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Father Schmidt observes priesthood challenge — 'Trying
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out of diversity'

Family, priests encouraged Rev.
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Retired priests, religious struggle
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Vocations delayed
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Sister Angela Marie Bovo, CSJ

Rev. David Tobin, CSSR

Paths to priesthood vary, desire for ordination is constant

Yes, the Church
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Court won't
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placeholder July 7, 2014   •   VOL. 52, NO. 12   •   Oakland, CA

Rev. Paul Schmidt talks with Gov. Jerry Brown at the ordination Mass for Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, last year.
Staff photo

Father Schmidt observes priesthood challenge
— 'Trying to make unity out of diversity'

Some people may have known Rev. Paul Schmidt as a classmate — he attended St. Bernard Elementary School (1944 to 1952), Bishop O'Dowd High School (1952 to 1953) both in Oakland, St. Joseph's College High School in Mountain View (1953 to 1958) and St. Patrick's Seminary in Menlo Park (1958 to 1964).


Rev. Paul Schmidt: Quotes from his
Voice column

God makes sunshine and rain for good and bad alike. We can be like God, generous and forgiving. We can imitate this unconditional love. Anything else is second best.
"We can go for the
gold medal"

— The Catholic Voice,
Feb. 13, 1984

The First Sunday of Easter (there are seven altogether) can be a discouraging day for priests. On that day (and on Christmas) we have a glimpse of all the work we are not getting done. We see twice as many people than usual. Some are guests from other places and other churches, but most are parishioners whom we are not reaching. For a few, a miracle of grace will occur. For most, however, nothing significant will happen.
"The Lord alone performs
the Easter miracle"

— The Catholic Voice,
April 16, 1984

Take what you hold dearest, and give it away. The Lord makes that kind of demand from us. What right has He to expect so much? He has done the same for us. "He did not spare His own son."
"A world where
dying young is best"

— The Catholic Voice,
March 5, 1979

Because Jesus did not avoid His hour, those who believe in Him find strength to face their hour. Those who serve Him follow Him.
"Ask any priest he knows"
— The Catholic Voice,
March 26, 1979

We experience the deeper meaning of events the way the disciples do, as if waking up from sleep. It seems that only in looking back to some dire period in our lives when we felt alone or in dire straits do we then realize God was there all along. How else could we have gotten through it? How else could we have grown in wisdom and somehow come out stronger? How else could we have survived at all?
"The Transfiguration isn't story of just then, but of now"
— The Catholic Voice,
July 31, 1989

Some people came to know him as a spiritual leader — he has been pastor at St. Agnes Parish in Concord from 1979 to 1991; an administrator at Oakland's St. Margaret Mary Parish from 1999 to 2004, and as pastor at St. Joseph Parish in Pinole since 2005.

Others may have served with Father Schmidt on various committees or groups: He had been a member of the diocesan vocation committee, diocesan liturgical commission and diocesan music committee.

Still some may remember Father Schmidt from his days as the long-time columnist of this newspaper, The Catholic Voice. From 1973 to 1989 he shared his reflections on the Sunday readings.

Now Father Schmidt is assuming yet another title, that of retired priest of the Diocese of Oakland. This new chapter in the priest's life comes just a month after he celebrated the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

But as Father Schmidt recently observed, a priest may retire from being a pastor but a priest doesn't retire from being a priest.

Many so-called retired priests continue to serve the church like a kind of ecclesiastical Eveready battery — they help out at parishes that are short of priests, celebrate Mass on the weekends or fill-in for a pastor who goes on vacation. If or when a priest is no longer able to carry on physical tasks, he prays on.

"Retired" priests take a page from the notebooks of women religious, another group of non-retirees. "The Sisters have a nice way of describing it, they call it a ministry of prayer and reflection," Father Schmidt said. "When you are no longer able to do anything else, pray for the Church."

Looking back on his 50 years as a priest, Father Schmidt said that there have been a number of things that have happened in the Catholic Church that he didn't see coming. One has been the continuation of Catholic education without the Sisters. Father Schmidt recalled that the school at a parish he was first assigned had religious women in every classroom. Now lay teachers usually outnumber religious teachers in Catholic schools.

Parishes are also different from what they used to be. In many places parishes went from being European-heritage-based to becoming more ethnically diverse. The same goes for the personnel. When he was in Concord the priests who served there were mostly of European heritage, while at the Pinole parish it is more usual to have priests and parishioners who have come from all over the world, including people from Thailand, Pakistan, India and Africa.

Trying to serve such a diverse community is a big challenge, he said. "You're trying to make unity out of diversity."

The parish community at St. Joseph began addressing this challenge more than 30 years ago by hosting its annual Oktoberfest celebration. The event brings people from different traditions and customs together. "It is a unifying event," Father Schmidt said.

The sharing of music and especially ethnic foods has added an exciting feature to the event. At a recent Oktoberfest event the addition of a booth offering Ethiopian food "went over big."

A prolific writer, Father Schmidt said that he enjoyed his years as a columnist for The Catholic Voice. Although he admitted that working on his column at the beginning was challenging because of the newspaper's weekly printing schedule. Things became much better when The Voice changed to a biweekly schedule.

Father Schmidt's favorite writing project came years after his column was completed. In 2005 he was in Rome on a sabbatical around the time of the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. He wrote an account of his experiences for The Catholic Voice. The entries of his days in Rome appeared in the April 25, 2005 issue of The Voice in one article of compilations. This was in the days before everyone started blogging about everything.

After leaving the Pinole parish, Father Schmidt will move to the rectory at St. Albert Church in Alameda where he will "help out whenever needed," he said. Otherwise he has no agenda. Once he settles into his new place, the priest expects that he will have his share of paperwork to plow through — updating his driver's license, filling out change of address documents, insurance forms and the like.

Once those chores are dealt with, Father Schmidt plans to organize his body of writing, which includes much of the hard copy from his columns from The Voice and other Catholic publications he has written for. Then he intends to "give my whole archives to the diocese."

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