FREMONT — Conventual Franciscan Father Phillip Schneider officially will retire as administrator of St. Paul Catholic Chapel at Clear Lake on Sunday, Nov. 24, the Solemnity of Christ the King. A brunch in his honor will follow the 9 a.m. Mass.
Ordained nearly 53 years ago, the soft-spoken priest is four months shy of observing his 80th birthday. He announced his pending retirement to parishioners on Oct. 27.
Fathers Fred Pasche and Bernie Zajdel will celebrate the single Mass on Sundays at 9 a.m. during the winter months and the three summer Masses on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sundays at 7:30 and 9 a.m. as well as Reconciliation before the Saturday Mass (summer) or the Sunday Mass (winter).
In retirement, Father Schneider will reside at the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio, where he studied for the priesthood when it was a seminary. Today, the shrine is a place of great peace where pilgrims can pray and pay homage to the Blessed Mother.
“I’m very happy to have been here,” said Frather Schneider in reference to the 22 years he has spent serving the parishioners at Clear Lake near Fremont. “I’m so sorry to leave, but I just know it’s time physically,” he said earlier this month from his office at St. Anthony of Padua Church, Angola.
Father Schneider has resided at the Angola parish since October 1991 and also served as associate pastor for about 15 years while making the drive of 16 miles on weekends to St. Paul Chapel, which serves about 113 families. Through the years he has seen attendance at the single winter Mass grow from 60-70 parishioners to about 150 currently. Total attendance at the three summer Masses approximates 500 parishioners, he stated.
Born and raised in Lansing, Mich., he is the third of 12 children of Anthony and Helen Schneider, which included five boys and seven girls. Two brothers have died, Father Schneider related, making him the oldest sibling still living.
He attended Holy Cross Church and School, a Conventual Franciscan parish. “I really liked the Mass,” he said, “and I used to have (a pretend) Mass for my brothers and sisters at home once or twice a week. I guess that’s where my vocation got started,” related Father Schneider, the only one of his brothers and sisters to enter the religious life.
Admittedly, he had three uncles who were Dominicans who tried to influence his choice of religious order. However, his pastor arranged for him to attend high school at Mount St. Francis, another Conventual Franciscan facility, in southern Indiana. And since he grew to like his classmates he stayed all four years and continued his studies for the Priesthood at Our Lady of Consolation Seminary for two years and at Assumption Seminary, Chaska, Minn., for six years. He was ordained in St. Paul, Minn., by Archbishop William O’Brady on Feb. 19, 1961.
His priestly assignments have varied widely, from serving as a printer for a short time at the Provincial after his ordination to teaching, beginning with religion at Catholic Central High School in Toledo for one year before obtaining a degree in mathematics from the University of Notre Dame. Father Schneider returned to Mount St. Francis and spent 13 years teaching math at all four high-school grade levels. And since the educational facility was across the Ohio River from Louisville, Ky., he also taught math for two years at the University of Louisville.
Other priestly duties, in addition to celebrating Mass daily, of course, included serving as a procurator at Mount St. Francis procuring food for some 50 students and a staff of 12. He also spent a year at the Conventual Franciscans major seminary in Washington, D.C., overseeing theology student residents in the House of Studies and served two years as an associate pastor at St. Stephen Parish in Milwaukee, Wis.
After resuming teaching at Mount St. Francis for a short time, he was assigned in 1976 as an associate pastor for three years at St. Benedict Parish, Terre Haute. Before being assigned to his most recent position at St. Paul Chapel at Clear Lake, Father Schneider spent 10 years as associate pastor and eventually pastor at San Rocco Parish, Chicago Heights.
Father Schneider’s special interest is woodworking, creating small pieces such as a wooden tabernacle for use during the Holy Thursday liturgy. In fact, he has contributed a wooden work of art for all the churches where he has been assigned. He still has his woodworking tools and hopes to continue the hobby in retirement. He also enjoys reading.
He’ll also have the opportunity to celebrate Mass daily at the shrine as well as at area parishes as needed in the nearby Diocese of Toledo.
“I would still love to teach math, but high school kids need lots of encouragement and I don’t have that kind of energy anymore,” he mused.
He said “retirement” is not a used word throughout the Province because “we keep working until our health begins to break down. I have to listen to Mother Nature,” he concluded.
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