Father Matthias Lunzer, 1916-2008
The Rev. Matthias Lunzer, 91, a Divine Word Missionary, died on March 18 at Divine Word Residence in Techny, Ill. Born in Minneapolis on Aug. 25, 1916, he entered St. Paul High School Seminary in Epworth, Iowa, in 1932. He professed religious vows in 1940 and was ordained to the priesthood on Aug. 15, 1945.
In 1948, Father Lunzer was assigned as a missionary to New Guinea. He and several other classmates were sent there to take the place of the priests who had been killed during World War II.
Father Lunzer remained in New Guinea, which later became Papua New Guinea, for 54 years. For much of that time, his mission territory encompassed numerous small villages where the people lived a rather primitive existence in grass huts with no modern conveniences.
His treks through swamps, jungles and mountains took a heavy toll as he went from place to place, teaching and administering the sacraments. He suffered many occurrences of malaria. As one fellow missionary stated, "He took the most difficult assignments but never uttered a word of complaint."
When his health began to deteriorate, he returned to Techny in February 2002 where he spent the final six years of his life.
Father Lunzer was the second of ten children, born to Matthew Lunzer and Maria Bayer. He is survived by his brother, Dr. Richard Lunzer, and three generations of nieces and nephews.
At the time of his death, he had been a member of the Society of the Divine Word for more than 67 years and a Catholic priest for more than 62 years. A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated on March 25 with burial at St. Mary’s Cemetery in Techny. Memorial donations for the care of retired missionaries may be sent to The Rector, Divine Word Residence, 1901 Waukegan Road, P.O. Box 6000, Techny, IL 60082-6000.
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