Date of death: 3/24/2008

Saint Meinrad Class: O 1957

Msgr. Bernard Schmitz died at the Ripley Crossing Nursing Home in Milan. He was 76.In 2007, he retired from active ministry after celebrating the 50th jubilee of his priestly ordination and serving as the pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Morris in the Batesville Deanery for 37 years. He had suffered from Parkinson’s disease for several years before his death.Father Joseph Sheets and Msgr. Schmitz were friends for more than 60 years. Their friendship started when they became archdiocesan seminarians as teenagers.He was a great friend,” said Father Sheets. “He was always there for support. He was always a very gentle and kind man.”The constancy of Msgr. Schmitz’s support extended to his parishioners.”He was very devoted to the people,” said Father Sheets. “His love for God and his love for the people he served would be the highlight of everything that he did.”In an interview for an article in The Criterion about Msgr. Schmitz’s 50th jubilee in 2007, longtime St. Anthony parishioner Joan Eckstein talked about her pastor’s dedication to ministering to the infirmed.”He was always there for the sick and the dying’day or night,” said Eckstein, who served as Msgr. Schmitz’s housekeeper and cook for 20 years.”He administered the sacraments to the sick and the dying unbelievably. I think he’ll always be known for that.”In an interview with The Criterion last August to mark his 50 years of priestly life and ministry, Msgr. Schmitz said this dedication flowed from seeing his parish as his family.”Part of the family was sick. They needed help,” he said. “[Visiting the sick] is a sign that the family is functioning and people are taking care of their loved ones, both the clergy and the lay folks.”Walter Eckstein, Joan Eckstein’s husband, said Msgr. Schmitz’s family-style approach to his ministry extended to the way St. Anthony’s annual Labor Day parish picnic was organized. “He made sure that our dinner was a sit-down dinner instead of having it cafeteria-style,” said Walter Eckstein. “The food was set on the table family style. He was a big believer in that.”In his interview with The Criterion last year, Msgr. Schmitz said that when he was assigned as the pastor of St. Anthony in 1970, he asked God in prayer if he could stay there the rest of his life.”It pretty well has been because my life doesn’t have that many more years to go,” said Msgr. Schmitz at the time.Bernard Robert Schmitz was born on June 11, 1931, in Cincinnati to Bernhard and Katarina (von Garrell) Schmitz.As a seminarian for the archdiocese, he studied at and graduated from Saint Meinrad’s minor and major seminaries in St. Meinrad with a bachelor of arts degree.Archbishop Paul C. Schulte ordained him to the priesthood on May 3, 1957, at the Saint Meinrad Archabbey Church in St. Meinrad.He celebrated his first Mass on May 5, 1957, at Resurrection Church in Cincinnati.His first assignment was as the assistant pastor of St. Mary Parish in North Vernon in 1957. In 1961, he was appointed assistant pastor of Annunciation Parish in Brazil. That same year, he was also assigned as an instructor and director of guidance at the former Schulte High School in Terre Haute.In 1963, he became the chaplain of the Newman Center at DePauw University in Greencastle while continuing as director of guidance at Schulte High School.His longtime ministry at St. Anthony of Padua Parish in Morris began on April 29, 1970, when he was assigned as its administrator. He became the parish’s pastor on May 26, 1970. Over the course of nearly four decades, he continued as pastor of St. Anthony while serving in other pastoral assignments for various periods.In 1973, he was assigned as administrator pro-tem of St. Nicholas Parish in Ripley County.In 1990, Msgr. Schmitz was again named administrator of St. Nicholas Parish.In 1993, he was named pastor of St. Nicholas Parish and St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Milan, and administrator of St. Pius Parish in Ripley County.Pope John Paul II conferred on Father Schmitz the title of Prelate of Honor on Aug. 8, 1994. Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein publicly invested him with this title during a liturgy on Feb. 19, 1995, at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral in Indianapolis.He is survived by a sister, Dolores Schmitz of Cincinnati, and brother, John Schmitz of Tucson, Ariz. Memorial gifts may be sent to the St. Anthony of Padua Parish Cemetery Fund, P.O. Box 3, Morris, IN 47033.Information obtained from The Criterion, April 4, 2008 issue.”