MARSHALL - At a special Mass Thursday morning, Holy Redeemer School teacher Marsha Culhane was one of many who thanked the Rev. Paul Schumacher for being a humble servant to God for the past 50 years.
"In our world today, we are bombarded daily with the message that in order to be great, we need to strive to be powerful, rich or famous," Culhane said. "But Jesus tells us that to be great in God's kingdom, we need to be willing to be the servant of all. To be a priest, is to be a humble servant of God and give service to his people."
Schumacher, senior associate pastor at the Church of Holy Redeemer in Marshall, was ordained to the priesthood for the Diocese of New Ulm on Feb. 18, 1962, at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm by Bishop Alphonse J. Schladweiler.
Photo by Jenny Kirk
The Rev. Paul Schumacher, senior associate pastor at the Church of Holy Redeemer in Marshall, received an appreciative hug from Natalie Marlow, Holy Redeemer School second-grader, after a special Mass Thursday in celebration of Schumacher’s 50 years of service in the priesthood.
"Father Paul knows that he can do nothing more powerful than to work for the good of God's people and there is no greater wealth than when we say 'yes' to Jesus' call," Culhane said. "Father Paul has been answering this call for 50 years as a priest. His service is a joyful choice that he makes every day, to show God how much he loved him. His self-giving love for God has poured out on each of us."
Using the simplest of words, Schumacher delivered a strong message about service to the chapel full of HRS students, staff and community members at the Mass, which was led by fifth-grade students.
"You can't say 'no' to God," Schumacher said. "God called me, and each one of you will be called to do something special."
Schumacher encouraged everyone to say "yes."
"Fifty years ago, there was a blizzard and I was ordained," said Schumacher, who was accompanied by his fuzzy, stuffed monkey. "Alleluia."
Throughout the last half-century, Schumacher has had numerous opportunities to work with the diocese. He's also served more than 30 parish communities in that time.
"It's exciting," he said. "There have been many, many opportunities, kind of out of the ordinary chances to work with the diocese. I've worked for all four of the bishops, so that's been interesting."
Schumacher served in the Marshall area from 1967 to 1974.
"I came here when the college (Southwest Minnesota State University) started," he said. "I was here for the first seven years of the college. We went from 500 students to 3,500 in those seven years."
Then, Schumacher was asked to teach religion education, which he willingly did.
"I worked for the whole diocese," he said. "For 72,000 people."
Later, Schumacher got involved with the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) ministry after being trained to work with people in Alcoholics Anonymous.
"I've worked with that from the mid-'80s, when it came to Minnesota, until now," he said. "It's so different from when it started. When I started, (afflicted) people died in two years. Now, they live almost like a chronic illness, with the drugs available."
Unfortunately, to stay alive, those drugs cost roughly $30,000 a year, Schumacher said.
"They're very expensive drugs," he said. "I've worked with babies, married couples, grandmas, grandpas, gay people, and buried many of them way in the beginning."
When he was the director of religious education, Schumacher also dealt with many teenage suicides.
"That was very difficult," he said.
In 1987, Schumacher received the Diocesan Distinguished Award for his 25 years of service in the priesthood and for his pastoral direction in religious education, youth ministry, campus ministry and AIDS ministry.
"To reach 50 years with any job is a huge accomplishment," said Anna Lenz, HRS music teacher. "To do it with a high stress job is even more amazing."
Schumacher was also called to the prison in Appleton, where 1,700 men were locked up.
"Three times a week, I got locked up with them," he said.
After singing songs of praise and sharing in communion with the congregation, Schumacher concluded the Mass. He then received a standing ovation. He wanted to make sure everyone was clear about one thing, though.
"I'm not retiring," he said. "I'm just celebrating."
Schumacher will also be honored on Saturday at Carlin Hall, following the 5 p.m. Mass at Holy Redeemer Church.