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Wigger, Winand Michael


Third bishop of Newark; b. New York City, Dec. 9, 1841; d. Newark, N.J., Jan. 5, 1901. Michael was the second of four sons of John Joseph and Elizabeth (Strucke) Wigger, successful German immigrants from Westphalia who settled in St. Francis of Assisi parish, New York City. After graduating from the College of St. Francis Xavier, New York City, in 1860, he was rejected as a seminarian in New York for poor health, but was accepted in the Diocese (now Archdiocese) of newark. He began his studies at the seminary at Seton Hall College, South Orange, N.J.; entered Brignole-Sale Seminary, Genoa, Italy, in 1862; and was ordained there on June 20, 1865. Four years later, following his first assignment to St. Patrick's Cathedral, Newark, he received a doctor of divinity degree from the University of Rome. For the next 12 years he was pastor successively at St. Vincent's, Madison; St. John's, Orange; St. Teresa's, Summit; and again at Madison, all in New Jersey. Although first on the list of nominees for the new Diocese of Trenton, he was appointed third bishop of Newark, and was consecrated by Abp. Michael Corrigan at the Newark cathedral on Oct. 18, 1881.

Wigger was an advocate of temperance and included incorrigible drunkards among public sinners to be denied Christian burial. Although he opposed appointment of an apostolic delegate and disapproved of some of Abp. (later Cardinal) Francesco Satolli's early decisions, he applauded Leo XIII's letter Testem benevolentiae on "Americanism." He did not approve of convoking the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884); he did attend, however, and promptly implemented its legislation in his diocese. He ardently favored parochial schools, and in 1893 resisted the legislation, proposed by some Catholics and approved by the apostolic delegate, that would have allowed New Jersey parochial schools to be incorporated into the public school system and receive state funds.

Wigger was first president of the U.S. branch of the St. Raphael Society, which cared for German immigrants, and was one of the founders of Leo House, New York City, a Catholic hostel for immigrants. Although his German descent, associations, and alleged sympathy were criticized by some of his clergy, he made every effort to provide for all immigrants, especially the Italians. His fluency in German, Italian, and French made possible direct communication with most of his people. Although never robust, Wigger carried a heavy burden of pastoral work and was an able financial administrator.

Bibliography: c. j. barry, The Catholic Church and German Americans (Milwaukee 1953). j. m. flynn, The Catholic Church in New Jersey (Morristown, N.J. 1904). c. d. hinrichsen, The History of the Diocese of Newark, 18731901 (Doctoral diss. unpub. Catholic U. 1963). c. g. herbermann, Historical Records and Studies of the U.S. Catholic Hisotrical Society of New York 2 (1900) 292320.

[c. d. hinrichsen]

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