With all due respect, someone should take away Fr. John Schmitz’s driver’s license.

The Ripon priest doesn’t seem to know his brake pedal from his accelerator.

When the Milwaukee Archdiocese required him to retire 10 years ago at age 75, Schmitz confused “step down” with “pick it up,” showing no interest in being any less of a vital, active, faithful cleric.

So devoted has he been for the past 60 years that a few of his closest church friends and family members recently decided to celebrate his diamond jubilee.

So almost 500 celebrated mass with St. Patrick Catholic Church’s former pastor June 10, followed by a dinner/roast attended by even more loyal followers of the 85-year-old man for whom “take it easy” has never been an option when doing God’s work.

Eleven days after Feb. 6, 1952, when Princess Elizabeth Windsor agreed to serve England, John Schmitz, the oldest of six children born to dairy farmers in Lannon, Wis., agreed to devote his life to God by serving the Catholic Church.

While many priests move on to the next parish after five to 10 years, Father Schmitz must have missed that memo.

After his ordination on Feb. 17, 1952 at St. Francis Seminary, Milwaukee, he performed rites and administered sacraments in Racine (12 years), Oconomowoc (six years) and then, in 1970 at St. Patrick in Ripon until he retired from “active ministry” in 2002.

“Retiring” after 32 years in Ripon, where he led the effort to build the church structure that now houses St. Catherine of Siena, Father Schmitz shows no interest in slowing down.

As senior priest, he offers mass during the week and on weekends, at churches, nursing homes, retirement centers and daily in the chapel located in the basement of his home off Old Berlin Road.

“You are a priest forever,” Fr. Schmitz told the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Catholic Herald, reflecting on his ministry.

He has been a temporary administrator at parishes in Byron, Oakfield, Lomira, Theresa, Waupun and Brendan, and has ministered to prisoners in Waupun and Redgranite. He is a fill-in priest at some 39 parishes within a 60-mile radius of Ripon....

After 60 years Fr. Schmitz continues to inspire loyalty by virtue of his own example that you can’t retire from being a man of God.

God bless you, Father. — Tim Lyke

To read the entire editorial, see the June 21, 2012 edition of The Ripon Commonwealth Press.

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