, Ukraine. “I invited him to visit us in Ukraine. And he did it, although it took great determination and courage. Since that time, a huge warm friendship was born, in the circle of which more and more people were involved and from which CONU was born, the founder and director of which was Father Paul.”
In a 2013 interview with The Colorado Catholic Herald on the occasion of his 50th jubilee, Father Wicker recounted an incident that happened during his first trip to Ukraine. He arrived in the country with about $12,000 in cash hidden on his body and made the mistake of telling the driver of the taxi he hired at the airport about the money. He figured it was only a matter of time before the driver killed him and stole the cash, especially since the man made a series of unexplained stops at brickyards along the route.
“I thought, ‘I’m a dead man, just like Jimmy Hoffa,’” Father Wicker recalled.
Being a seminarian in Rome during the Second Vatican Council put Father Wicker in close proximity to some of the leading Catholic intellectuals of the day, but it also meant that he was studying for the priesthood during a time when the Church was in a state of flux.
“The atmosphere was always charged,” he said. “We would have professors come in and say, ‘Disregard the last two months of lectures — I’ve changed my mind.’”
A pivotal moment came when he heard a talk by Cardinal Leo Suenens about the purpose of Vatican II, Father Wicker recalled.
“In that one talk, all of my questions were answered,” he said.
Father Wicker is survived by a brother, Deacon Byron Wicker and his wife Madeleine; nephews Paul and Joseph Wicker; niece Mary Wicker; and three grandnieces.
In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to Catholic Outreach to Northern Ukraine, online at www.conuhome.org or by mail to 10936 Klondike Dr., Peyton, 80831.
(Editor’s note: Additional coverage of Father Wicker’s death will be included in the June 18 issue of the Herald.)