As leader of the La Crosse Diocese, Bishop William Callahan is still trying to live up to the words of Pope Benedict XVI.
"He told me you'll be a good apostle and I was touched deeply and still am," said Callahan, who met the pope in 2007 when he promoted to bishop.
Like many people, Callahan is surprised by the pope's decision but says it reflects his character.
"You look at having a job, obtaining the influence, the power, the authority, all of that stuff (that he has), how do you give all of that up," said Callahan. "You give that up when you have an understanding that it's not yours to begin with."
"He really is a gentle person. He knows the faith and church tradition inside out," said Msgr. Michael Gorman, moderator of the curia for the La Crosse Diocese.
Gorman had a chance to study under the pope back in the mid 1980's when he was situated in Rome. Pope Benedict XVI was then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Ratzinger's legacy will likely be his work as a theologian and teacher, said Gorman.
"I was just so impressed that without any hesitation at all, speaking in his non-native language, he gave very direct and complete answers. (He was) just a great teacher," he added.
There's no question the pope faced many challengers during his tenure, including the on-going priest sex abuse scandal and a declining number of Catholic worshippers around the world.
Callahan and Gorman, however, say his decision to step down is just the opposite of failure.
"Because he's putting the good of the church above all else," said Gorman.
"I think that takes profound courage and incredible humility," said Callahan.