William H. Bullock, bishop emeritus of Madison, Wis., whose service to the Roman Catholic Church began with parishes in Minneapolis and Edina, then as an educator at St. Thomas Academy, has died.

Bullock, 83, died Sunday of lung cancer at a pastoral center in Madison.

Bullock's 51 years of active service to the church culminated with his mandatory retirement in 2003 after 10 years as bishop of the Madison Diocese. Previously, he was bishop of the Des Moines Diocese for six years.

At the time of his 80th birthday, Bullock told the newspaper of the Madison Diocese: "The next big thing I will do in my life is die, and I want to do that well."

Among Bullock's defining moments in Madison were the creation of an office of Hispanic ministry and authorizing construction of a Catholic Multicultural Center, which provided social services for new immigrants and the poor. He also created a diocesan sexual abuse review board, made up mostly of lay people.

"He wanted to make sure we were doing what the Lord calls us to do, which is greeting a stranger and making a guest feel welcome," Monsignor Daniel Ganshert, who served as Bullock's assistant, told the Wisconsin State Journal.

Bullock was born in 1927 on a family farm near Maple Lake, Minn., and he turned to his rural upbringing as an icebreaker during a one-on-one meeting with Pope John Paul II.

Bullock recalled saying to the pontiff, "'Holy Father, I am quite nervous here today -- I am a simple farm boy from Minnesota and here I am in the presence of the successor of St. Peter.'

"At that moment, the Holy Father took my hand and said, 'And I am a simple peasant pope from Poland, but God wanted to use us both.' With those kind words, I was then at ease in our visit."

Bullock graduated from Annandale High School during World War II and attended what is now the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul before serving in the Navy during the war.

After the war, he graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a degree in philosophy, then entered St. Paul Seminary. His post-graduate studies took him back to St. Thomas and Notre Dame.

Bullock was ordained in 1952 at St. Paul Cathedral, then served as associate pastor at St. Stephen in Minneapolis (1952-55), Our Lady of Grace in Edina (1955-56) and Incarnation in Minneapolis (1956-57).

He entered education, teaching religion at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights starting in 1957. He was the school's headmaster from 1967 until 1971.

He returned to parish work in 1971 as pastor of St. John the Baptist in Excelsior from 1971 to 1980 and Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Minneapolis in 1980.

In 1980, Bullock became an auxiliary bishop for the Twin Cities archdiocese, then was appointed bishop in Des Moines seven years later.

A citation accompanying an honorary degree in 2005 from the University of St. Thomas noted of Bullock: "Your life as a priest and as a leader of hundreds of thousands of Catholics in the Upper Midwest has served both as an inspiration and a lesson for us all."

In June 2006, Bullock had an audience at the Vatican and was thrilled by the "enormous privilege to be able to shake hands with Pope Benedict XVI," noting that they were born three days apart.

Bullock described Benedict as "a man of great clarity and precision in his teaching and consistent in the clarity with which he preaches."

Bullock is survived by two sisters, Adelaide "Addie" and Elizabeth "Betty" Bullock. A public funeral mass open to the public will be celebrated at 11 a.m. Thursday in Madison at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church, 401 S. Owen Drive. Interment will be in Resurrection Catholic Cemetery, Madison.

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482