By Clara Fromme from the Cluster Newsletter

The parishes of St. Raphael and St. Celestine welcome Father Eugene Schmitt as our pastor. Father Eugene likes rural areas, having grown up on a farm in rural Poseyville in the Cynthiana area. The parish in which he grew up was St. Wendel; he also attended school there through grade eight.

With parents Martha and Bernard (who died on 07- 07 -07), four sisters, two brothers, and many nieces and nephews -- among them two Godchildren -- his family is close-knit.  His mother still lives on the farm, and he spends every weekend with her. He worked on the farm, partnering with his mother, dad, and one brother; the other brother worked for them. They raised grain crops: corn, soybeans, and wheat, as well as cattle and hogs, farrow to finish. He continues to enjoy talking to farmers about their crops.

In 1990, while doing farm work, he suffered a traumatic accident when a rusty nail flew into his eye. This resulted in several major surgeries, including a cornea transplant when a match was finally found several months later, at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.  One of the surgeries was just last year on Fat Tuesday, and he had to miss saying Mass on Ash Wednesday. Today he wears glasses, but despite having been told early on that he would never have sight in the injured eye, his vision is acceptable.

Father related that this accident had much to do with his opening himself to accept the course of his future. He asked God what He wanted him to do, and he was ready to respond to God's call. While he had not really considered the seminary until later in life, he noted that a few people, including a priest and his dad had suggested that he might consider this vocation. There followed a series of incidents for him in which "God put people into my life" to direct his path. One of these was Father Jack Durchholz, current pastor at St. Ferdinand Church. Before either one became a priest, the two were on a skiing trip in Breckenridge, Colorado, when Eugene noticed how cautious Jack was on the slopes, contrasted to himself. At first he thought Jack wasn’t a risk-taker like he was, but on the ski-lift, when Jack announced that he was planning to enter the seminary, Eugene realized Jack's ability to take a risk was perhaps greater than his.

As life paths changed, Eugene entered Sacred Heart Seminary at Hales' Corner, Wisconsin. Father labeled himself "average" as a high school student but "excellent" in seminary classes, noting Diocesan "connections" Hales' Corner held. Father Jack's last year there was his own first, and, interestingly, Father Eugene's last was Father John Brosmer's first; Father Brosmer and Father Ron Kreilein attended there together a couple of years. Father Eugene has now been a priest for eleven years.

His first assignment was as associate at Holy Redeemer in Evansville, a parish which also has a school. His time there was fulfilling, and leaving after two years was hard for him as he moved on to the Sts. Peter and Paul in Haubstadt and helped at St. Joseph in Princeton. Both also had schools, and "the people were great." Father was surprised to be located there; he had assumed that with all of his relatives in the area, Bishop Gettelfinger would not place him there.

Next, Father was moved to the cluster of St. Mary in Sullivan and St. Joan of Arc in Jasonville. After two years there, he was reassigned to another cluster: St. Martin in Chrisney and St. Bernard in Rockport, which had a school. He was there for five years.  He has always loved the school atmosphere, and he enjoyed having lunches and playing kickball with the students. His last day at St. Bernard's was celebrated with a 45-minute all-school kickball game.

He calls himself very competitive, finding basketball, golf, and football his favorite sports, but he works hard at winning card games like "spoons," too. He played CYO high school softball and basketball, and later he played sports in leagues until he entered the seminary.

Father was grateful to attend Catholic Heart Work Camp in Toledo, Ohio, on a 2011 mission trip. He noted how "funny" are the ways in which God works, mentioning that as soon as he presented the idea of taking a group on a mission trip, a woman of his parish, who had had the same idea, exuded energy and excitement in getting the trip together for the week that worked for them. Father was assigned to a garden nursery with students who were working to overcome lots of problems. Others painted and served in soup kitchens. A priest said Mass every day, and then all joined in for a meal and uplifting music all evening, every evening. It was a rewarding experience for him, as were the many TEC retreats that he has participated in. He says he would love to see many more individuals making TEC retreats.

Father says God has had a way of stationing him in places he had not been before.  Now, he says he's been nearly everywhere in the diocese, so it's unlikely that that can happen again! He says the greatest challenge, one that most people do not even realize is a part of ministry, is the loss of an assignment and the grieving that follows a departure. In addition to suffering these losses several times, the emotional adjustment "to the places people are in" for happy and sad occasions, such as marriages and funerals, are sometimes are to reconcile. For example, on the day he was starting out at Sts. Peter and Paul, a day he celebrated Mass for a major parish anniversary, he had just come from having to say good-bye at all his Masses at Holy Redeemer.

Father notes, "I'm glad to be here," saying that he thinks after these initial months, he has worked through the loss of his parishioners at St. Bernard and St. Martin. Other components of adjustment are different Mass schedules and different routines. He says life is not as hectic here, and, because he misses having a school to oversee, he thoroughly enjoys spending time on Wednesday nights with the religion students.

Father adds that the jaunt of five miles between our two parishes seems minimal compared to other distances he's traveled to minister to two parishes. "It's a beautiful area," he said, noting that before he came to Northeast Dubois County, he knew the scenery was beautiful here, but he had not imagined its depth and detail.

We are thankful that Bishop Thompson has assigned Father Eugene to our parishes. We welcome him with open arms and hope he will stay here for many years to come.