Fr. Harold Schmitt gives God the credit as he celebrates 60 years of priesthood
HENRY — As the chaplain to the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph’s Home in Lacon, Father Schmitt would often walk the short distance from Immaculate Conception Church to the motherhouse, praying the rosary as he went.
“Don’t forget me!” people would say as they drove by.
Retired now, people still greet him when he walks into Immaculate Conception and tell him “I’m so glad to see you.”
“I can’t do much anymore, but I can still be priestly,” he said, noting that he still hears confessions or concelebrates Mass from time to time. “I’m very happy God accepted me.”
The eldest of Fred and Helen Schmitt’s nine children, Father Schmitt started praying about his vocation when he was a student at St. Mary School in Henry.
“Sister, do you think it’s crazy for me to think about the priesthood,” he asked his teacher, Sister John Berchmans, OSF.
“No, not crazy at all. You know we need more priests,” she told him. “Pray every day, asking God what he thinks you should do.”
Getting affirmations from his mother, pastor and Bishop Joseph Schlarman, Father Schmitt was sent to St. Bede Academy in Peru for one year. When it was time to go to the Pontifical College Josephinum in Worthington, Ohio, his father predicted, “He’ll be back in a few days.”
But Father Schmitt knew “pretty quickly” that he was in the right spot and completed his high school, college and seminary studies there.
He was sent to St. Patrick in Ottawa as parochial vicar after ordination and would go on to Immaculate Conception in Monmouth (1963) and St. Philomena in Peoria (1966).
Father Schmitt served as the pastor for the faith communities in Hancock County (1972-74), co-pastor at St. Philomena in Peoria (1974-75), and administrator of St. Augustine in St. Augustine, and St. Patrick in Raritan (1975). He was assigned as pastor of St. Mary in DePue in 1975, St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria in 1978, St. Mary in Kewanee in 1986 and oversaw construction of the school, St. Maria Goretti in Coal Valley in 1991, and St. Mary in Ottawa in 1994.
He served as chaplain to the Daughters of St. Francis of Assisi and St. Joseph’s Home in Lacon from 1998 until he was granted senior status in 2014.
Father Schmitt advised those discerning a vocation to the priesthood to “think about it as a great gift God has given you. That’s very important, that you give God the credit.”
“You have an opportunity to do something good. That’s something I’ve always tried to remember,” he said.
Father Schmitt will be honored at a Mass on Saturday, June 1, at 10:30 a.m. at St. John XXIII Church in Henry. A luncheon will follow for invited guests. An ice cream social is being planned at Immaculate Conception in Lacon.
Mail for Father Schmitt may be sent to 404 James St., Henry, IL 61537.