By Katrina Genereux/Staff Writer, OND
Crookston – On June 17, Matthew Schmitz was ordained to the ministerial priesthood by Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Crookston.
At the beginning of the ordination Mass, in addition to thanking God, Bishop Hoeppner also congratulated and thanked the Schmitz family for the gift of Matthew.
Father Schmitz said the most surprising part of his ordination was the complete sense of peace that accompanied him throughout the liturgy.
“A lot of people told me right before the Mass started that they had been praying for me throughout the week and praying that I would have a great sense of peace, and I definitely felt that,” he said.
One moment from the ordination that particularly impacted him was being vested by Father Chuck Huck, Pastor of St. Philip, Bemidji and St. Charles, Pennington.
“As Father Chuck was vesting me, he had a big smile on his face and he kept saying ‘Father Matt’ and that was a very cool moment.”
Father Schmitz said Father Huck has been a big part of his vocational journey, helping him with discernment and getting into seminary.
At the conclusion of his ordination, Father Schmitz shared a few words about how his vocation to the priesthood was realized.
From the time he was in sixth grade, he was encouraged by the vocations directors of the diocese – first Father Joseph Richards and then Father Vincent Miller – to consider the priesthood.
He attended a vocations camp, after Father Richards told his parents it would be a good idea, and enjoyed it. Father Schmitz said he considered the priesthood off and on throughout his high school years, but really enjoyed working in business after college.
“A few years after I graduated from college, Father Chuck Huck came to my parish at a time when the Lord was really working on my heart and he was the one that helped me to take that next step,” Father Schmitz said during an interview with Our Northland Diocese a few weeks after his ordination.
He said being 17 hours away from home was a struggle when he began attending St. Meinrad Seminary, but it didn’t last long.
“I’ve been greatly blessed with the friendships I’ve had at seminary,” he said. Thirteen of his classmates travelled to Crookston to attend the ordination.
“What initially was something I was afraid of – being so far away from my family – turned into a huge blessing with all of the deep friendships that I developed down there,” Father Schmitz said.
His parents, Barbara and Arnold Schmitz, appreciated meeting some of his seminarian friends during his years at St. Meinrad.
“We were able to go down to St. Meinrad a couple of times and to see the way they form seminarians,” Barbara said. “It really gives us hope for the life of the Church and the young men coming into it.”
“We are very proud of Matthew,” said Arnold. “We are very proud of the journey he has started on. We’ve learned a lot from him over the journey, coming closer in our faith.”
Barbara said support as well as space to discern is important for young men considering the priesthood.
“Encourage them, but also let them do it. It needs to come from God … if it comes from God, even if they take another path for a little while, it’s always going to be there,” she said.
Arnold said sometimes people may fear “losing” their son and the plans they had for him – plans like marriage and grandchildren.
“In the end it’s the best thing because it is good for him, and it’s good for us,” he said. “Don’t be afraid of it.”
Father Schmitz said he would encourage men who may feel a tug toward the priesthood to pray and not be afraid.
“Have a life of prayer and if the Lord is calling you, that will be made clear, and then if he calls, don’t be afraid to take the next step,” he said.
Father Schmitz is the Parochial Vicar of Sacred Heart, East Grand Forks; Holy Trinity, Tabor, and St. Francis, Fisher. He is most looking forward to celebrating the sacraments with the people of the parishes he is serving.
“I had my first weekend Mass at Sacred Heart … and it was just awesome to be able to settle into the normalcy of parish life a little bit,” Father Schmitz said. “To celebrate that first Mass with the community was a huge blessing.”