Capuchin Changes Affect Ellis County
From The Salina Register
Thursday, 30 May 2013 09:14
Victoria — St. Fidelis Parish and its missions in Walker and Vincent will have a new pastor later this summer, but he won’t be an unfamiliar face to the area.
Capuchin Father John Schmeidler will come to Victoria to succeed Capuchin Father Jeffrey Ernst as pastor of St. Fidelis, St. Ann in Walker and St. Boniface in Vincent and administrator of Holy Cross Shrine in Pfeifer.
A native of Hays and a 1983 graduate of Thomas More Prep-Marian High School in Hays, Father Schmeidler has been pastor of St. John the Evangelist Parish in Lawrence since 2004.
With the approval of Bishop Edward Weisenburger, Capuchin Father Christopher Popravak, provincial of the Mid-American Province of the Capuchin Franciscans in Denver, announced last week the assignments for friars serving parishes in Ellis County. Capuchins have served some of those parishes since 1878.
The assignments are effective Aug. 1.
Capuchinn Father Jeffrey Ernst
Father Ernst, who has been at Victoria the past two years, will become parochial vicar at St. John in Lawrence, with an emphasis on ministry to the Hispanic community. He will be joined by Capuchin Father Michael Scully as pastor. Father Scully also is a former pastor of the Hays and Victoria parishes.
A year ago, the Capuchins announced they would be withdrawing at the end of July 2013 from St. Joseph Parish in Hays, where they have served since 1878. That included the closing of St. Joseph Friary. Capuchins living there will be moving to St. Fidelis Friary in Victoria.
Capuchin Father Earl Befort, who was serving as pastor at St. Joseph, now will be local superior of the Victoria fraternity.
He will continue to be pastor of Our Lady, Help of Christians Parish in Antonino and St. Anthony Parish in Schoenchen, priest supervisor of St. Catherine Parish in Catharine and chaplain at Thomas More Prep-Marian Junior-Senior High School in Hays.
Two diocesan priests — Father Fred Gatschet and Father Charles Awotwi — will be staffing St. Joseph as pastor and parochial vicar, respectively. Father Gatschet continues as campus minister at Comeau Catholic Campus Center next to Fort Hays State University, and Father Awotwi will assist him there, as well.
Capuchin Father Barnabas Eichor will leave St. Joseph after two years as parochial vicar and begin a prison ministry assignment in Denver.
With the closing of St. Joseph Friary in Hays, retired Capuchin Fathers Canice Froehlich and Felix Petrovsky will move to Victoria. Also retiring to Victoria is Capuchin Father Gilmary Tallman, who has been parochial vicar at the Lawrence parish. A Hays native, he has served both Hays and Victoria parishes as pastor and is a former president of TMP-Marian.
It will be an interesting homecoming for Father Schmeidler, since he hasn’t lived full-time in Ellis County since graduating from high school.
“I’ve been gone so long — I’ve been back to visit — it will be interesting to see what’s happened,” he said. “To me, it’s returning home.”
Father Schmeidler attended three years of college before taking a year off to discern a religious vocation. He professed vows with the Capuchins in 1990 and was ordained in 1997.
He has never had a Capuchin assignment in his home county. His primary work, he said, has been in St. Louis and Lawrence, although he has spent some time in Denver on Capuchin work.
Father Schmeidler said he knows there will be some differences in his new posting at Victoria, Walker and Vincent.
“It will be a smaller community,” he said. “St. John the Evangelist is a pretty big parish. But I know I’ll enjoy whatever I’m doing.”
Some of his family is in the Hays area, including a sister and nieces and nephews. Two brothers are a few hours away in Kansas, and his mother, Mary, lives in Hoisington. His father, Marcellus, died in 1986.