Much has changed, but service constant in Fr. Robert Schladen’s 60 years as priest
CUBA — As he prepares to mark six decades of priestly service, Father Schladen puts things in perspective, starting with his first assignment to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Peoria:
There were four priests at the cathedral.
- All diocesan offices were headed by clergy.
- In the cathedral basement were located the bishop’s office, the bishop’s secretary’s office, the chancery office, the finance office, the marriage tribunal, and the diocesan museum and archives, which consisted of two cardboard boxes in the furnace room.
- The monthly salary for priests was $60.
- Priests needed written permission from the bishop to own a personal auto.
He laughs about it now, but is serious when it comes to what hasn’t changed.
“The sense of service — you’re doing something that’s helpful,” Father Schladen said about the priesthood. “And you’re doing it at a time when people are most vulnerable or receptive.
“Officiating at a wedding or officiating at a funeral or being present at a deathbed, those are really important things. You can make a good contribution,” he said.
Helping others do that is among the highlights of his priestly life, according to Father Schladen, who was coordinator of Ministry to Priests. He also served on the Diocesan Personnel Board for 13 years.
“I really liked working with the priests. I wanted to help them and assist them,” he told The Post. “They’re good guys. . . . They want to do good and they’re dedicated. It was really good work.”
Like Father O’Riley, Father Schladen went to St. Bede Junior College for two years and studied philosophy and theology at St. Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota.
After serving at St. Mary’s Cathedral and working as director of the Catholic Youth Center in Peoria, he was named parochial vicar for St. Patrick in Danville and taught at Schlarman High School.
His first time as pastor was to the new parish of St. Maria Goretti in Coal Valley and said it was an exciting time.
“It was the new experience of being a pastor. The excitement of the parishioners themselves, being responsible for their own parish,” Father Schladen said. “And there lots of young families. We had a ton of kids who came to CCD classes.”
After that came service as co-pastor of St. Pius X in Rock Island as part of the Rock Island-Milan Cooperative Ministry. He would also minister as co-director of the diocesan Communications and Evangelization Office, and pastor of St. Mark in Peoria.
He was granted senior status in 2003.
Father Schladen doesn’t have any plans for a celebration at this time. Mail may be sent to him at Wee-Ma-Tuk Hills, 16309 E. Cherokee Road, Cuba, IL 61427-9335.