Longtime priest leaves lasting, loving memories

Originally Posted Online: April 15, 2013, 7:55 pm
Last Updated: April 16, 2013, 12:28 am
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By Leon Lagerstam, llagerstam@qconline.com

The Rev. George J. Schroeder will be greatly missed by friends and parishioners at Rock Island's St. Mary Catholic Church but surely will be rewarded with a Godly "well done, my good and faithful servant," according to Monsignor Paul Showalter.

Rev. Schroeder, 95, of Rock Island, died last Thursday. A Mass of Christian burial will be held at 11 a.m. today at St. Mary's, with Peoria Diocesan Bishop Daniel Jenky as celebrant. Burial will be at Calvary Cemetery, Rock Island.

Monsignor Showalter expects a large turnout of priests, parishioners and well-wishers paying last respects to a man he called a "rock and anchor" of Rock Island.

Rev. Schroeder celebrated his 70th anniversary of ordination last June. During the more than 40 years he was St. Mary's pastor, he conducted 1,118 baptisms, prepared 854 people for confirmation, and officiated at more than 350 weddings, according to records kept by his longtime secretary and caregiver, Mary Anderson.

Even after retiring in 1992, Rev. Schroeder continued to lead Mass as often as he could and lead an adult choir. He was named the church's "pastor emeritus" in 2001.

Longtime parishioner Mary Kay Orth said she saw him at church four days before his death, and, watching him walk away with his cane, recalled how much he never wanted to use a walker.

"He will be missed, but thank God he didn't have to suffer," Mrs. Orth said. "That was a blessing."

She and her husband, Fred Orth were married by Rev. Schroeder almost 57 years ago. "He baptized all four of our children and many of our grandchildren," she said, adding that he also conducted wedding ceremonies for their two daughters.

"It's like he's been part of your family," she said. "And we'll never have that situation of having the same priest around that long again."

"He was so deeply loved by the people there," said Monsignor Showalter, who succeeded Rev. Schroeder at St. Mary's before becoming a priest at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Rock Island, followed later by becoming vicar general for the Peoria Diocese.

"Father Schroeder was an outstanding, caring priest and pastor, and was a good friend," Monsignor Showalter said. "There are so many great stories about him. He had such a great sense of humor."

"He didn't waste a thing," Monsignor Showalter said. "I remember him going around to all the churches in the diocese and buying old bells that were no longer going to be used and bringing them back to St. Mary's."

Furniture in Rev. Schroeder's home included chairs once thrown out at the church and a porch railing that once was a communion rail.

"And every time he bought a new car, he would take the hub caps off and put them in the garage," Monsignor Showalter said. "When he got ready to trade it in, he'd put them back on."

"He was always a cash-and-carry kind of guy," Bud Miller, of Moline, said.

Mr. Miller recalled Rev. Schroeder's visits to a local plumber's shop and how he would talk to plumbers, pipe-fitters and other tradesmen, and then go back to St. Mary's to make repairs himself.

Mr. Miller was master of ceremonies at Rev. Schroeder's retirement party."He was such a good guy, and a religious man, who was really good with kids," Mr. Miller said.

"I have known Father Schroeder my entire life," Carol Danek said. "He gave me all of my sacraments. He was my pastor throughout my grade school years at the old St. Mary's School.

"He never hesitated to come into the school to question us about what we were learning," she said. "At recess, he played baseball with us and flooded some of the parking area for an ice-skating rink in the winter."

She said he also was responsible for introducing her to her husband, John Danek.

"When my husband came to Rock Island as a young man, he contacted St. Mary's about a CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) or Dominic club where he might meet some young people," Mrs. Danek said. "Father bluntly asked him 'Are your looking for a girl to take out? I have lots of girls in the parish who like to eat.' "

Rev. Schroeder looked over his list, "matched us up and married us, and we are still married after 43 years," Mrs. Danek said. "Father always said that we were one of his success stories" -- one of hundreds and hundreds he cherished.

The Rev. George J. Schroeder bio box

Born: April 25, 1917
Hometown: Chicago 
Education: St. Francis Xavier Grade School, and Quigley Preparatory Seminary High School, both in Chicago; St. Mary of the Lake Seminary, Mundelein; Canisianum Seminary, Innsbruck, Austria; International Pontifical College, Sion, Switzerland; St. Meinrad, Ind, Seminary; ordained June 7, 1942, St. Mary's Cathedral, Peoria.
Experience: St. Mary's Catholic Church administrator in 1948 and parish pastor in 1951; retiring in 1992.
Noteworthy moments: Had a multi-purpose parish center named Schroeder Hall in his honor; Named St. Mary pastor emeritus in 2001.


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