Msgr. Wolbach was devoted to serving veterans

Retired Msgr. Richard Wolbach, who served 30 years as a hospital chaplain, including 25 years as head of chaplains for the Veterans Affairs (VA) in Nebraska and western Iowa, died Aug. 21 at age 95.

A funeral Mass took place Aug. 27 at St. Stanislaus Church in Omaha, with interment at St. John Cemetery in Bellevue.

Msgr. Wolbach, who served in the United States Marines during World War II, was deeply devoted to ministering to military veterans at the VA Medical Center in Omaha, where he served from 1986 until his retirement in 2011.

“I certainly can understand the mentality of many veterans,” he told the Catholic Voice upon retiring. “A veteran finds it easier to have a veteran chaplain, someone who has served. They can talk the way they want to talk.”

Msgr. Wolbach was named top VA chaplain in the United States in 1995 and received the Veterans Affairs’ Hands and Heart Award in 2001.

He also was chaplain at then-Archbishop Bergan Mercy Hospital in Omaha from 1981 to 1986.“He had a very productive ministry, especially with veterans,” said Msgr. James Gilg, who was the homilist at Msgr. Wolbach’s funeral Mass. “He was a good example of a faithful priest who responded to the needs of his people.”

Msgr. Gilg also noted Msgr. Wolbach’s tremendous devotion to duty without fanfare,  which flowed from his military service and carried through to his priestly ministry.

Msgr. Wolbach’s life can be summed up in one word service said longtime friend Msgr. Thomas Furlong. “He was a rather serious person with a determined personality, but yet had a good sense of humor,” Msgr. Furlong said.

A native Omahan, he attended St. Benedict’s College (now Benedictine College) in Atchison, Kansas; the Saint Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota; Conception Seminary in Conception, Missouri; and the former Mount St. Bernard Seminary in Dubuque, Iowa.

Msgr. Wolback was ordained a priest in 1956 by Archbishop Gerald T. Bergan. His first assignment was at then-St. Adalbert Parish in Omaha as assistant pastor. He also served as assistant pastor at Omaha parishes St. Philip Neri and St. Stanislaus.

In 1965 he was named pastor of St. Peter Parish in Clarks, and later that year, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Fullerton. In 1971 he became pastor of St. John the Baptist Parish in Pender, and in 1977 served briefly as pastor of St. Stanislaus Parish in Duncan.

During the late-1970s and 1980s he also was associate pastor at Omaha parishes Holy Cross, Ss. Peter and Paul, St. Francis of Assisi, Our Lady of Lourdes, and Immaculate Conception Parish at Boys Town.

He was named monsignor in 1997 at the urging of the Military Archdiocese for the Armed Forces of the United States.

Msgr. Wolbach was preceded in death by parents, Ben and Mary Wolbach; brother, Frank Wolbach; and sister and brother-in-law, Cecilia and Gil Straley. He is survived by sister, Sister Margaret Ann Wolbach, OSF; brother and sisters-in-law, Robert and Lucille Wolbach, and Rita Wolbach; numerous nieces, nephews, friends and fellow priests.

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