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Obituary: Father Jack Wintz OFM

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Cincinnati – Fr. Jack Wintz, OFM. He was a teacher, a missionary, an award-winning journalist, and an author whose books brought comfort to grieving pet owners. A man of many talents, Fr. Jack Wintz, OFM, died Jan. 11 in Cincinnati at the age of 84. In his long and distinguished life as a Franciscan friar, he was best known as a writer and editor for St. Anthony Messenger Press / Franciscan Media, where he ministered for decades. Interviewed in 2020, he said they were “the best times of my life.”

One of five children of Paul and Viola “Tillie” (Thalheimer) Wintz, he was born Feb. 22, 1936, in Batesville, Ind., and attended St. Louis parish elementary school and St. Francis Seminary in Cincinnati before entering the friars’ novitiate on Aug. 15, 1954. Professing his first vows in 1955, he entered Duns Scotus College in Southfield, Mich., where he made his solemn vows in 1958. Completing theology studies at St. Leonard College in Centerville, Ohio, he was ordained to the priesthood June 13, 1963.

After a year at St. Boniface Parish in Louisville, Ky., Fr. Wintz taught English and journalism at Cincinnati’s Roger Bacon High School (1964-65), then moved to Bishop Luers High School in Fort Wayne, Ind., teaching English, drama and communication arts (1965-69). As a missionary in the Philippines, he spent three years on the faculty of the Franciscan Seminary College and Maryknoll College in Manila. In 1972 Fr. Wintz joined St. Anthony Messenger Press as associate editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine, where he left a lasting imprint. As founding editor of Catholic Update, a newsletter distributed to parishes nationwide, he made Catholic teachings practical and accessible. He reviewed movies for The Catholic Telegraph for 10 years. Writing assignments took him to Vietnam, Jamaica, Haiti, post-9/11 New York, East Africa, Israel and Jordan, Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He often shot his own prize-winning photographs. He covered Pope John Paul II’s visits to the United States and Archbishop Oscar Romero’s work in El Salvador. Fascinated with people from all walks of life, he told their stories with empathy and insight, interviewing such luminaries as actors Carroll O’Connor, Martin Sheen and Gene Kelly, Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross (known for her near-death studies), Sen. Edward Kennedy, comedian Bob Newhart, Archbishop Joseph Bernardin, and Mother Teresa of Calcutta.

His work was frequently recognized by the Catholic Press Association, which in 2006 gave him its highest honor, the St. Francis de Sales Award, “for his dedication to justice through the power of Catholic journalism and for radiating the truthful, gentle spirit of St. Francis de Sales.” He found a different and devoted audience in later life when Paraclete Press asked Fr. Wintz to expand a magazine article into a series of short spiritual essays. Will I See You in Heaven? was the first of six slim volumes he wrote to comfort those struggling with the loss of a beloved companion animal. Citing Scriptures, Christian tradition, and the life and teachings of St. Francis of Assisi, he assured readers that there is indeed a place in the afterlife for all God’s creatures.

When his health declined in 2013, Fr. Wintz retired to St. Margaret Hall in Cincinnati. Learning of his death this week, Paraclete Press mourned the loss of a “dear, beloved author and friend,” saying, “His books have inspired and gladdened the hearts of thousands of people around the world.” Fr. Wintz is survived by a brother, Gary Wintz, of Marina del Rey, Calif., and a sister, Tese Neighbor, of Seattle, Wash. He was preceded in death by his parents and by a sister, Judy Hirn, and a brother, Paul Wintz.

A Mass of Christian Burial was held at 10 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 18, at St. Clement Church in St. Bernard. Interment took place at St. Mary Cemetery in St. Bernard following the funeral. Memorials may be made to the Franciscans in care of FriarWorks, 1615 Vine St., Cincinnati, OH 45202.

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