Father Thomas, who served Petersburg, Wrangell and Juneau, dies

Father Thomas Wiese
Thomas Weise, also known as Father Thomas. (Photo courtesy Brandon Thomas)

A Catholic priest who served in Petersburg, Wrangell and Juneau died Sunday night, 10 days after a heart attack.

The Rev. Thomas Weise, also known as Father Thomas, was pastor of St. Rose of Lima parish in Wrangell, St. Catherine of Siena parish in Petersburg, and served at Juneau’s Cathedral of the Nativity.

The 46-year-old was hospitalized Nov. 25 while visiting family in Southern California. He died in San Luis Obispo on Sunday night surrounded by his family.

Rita Byrer is the Petersburg parish secretary and had known Weise for about 10 years. She said he was loved by the congregation and deeply cared for.

“He was a warm, kind, gentle, very humble, caring person,” Byrer said. “He loved children, he loved people in general. He just always made you feel welcome. He especially loved little children.”

Weise timed flights and ferry trips so he could celebrate mass in both towns on the same Sunday. He was considered an outdoor enthusiast. He had been known to kayak between Petersburg and Wrangell for services.

He was ordained in the diocese in 2002.

Parishioner Kate Kowalski had also known Weise for about 10 years. She said it was a gift to know him and he did great work for the community.

“He did everything 100 percent,” Kowalski said. “He lived his life like that. I mean whether he was kayaking from Wrangell to Petersburg or climbing up Mount Roberts or doing the insulation in the church in Wrangell or the insulation here he did everything 100 percent and with a lot of great spirit.”

Bishop Edward Burns with the Juneau Diocese is traveling to California. Burns calls Weise a true priest and says he loved living out his vocation.

“And he also had a real joy about being a priest, about being a disciple of Jesus Christ,” Burns said. “And he just lived that. At the same time, he always had this desire to help people, to reach out to them, and to invite them.”

A vigil for Weise will take place in San Luis Obispo on Dec. 14. His funeral will follow on Dec. 15. On Dec. 16, there will be a memorial mass in Wrangell. Petersburg will have a memorial service Dec. 17, and a final service in Juneau on Dec. 18.

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