The Rev. Albert H. Ottenweller, a former auxiliary bishop for the Toledo Catholic Diocese and retired Steubenville bishop who was well known for his ministry among migrant workers, died Sunday in the Ursuline Center, Toledo, where he had lived since December, 2010. He was 96.
The cause of death was not known, said the Rev. John Blazer, a close friend.
Father Ottenweller was the first priest in the diocese to be ordained auxiliary bishop, a position he held from 1974 to 1977,when he was installed as bishop of the Steubenville Diocese. He had also served as an associate and pastor at churches in Northwest Ohio.
A native of Leipsic, Ohio, he was known for his compassion for others and ability to relate to the most common person. “He was a humble, wise man,” said Msgr. William Kubacki, diocesan vicar for priests. “He just loved people. He was very kind. He was just a downright good man.”
Bishop Ottenweller retired from the Steubenville Diocese in 1991 and moved to Toledo, where he lived in the rectory at Holy Rosary Cathedral.
In retirement, he teamed up with long-time friend, Sister Nancy Westmeyer, to create leadership formation programs. Initially, they teamed up to form Vision Time, and, later, Servant Leadership Center, which nurtures individuals to find their skills and talents so they can use them for the welfare and betterment of the community.
“He really had a passion for seeing the church as the people of God and recognizing that in the circle we are all equal,” said Sister Nancy, of the Tiffin Franciscan order.
Bishop Ottenweller was born April 5, 1916, in Stanford, Mont. Father Blazer said his father, Charles Ottenweller was a blacksmith and moved from Indiana to Montana to start a shop there. After the business he returned to Indiana, and later moved to Leipsic, he said.
“He was very proud of his background and being the son of a blacksmith,” Father Blazer said.
He attended St. Mary Catholic School in Leipsic and left Leipsic to study at St. Joseph High School and later St. Joseph College in Rensselaer, Ind.
He earned philosophy and theology degrees from Catholic University of America in Washington in 1943.
After he was ordained a priest June 19, 1943, by the late Rev. Karl Alter, he served as an associate at St. John the Evangelist Church in Delphos. He was an associate from 1959 to 1961 at St. Richard Church, Swanton.
He was pastor for two years at St. Joseph Church, Blakeslee, in Williams County, and its mission, Sacred Heart of Montpelier. From 1962 to 1968 he was pastor of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Bono, and also directed the Spanish-speaking apostolate for the diocese.
As part of his migrant ministry he made it possible for priests to be released from pastoral work during the summer to teach religion classes in the migrant labor camp. He also directed a program that gave priests an opportunity for study in Mexico to learn the language and customs of that country for their work in Northwest Ohio.
He returned to Delphos in 1968 to become pastor of St. John Church, serving in that role until he was appointed auxiliary bishop.
He also was pastor of St. Michael Church in Findlay during the three years he was auxiliary bishop.
Surviving are his sisters, Joan Pfahler, Phyllis Lowry, Rosaline Buescher, and Jane Brandt.
Reception of the body will take place at 4 p.m. today in in St. Martin de Porres Church, West Bancoft Street, followed by a wake service at 6:30 p.m.
The body will lie in state for visitation at Rosary Cathedral, Collingwood Boulevard, Wednesday from 3 p.m. until a Mass at 6:30 p.m.
A Vespers service will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in Holy Name Cathedral, Steubenville, where the funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Friday,
Tributes are suggested to the Servant Leadership, 1618 Sylvania Ave.
Coyle Funeral Home is handling arrangements.
- Mark Reiter