Oberle, Father G. Vincent

1982, August 1

Date of Birth: 1905, March 20

August 11, 1982

Dear Confrere:

It seems that the least appealing assignment for Sulpicians generally is to be put in charge of the materialities of a house. On the other hand, no assignment has more potential for adding satisfaction to the lives of the people residing there and for influencing institutional morale. Father C. Vincent Oberle was a striking example of that ministry in the Society of St. Sulpice. In fact, most of his priestly life was primarily directed to that task.

Death came suddenly for Father Oberle. In early June he had suffered a heart attack from which he recovered sufficiently to return to his home in Millersville, Maryland. A general weakness and loss of weight, however, suggested a return to the hospital for treatment, where it was proposed that he move to St. Charles Villa and have access to professional care as needed. But his condition deteriorated rapidly from July 29 until another heart attack brought his earthly life to an end on Sunday morning, August 1, 1982, in South Baltimore General Hospital.

George Vincent Oberle was born on March 20, 1905, in Sparrows Point, Maryland, one of six children of Albert J. and Katherine (nee O’Neil) Oberle. His brothers: Albert, Irvin, and Raymond, and his sisters: Mary, Kelly, and Doris Beck, all preceded him in death. His mother died while Vincent was in the seminary. His father died in the summer following his son’s ordination to the priesthood.

Vincent’s early education was in Sparrows Point, an area that is now entirely occupied by the giant Bethlehem Steel works. Interested in becoming a priest, he entered the high school of St. Charles College in 1923, did well in his studies and showed a great interest in sports. In his college and seminary years he was also a member of the choir. Graduating from St. Charles in 1928, Vincent went to St. Mary’s Seminary for both philosophy and theology. Seminary life appealed to him and he spoke to the Sulpician provincial of an interest in teaching history and an openness to working in the business office, which the Sulpicians would quickly capitalize on.

Ordained a priest on May 26, 1934, in the Baltimore Cathedral by Archbishop Michael J. Curley as a candidate for the Society of St. Sulpice, he was assigned to the year of formation in the Solitude, then located on the St. Charles campus, where he taught an English course. Appointed full-time to St. Charles in 1935, Father Oberle began teaching Greek and mathematics and an occasional course in religion. While his health was never robust, he nourished a life-long interest in sports by becoming athletic director of the College. Almost every day he would be on the playing fields encouraging, critiquing, and enjoying the young team members.

Having also taken on some responsibilities in the business office, Father Oberle was asked in 1938 to become the treasurer of St. Charles as successor to Father Paul R. Dyer, when the latter was appointed provincial treasurer. Those duties were interrupted in 1940, when he undertook graduate studies in education at the College Park campus of the University of Maryland, which awarded him an M.A. in 1942.

That fall he returned to St. Charles College as treasurer and he remained at the Catonsville campus until he retired in 1977. He also taught Greek and mathematics, and even after he retired from the treasurer’s office in 1974, he continued to teach a Greek course.

But it was as treasurer that most students, faculty members, and staff knew Father Oberle best. Frequently through those years he worried much about annual deficits and low tuitions. Yet his provincial noted more than once that Father Oberle’s financial reports were the best done and most complete that he received. Two of his most difficult periods were related to the merger of the St. Mary’s Seminary Paca Street complex with St. Charles in 1969, and his own retirement, which coincided with the closing of the Seminary College in 1977. The merger was greatly eased by the experience with which he managed it, although he looked back with regret on the passing of the high school at St. Charles. The closing of the College grieved him even more.

At the funeral Mass, the homilist recalled that service as treasurer, which was “to supervise the maintenance of the college property, supervise the workmen, see that all was in working order in the chapel, in the classrooms, in the dormitories, in the laundry, on the grounds, and, most importantly, in the dining rooms. He was especially devoted to the marvelous Sisters of Divine Providence, who, in their love and in their daily work, provided for the comfort of the fathers and the students. Father Oberle was most protective of the sisters’ happiness. His daily Mass was offered in their chapel. He gave them conferences. He did many favors for them, gave them, frequently, surprise gifts. The students, for their part, saw Father Oberle in the serving room at the principal meals, supervising the waiters and the distribution of food. There was always an awareness of the presence of Father Oberle.”

His preparation and supervision of the fall and spring track meets brought him much joy and were the source of many of his stories at alumni reunions. Alumni Days were another priority for Father Oberle, as were Sulpician meetings, and retreats, for all of which, with the help of the Sisters, he delighted in preparing sumptuous food and drink.

A quite different aspect of Father Oberle’s ministry was evident in the Brooklyn area of south Baltimore. One weekend in 1936, the pastor of St. Rose of Lima Church appealed to the Sulpician provincial for a priest’s assistance. The assignment fell to Father Oberle, and the one weekend extended itself to over 45 years of weekend ministry at St. Rose’s.

It was not surprising, then, that the pastor graciously offered that church for the final rites, which was also a convenience for devoted parishioners in whose lives Father Oberle had been an integral part. Many of them attended the wake service the evening of August 5 and the Mass of Christian Burial the morning of August 6. A former pastor and close friend from seminary days, the Most Reverend T. Austin Murphy, Auxiliary Bishop of Baltimore, was principal celebrant of the Mass, joined by over fifty priests. Homilist was another friend of over fifty years and faculty colleague, the Reverend Raymond F. Hesler, S.S. survived by numerous nephews and nieces.

May Father Vincent Oberle, who gave so many years to the care of his confreres, fellow faculty members, and seminarians, live forever in the joy of the Resurrection.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

William J. Lee, S.S.

Provincial Secretary