Father Michael Wagner, of Holy Rosary, Visitation parishes, dies after brain hemorrhage

TACOMA – Father Michael Wagner, priest administrator of Holy Rosary and Visitation parishes in Tacoma, suffered an irreversible brain hemorrhage April 10 and died May 2.

According to the parish websites, Father Wagner collapsed after giving the final blessing at a 7:15 a.m. Mass at Visitation Church and was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma.

Father Wagner was born Sept. 4, 1969, in Poland. At age 15, he left the communist country and lived for a year in Rome before immigrating to Seattle, where he completed high school and a bachelor’s degree in finance.

Before answering the call to the priesthood, he worked in finance in Washington, New York, New Jersey, California, Nevada and Colorado; in 2002 he opened a coffee shop in Seattle.

But “neither of these gave me satisfaction that I yearn [for] in my heart,” he told the Archdiocese of Seattle’s newspaper, The Catholic Northwest Progress, before his ordination in 2011. “It didn’t matter how high I climbed in the corporate world or having my business — there was no satisfaction, just emptiness and shallowness of the feat.”

After attending the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2005, he contacted the archdiocese about becoming a seminarian. “In 2006 I answered the call, entered the seminary and crossed the threshold to a lifelong vocation to serve God and fulfill my purpose in life,” Father Wagner wrote in his biography posted on the Holy Rosary website.

He studied at the Sacred Heart School of Theology in Hales Corners, Wisconsin, where he especially enjoyed Christology and apologetics.

He was ordained to the priesthood June 11, 2011, by Archbishop J. Peter Sartain, at St. James Cathedral in Seattle. 

Before being assigned to Holy Rosary and Visitation in 2017, he served as priest administrator of St. Joseph Parish in Elma and St. John Mission in Montesano (2014–17), as a parochial vicar at St. Michael Parish in Olympia (2013–14), and as a parochial vicar at St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Everett and St. John Mission in Mukilteo (2011–13).

Father Wagner enjoyed reading, and hiking and camping in the Northwest.

Before his ordination, he told The Progress, “I think my spirit for evangelization and wanting the good of the other, wanting to serve all people, makes me more and more excited at the prospects and opportunity to serve in a part of the country where such a small percentage of people are believers.”

He added: “I always look at things in life as an opportunity … to change the world for the better.”

A vigil will be held Tuesday, May 8, from 6–9 p.m. at Visitation Church in Tacoma. Archbishop J. Peter Sartain will celebrate a funeral Mass Wednesday, May 9, at 10 a.m. at Holy Rosary Church in Tacoma.