Father Dave

Kosciusko County

  One interesting figure associated with A.A. in Kosciusko County was Father David G. Suelzer, O.S.C., who was prior of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers at Wawasee, and president of the Wawasee Prep School in Syracuse.

Beth M. (Lafayette IN) on our Archives Committee has collected some materials coming from an A.A. retreat which he set up at Wawasee on Aug. 1–3, 1969, along with two newspaper clippings about him.

The retreat began on a Friday evening, and concluded on Sunday afternoon. The topic was "Lectures and Discussions on the Twelve Steps." The registration form then went on to say:

  All are welcome: members, their wives or husbands, single people. This will provide an opportunity to consider more deeply the spiritual side of the Alcoholics Anonymous program.  

  Father Dave sent a letter out to a number of A.A. people in the area, along with the registration forms:  

Wawasee Prep School, R 1
Syracuse, Indiana 46567
July 14, 1969
Dear friend,

Would you be kind enough to bring attention to the retreat for AA members (and their spouses) at your next AA meeting.

This is the first of what we hope will be annual affairs.

We are Wawasee Prep hope to be of service to you, to offer our hospitality, to make our facilities available to you at a minimum of expense.

May we hope to meet you August 1?

  Father Dave
(Very Rev.) David G. Suelzer, O.S.C.

P.S. More blanks are available.

PP.SS. Bring your bathing suits along. We've arranged for delightful weather that weekend.

  The mimeographed schedule for the retreat gave very little free time to the participants. It listed a conference on Friday evening, five conferences on Saturday (running from 9:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.), and a conference on Sunday morning just before lunch. The schedule also announced "opportunities for private consultation in rooms 130 and 134."

From 1963 to 1969, when he was prior and chancellor of Crosier Seminary in Onamia, Minn., Father Dave had been a pastoral consultant at Hazelden, the well-known alcohol and drug treatment center there in Minnesota.

Father Dave indicated on this schedule that he had brought in Father Joseph Lendacky, O.S.C., from the Crosier Seminary he had just left, to serve as Retreat Master for this weekend. Reading between the lines, one wonders if Father Lendacky may not have been involved with the Hazelden Center also. Perhaps one purpose of this retreat was to bring some of the Hazelden treatment philosophy down to Indiana.

The copy of the schedule which we have has handwritten notes on it, apparently made by one of the participants. One note indicates that in addition to the Sunday morning mass which was held there at Wawasee at 9:15, church services for the non-Catholics would be available at the United Brethren Church and the Methodist Church. Following the model first set by Ralph P. (Father John Doe), it was assumed that non-Catholics as well as Catholics would attend, and that in fact the overwhelming majority of the A.A.'s present might well be non-Catholics.

Bringing Catholics and non-Catholics together for a religious retreat at a Catholic institution was much easier to do in 1969 of course, because the Second Vatican Council which had concluded four years earlier had torn down so many of the old Catholic-Protestant barriers from the past.


  There is a letter from Father Dave among the documents to one of the participants, Fern, telling her that "we hope the weekend will be a combination of rest, relaxation and inspiration," and adding a P.S. in which he adds:  

  Heard wonderful reports of you while at Hazelden last week. Sorry I didn't get a chance to visit with you the last Tuesday I was there.  


  On one sheet of paper there is a list of handwritten names which we guess is a partial list of those who attended. These included Goshen Bill (a famous A.A. figure, who attended the North Webster meeting every week and was deeply involved in Kosciusko County A.A.), Mary Dench, Verna, Winnie Ward, Marley, Pete and Mable from Huntington forty miles to the south, Jane Parrott, Art Pedersen from Middlebury, Clyde and Maxine, Peter Owen, Ward and Eileen Riley, Gene Marti, Billie McArdle, Bill and Nancy Brudermeier, Les and Carol Popp, and Steve and Bob.

There is also line on this sheet in the same handwriting, apparently noting a statement that was made in one of the conferences: "Psch.--can't help alc. who won't be honest." An alcoholic who cannot be honest with himself cannot obtain sobriety in the twelve-step program, and people following the Hazelden treatment philosophy would tell the alcoholic that they could not help him either. One cannot turn to psychological jargon or treatment center clichés in an attempt to escape honestly looking at oneself, and ever obtain sobriety.


  A 1969 newspaper article (included in the materials which Beth M. collected) gave a nice biography of Father Dave:  

Rev. Suelzer Named
Prep School Prior

The Very Rev. David Suelzer, OSC, a native of Fort Wayne and son of Mr. and Mrs. Leo Suelzer, 1236 West Rudisill Blvd., has been elected prior for a three-year term by the Crosier community at Wawasee Prep School, Syracuse.

Fr. Suelzer, 37, will lead the religious community of 20 priests and brothers in operating the prep school, serving religious and educational needs in Indiana and neighboring states . . . .

Fr. Suelzer attended Cathedral Grade School and Sacred Heart Seminary, Fort Wayne, and Our Lady ofthe Lake Seminary (now Wawasee Prep), Syracuse.

After his novitiate for the Crosier Order at the Immaculate Conception Monastery, Hastings, Neb., he was professed into the order, Aug. 28, 1952, and took his philosophical and theological training at the Crosier House of Studies, Fort Wayne.

He was ordained to the priesthood on May 25, 1957, in the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception by the Most Rev. Leo A. Pursley, Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, and served as prior and chancellor of Crosier Seminary in Onamia, Minn., from May 1963 until May 31 of this year. During this time he also served as a pastoral consultant at the Hazelden Center in Minnesota, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center.

His home parish was St. John the Baptist Catholic parish, Fort Wayne.

The Suelzer family has contributed significant religious leadership in the Indiana area. The Rev. Anthony Suelzer, an uncle, is chaplain at St. Catherine's Hospital, East Chicago. The Very Rev. Msgr. Curt Suelzer, another uncle, is pastor of St. Joseph Church in Mishawaka. The Rev. John Suelzer, a cousian, is an assistant pastor at St. Vincent's parish in Elkhart, while three aunts are nuns in the Sisters of Providence.

  A newspaper article from three years later announced that he had been elected to another three-year term as prior of the Crosier Fathers and Brothers at Wawasee, which also included the responsibility of acting as President of Wawasee Prep school. This article went on to say:  

  He is studying for a master's degree in guidance and counseling at St. Francis College and lectures weekly at the South Unit Alcoholic Rehabilitation Center at Parkview Memorial Hospital.  

  So we see that Father Dave's interest in alcohol treatment was still continuing over into the early 1970's. He left a lasting memory of the good work he did for alcoholics in Kosciusko County.  


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