Father George moves on

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At 69, Msgr. George Schroeder thought he would retire as the priest of Holy Name Catholic Church in a year.

But life had other plans.

During Holy Week, Schroe-der was offered a position as the vicar for clergy for the Archdiocese of Denver. Schroeder, who has been with the Steamboat Springs Catholic Church for 12 years, will oversee personnel for priests in Northern Colorado. In the new position, he will work with more than 400 priests and deacons in a 40,000 square-mile area in 24 counties. Schroeder will leave in June to take the new position.

"It was something I was never expecting. The plans were to stay here one more year and then retire," Schroeder said. "I thought about it, and this is what is being asked. I'll try it for at least a year and not more than a few."

Affectionately known as Father George, Schroeder has been a church leader with a good sense of humor, who is knowledgeable about the Bible and world issues and how they relate to Catholicism, office sectary Betsy Johnston said.

Johnston said that along with the typical sermons, Schroeder leads discussions that allow parishioners a question-and-answer session. He also is talented in tying together Sunday's three biblical readings, she said.

"He is a wonderful homilist, someone who delivers a very good sermon," Johnston said.

Holy Name has 500 parishioners, and Schroeder also delivers Sunday Mass at Saint Martin of Tours Catholic Church in Oak Creek.

Betsy Taylor, who directs the Holy Name Preschool, said she is amazed by the range of emotions Schroeder goes through in a single day, from dealing with happy couples preparing for marriage to those grieving after the death of loved ones.

He also has a knack for reaching out to everyone, Taylor said.

"He reaches everybody at the place where they are in their spiritual journey," Taylor said. "It's one of the wonderful things about him. He wants to be there for you in whatever you need through your journey."

Before coming to Steamboat, Schroeder had been involved in campus ministry for much of his career. He first worked with campus ministries in the 1970s at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. In 1983, he moved to Denver to take on a position as the Director of Campus Ministries.

Schroeder said he enjoyed working with college students, who were at a time in their lives when they were questioning their faith. He liked being the one to walk with them during that process, he said.

In 1993, he asked to be moved to a parish and was sent to Steamboat after Father Tom Dentice left. He found the people in Steamboat to be self-starters, who easily expressed their opinions and not much different than those he came across during his campus ministries.

"It wasn't as much of a change as people might think," he said.

If Schroeder could come up with bumper stickers for Steamboat, they would read "I'm growing up in Steamboat" and "Working in paradise is a lot different than playing in paradise."

"They are two sayings I use a lot," he said.

Schroeder also talks about the tremendous family support in the parish.

Schroeder's first inkling of priesthood occurred while growing up in Duluth, Minn. At the time, he helped serve mass, and during one Christmas season night service, he thought, "wouldn't it be nice to be a priest?"

The feeling grew stronger during grade school through high school, and he went to seminary and then theology school.

He said the question of his calling arose again when his high school classmates were getting married and pursuing careers while he was in school.

"Here I was studying Latin, asking myself why am I doing this. What would I rather be doing than this -- a lawyer, a social worker, broadcasting, drama production," he said. "Every single one of these things I could think about doing, I could do in the priesthood."

Among the highlights of his 43 years in the priesthood was being involved in World Youth Day in 1993, when Pope John Paul II visited Denver.

Schroeder has a photo album of the event, photos of the thousands who came to the Sunday Mass at Cherry Creek State Park and close-up photos of the pope delivering Mass.

"It was a very moving experience," he said.

He enjoyed visiting the Holy Land eight times on pilgrimages. It was a chance to understand where Jesus walked and Christianity began, he said.

He visited central Turkey, Greece and Rome.

A traveler, Schroeder said he had thought of being a chaplain on a cruise ship when he retired.

Schroeder also has had milestones during his service at Holy Name.

He was on the board that started LIFT-UP. "It's an agency that helps evaluate and respond to those in need," Schroeder said.

Another milestone was helping establish the ecumenical services for Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Johnston said Schroeder showed compassion to all who came into the office in need. "It's how willing he is to help them as well as counsel them if they need to talk to somebody," Johnston said.

Johnston and Taylor said the community will miss Schroeder, but the parish is excited about his new position.

Father Ernest Bayer, who had spent three years in Craig, will replace Schroeder.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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