Monsignor Frank Wissel of St. Marys Parish may have a German name, but he says he had a distinctly Irish upbringing. And he will serve as grand marshal for this year's Greenwichs 37th annual St. Patricks Day Parade.
My mother had several beliefs and sayings, like if we were walking around and someone was walking with a cane, or on crutches or in a wheelchair, shed say, God Bless the Mark, said Wissel. Or, 'Make sure you ring the bell with your elbow,' which means make sure you have enough to bring with you.
Members of the Greenwich Hibernian Association who chose him to be grand marshal knew he was Irish from his sermons about his mother, a first-generation Irish American. This is an honor. Its humbling because having been a latchkey kid from Brooklyn, this helps me think of family and good qualities I grew up on, said Wissel.
Wissels father Frank died when he was young. His mother, Anne, a chef in AT&Ts executive kitchen, was the sole provider. She sent me to Catholic elementary and high schools, and each semester she would borrow the money from my aunt, then at the end pay her back, and then borrow again, said Wissel. She provided very well for me out of great sacrifice.
He made the move toward the priesthood while working on his second masters degree in psychology. The psychiatrist who was overseeing our class said to me one night, 'If you had five minutes to live, what would you do? I said, Be a priest, said Wissel. And I was shocked. I searched it out for two years. I was ordained in 1977, Ive been a priest for 33 years, and Ive never been happier.
St. Patricks Day events in Greenwich will start March 20 with the churchs 10:30 a.m. Mass, followed by the parade at 2 p.m. Wissel said he doesnt want to discuss St. Patrick in that day's sermon. Im going to talk about commitment, dedication, hardworking, faith-filled Irish culture, to tie into the gospel."
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