Bishop Raphael Fliss, who served as ordinary of Superior, Wis., for 22 years, was 84 years old
Bishop Emeritus Raphael Michael Gabriel Fliss, 84, passed away Sept. 21 at St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth. A priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, he served as bishop of the Diocese of Superior, Wis., from 1985 to 2007.
He was born in Milwaukee on Oct. 25, 1930, to Paul P. Fliss and Valeria Kosobuck and was one of four sons. His parents followed the European custom of giving children the name of the saint whose feast day was on or nearest the birthdate. St. Raphael’s feast day is Oct. 24, the day before Bishop Fliss’ birthdate, and his second name Michael just seemed to be the obvious name.
When he was confirmed, adding the name of the other archangel, Gabriel, was pretty much automatic.
Bishop Fliss’ father started a business manufacturing eye glasses in his garage, and the future bishop and his brothers all assisted with the business by delivering eye glasses to customers.
His father passed away three months before his ordination. His mother, Valeria, age 80 at the time, was unable to attend his ordination due to illness but listened to it.
Bishop Fliss attended grade schools and seminaries in Milwaukee and was ordained to the priesthood May 26, 1956, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Milwaukee, by Archbishop Albert G. Meyer. He celebrated his first Mass at Christ the King Church, Wauwatosa, Wis., his home parish. Following his ordination in 1956, he completed graduate work in canon law at the Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., receiving a licentiate degree in sacred theology. In 1962, Bishop Fliss studied in Rome at the Lateran University and received a doctorate in canon law.
Bishop Fliss’ first assignment was as assistant pastor for his home parish of Christ the King, Wauwatosa. Within the next year, he was the assistant pastor for the Cathedral of St. John, Milwaukee, and also became the secretary and master of ceremonies and continued in that role for the next two archbishops. He served as the notary in the curia and defender of the bond. In 1969, he was appointed vice-chancellor, besides his positions of secretary and master of ceremonies to the archbishop. Bishop Fliss was appointed rector of the Cathedral of St. John in 1978.
On Nov. 6, 1979, his appointment as coadjutor bishop with the right of succession brought him to the Diocese of Superior to work alongside Bishop George Hammes. Following the ordination rite at his ordination liturgy, he addressed the faithful, saying, “I see new horizons and possibilities for the people here I have come to serve. This day I offer myself to you. I will be pleased to learn and listen. I look to you to help me be a good and dedicated bishop, and together may we always see the goodness of the Lord.”
When Bishop Hammes retired in 1985, Bishop Fliss became the ninth bishop of the Diocese of Superior on June 27, 1985. During his tenure as bishop, he chaired the newly established permanent diaconate program; participated in the work of the Catholic Charities bureau; promoted vocations and lay ministries including appointing lay people, permanent deacons and women religious in leadership positions; introduced a new stewardship program; founded the diocesan finance council; clustered parishes due to lack of priests; ordained 24 priests and 63 permanent deacons; and implemented the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Bishop Fliss was preceded in death by his parents; his brother George and his wife Winnie; and his brother Howard and his wife Doris. He is survived by his brother Art (Marilyn) and 11 nieces and nephews, along with many friends throughout the country.
Condolences may be sent to: Rev. Paul Fliss, 1439 S. 12th St., Sheboygan, WI 53083, email address: firstname.lastname@example.org.