Father Schmitz: Call to serve doesn’t end with retirement
Editors note: Seven archdiocesan priests retired this year, each after decades of service. Links to each story are at the bottom of the webpage.
Father Michael Schmitz has spent his life in service to others. He served 30 years in the military, then heeded a call to the priesthood and served the archdiocese for 20 years.
Now preparing for retirement after seven years as pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish in Crofton and St. Andrew Parish in Bloomfield, Father Schmitz is finding old habits die hard.
He plans to continue serving others, in particular with his favorite ministry – service to the elderly.
"I love working with the elderly. They are so full of wisdom. They appreciate what I can do," he said.
Father Schmitz is the new resident priest chaplain for the retirement community at Avera Sacred Heart Majestic Bluffs in Yankton, S.D. Among other things, he will celebrate Mass four or five times a week in a 200-seat chapel and live on the Majestic Bluffs campus in a two-bedroom townhouse.
Father Schmitz said another highlight of his priestly service was teaching religion to children at St. Rose of Lima School in Crofton. He enjoyed seeing the children advance through school, year after year. "I see how they grow in their faith," he said.
His love of turkey legs was well-known around school. Every holiday, he would jokingly ask students to save their turkey legs for him. One year he received a Valentine’s Day card from students containing a turkey leg made out of construction paper.
Once he gets settled at Majestic Bluffs, he plans to attend a Green Bay Packers game in Green Bay, Wis., where his sister lives. In his spare time, he also plans to write his autobiography.
And at age 70, Father Schmitz continues to go fishing and also enjoys golfing and bowling.
Father Schmitz said he served 12 years in the Air Force and 18 years in the Air Force Reserves before retiring as a senior master sergeant. He served near Saigon in the Vietnam War as a typist relaying top secret information to the Pentagon. During the Desert Storm invasion of Iraq, he was stationed in Frankfurt, Germany, working in medical administration sorting luggage of incoming patients. He also spent time as a clerk in the maintenance unit on Air Force One for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.
While in the reserves he held several jobs, including as a civilian computer flight programmer at Offutt Air Force Base, an assistant manager at a pizza restaurant and vocations director at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, all in the Omaha area.
On a lighter note, he also rubbed elbows with musicians Barbara Mandrell and Bill Monroe while working as maintenance manager at the non-commissioned officer’s club at an Air Force base in Maryland.
Father Schmitz was ordained at age 50, but said he knew since the second grade that he wanted to be a priest. "It was always there. It was just a matter" of doing it, he said.
"When I was ordained, I said, ‘I served the country for 30 years and I hope and pray the Lord will provide me 30 more years,’" Father Schmitz said.
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