Local Religious life

Change of plans

God’s call puts future real estate mogul on another track

by Joe Bollig

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — In the 1965 classic, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” Lucy’s complaint is: “I never get what I really want. I always get a lot of stupid toys.”

“What is it you want?” asks Charlie Brown.

“Real estate,” replies Lucy.

Deacon Daniel Schmitz and Lucy had something in common. The big goal of his life, too, was real estate.

“I was going to do real estate mostly,” he said. “I was working in a bank as a credit analyst. I was going to be a loan officer and, at the same time, continue buying houses until I had enough rental income to retire. I planned on doing that at age 35, and then do whatever I wanted for the rest of my life.”

God, however, had something else in mind.

Deacon Schmitz was raised in a rather traditional Catholic farm family. His parents raised him and his four siblings on a small, diversified family farm — storybook stuff that has become increasingly less common.

Both his mother and father came from large families, so he had lots of uncles, aunts and cousins — all Catholic.

“We always knew church was important,” said Deacon Schmitz. “We wouldn’t miss it for anything, except sickness.”

He played in a summer basketball league. There were several Catholics on the team, so his father made sure everybody made it to Mass. Family get-togethers were preceded by Mass.

“We would always start and end our meals as a family with prayer,” he said. “I didn’t realize [until I was in college that] ending meals with prayer was not typical.”

He graduated from high school and pursued a degree that would suit his ambitions in entrepreneurship and finance. While in college, he worked in a bank and bought houses.

Everything seemed to be right on track for his plan to retire at 35. But then a nagging thought bothered him: Then what?

“That’s what got me started thinking about [the] seminary. When I realized, ‘What would I do for the rest of my life?’” he said, “I [decided that I] wanted to help people.”

He reached an unexpected, critical point during his junior year of college when the president of the bank offered him a job as a loan officer.

“That was the first time I really thought hard about what I was going to do,” said Deacon Schmitz. “I realized that I wanted to help people in the most important way possible — through the sacraments. That was the first time the light bulb went off and I thought, ‘Hey, I should be a priest!’”

“Of course, I ran away from that thought for a while,” he continued. “It just kept coming back more and more. I was trying to do anything but that. [I thought], ‘I can teach RCIA and catechism classes. I can work for a Catholic family credit union and help people with important things.’

“But I realized all those would leave me unfulfilled. I needed to search out something greater.”

His college chaplain knew.

“I’ve been thinking about talking to you for a while,” he said. “I think you should spend some time in [the] seminary.”

Deacon Schmitz decided to veer off the ambitious road he’d set himself on. He would complete his degree, then explore the possibility of a priestly vocation at the seminary.

The clincher came while he was on a retreat for college students. The priest leading the retreat talked about how he, too, had been on the fence about his vocation. When he finally made a decision, it was like “buckets and buckets” of grace being poured on him.

“I thought, ‘I want that, too,’” said Deacon Schmitz. “That was the moment I decided that I had to try it for at least a year.

“And I’ve got to say, it’s been a similar experience of ‘buckets and buckets of grace’ being poured on me.”

Getting support and approval from the family was a big deal.

“[My family said] they would sup- port me in my decision,” he said. “They wanted me to be happy in life. If this was what was it, then God bless you.”

“I learned in seminary that there aren’t a lot of young, Catholic men whose families will support them,” he continued. “Thankfully, mine did, and it made it a lot easier for me. The closer I get to ordination, the more excited I get, and the more excited and supportive are my family members.”

He has never regretted his decision. Following God’s call has brought him a lot of peace.

“When I decided to go to [the] seminary, I was able to take whatever situation I was in as a gift of God and say, ‘Lord, where are you in this situation?’” said Deacon Schmitz.

Being a deacon has been “an amazing experience,” and he’s really enjoyed preaching the word of God. It makes him look forward all the more eagerly to his future priestly ministry.

Deacon Schmitz will be ordained 10:30 a.m. on May 25 at St. Matthew Church in Topeka.

About the author

Joe Bollig

Joe has been with The Leaven since 1993. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications and a master’s degree in journalism. Before entering print journalism he worked in commercial radio. He has worked for the St. Joseph (Mo.) News-Press and Sun Publications in Overland Park. During his journalistic career he has covered beats including police, fire, business, features, general assignment and religion. While at The Leaven he has been a writer, photographer and videographer. He has won or shared several Catholic Press Association awards, as well as Archbishop Edward T. O’Meara awards for mission coverage. He graduated with a certification in catechesis from a two-year distance learning program offered by the Maryvale Institute for Catechesis, Theology, Philosophy and Religious Education at Old Oscott, Great Barr, in Birmingham, England.

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