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Father of 8 to Become Priest

Raised in a Jewish home, he converted to Christianity, married, became a Protestant minister, had eight children, is a pro-life leader, and finally converted to Catholicism a few years ago. That's a long and winding road but now the 51 year old is becoming a Catholic priest.

Yeah. That's a heck of a life and he's just starting out. Amazing.

There's a nicely done and factual story on the man in the York Daily Record, a newspaper in Pennsylvania. There's a little bit of the "Look! A married priest!" but it's a good story:

A former Anglican pastor will become the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg's first married priest when he's ordained Saturday in Springettsbury Township.

Paul Schenck, 51, of Manchester Township will be ordained by Bishop Victor Galeone of the Diocese of St. Augustine (Fla.) during a 10 a.m. Mass at St. Joseph Catholic Church.

Galeone, a longtime friend of Schenck's, will perform the rite because the Diocese of Harrisburg has been without a bishop since Kevin C. Rhoades moved to an Indiana diocese in January.

Schenck, a father of eight children ages 9 to 31, began his journey to the priesthood six years ago when he converted to Catholicism after more than 20 years in evangelical and Anglican ministry.

Brought up in a Jewish home, a teenaged Schenck found Jesus in a Methodist chapel in western New York...
God bless him and his family.

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Maggie said...

Awesome story! Thanks for sharing!

Lori said...

A dear friend of ours, a former Episcopal priest and father of 5-soon-to-be-six, will be ordained a Catholic priest in October. He will be the first to tell you that he understands and respects the rule of celibacy in the priesthood, and also that he is most grateful for the opportunity to continue in his vocation as a priest.

torculus said...

Our university chaplain is a former Anglican minister now Catholic priest. He is married with at least five kids, as I recall. He is a faithful priest and is entirely grateful for the opportunity to serve. He serves two different college communities. Since his arrival we have Mass four days a week in addition to the Sunday student Liturgy. He, too, is an avid defender of the celibate priesthood. we are very grateful for this holy priest.

Tregonsee said...

Speaking as an former Episcopalian and now Anglican, we often send our best to Rome, while Rome sends its worst to us.

Anonymous said...

I am a devout Catholic. But I don't think it is fair to all the other priests who have to practice celibacy.

Meg said...

What a great, uplifting story. I'm particularly glad that our wonderful bishop will be ordaining him!

Sue said...

Speaking as a former Anglican who is now Catholic (thank you, Jesus!), maybe God is in charge of who goes where:-). Just a thought.
Love this story, love this blog. And I don't care which kind of commenter I am. OK, I do, but I don't want to:-).

Subvet said...

Must be an epidemic of sorts. Our pastor here is also a former Episcopalian and he has 4-5 children (don't know the actual amount, it's none of my beeswax). He's also a good priest, very apolitical and faithful to the Magisterium.

Anonymous said...

CURIOUS writes:
I read somewhere that when a married man converts, and becomes a Catholic priest, he begins the practise of celibacy.
Is that the true?

David L Alexander said...

"I read somewhere that when a married man converts, and becomes a Catholic priest, he begins the practise of celibacy."

In the first centuries of the Church, married men who became priests were obliged to be celibate, living with their wives "as brother and sister." Often they would separate, the wife becoming a deaconess and engaging in charitable works. In the East, a priest would refrain from relations with his wife the night before offering sacrifice, as a form of fasting. This is why there is no tradition of "daily Mass" in the Eastern churches today.

Over the centuries, however, in situations where priests have been lawfully married (and until the 20th century, outside of the East, this would have been extremely rare), the continence rule fell by the wayside.

(To the anonymous commenter, priests are not forced to practice celibacy. They accept these vows willingly.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you David, I know that celibacy is one of the three Evangelical Councels--all of which are voluntary. I am wondering if it applies in this case also.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Mr. Schenck is a fine man, but there are entirely too many ordinations of married men going on. If the bishop says yes to one, how can he deny another? Eventually, he won't.


Enoch said...

Anonymous wrote:

"I'm sure Mr. Schenck is a fine man, but there are entirely too many ordinations of married men going on. If the bishop says yes to one, how can he deny another? Eventually, he won't."

Exactly. Which is why ordaining married men is a bad idea. It sets a precedent. Eventually, the celibate priesthood will become a thing of the past, and a host of other problems will plague the Church...such as women's ordination. Isn't that how problems started in the Anglican/Episcopal churches?

It's a good and heartwarming story that a man who was raised in a Jewish home eventually found his way to Catholicism, but that doesn't make it okay to ordain him a Catholic priest.

Anonymous said...

I don't think the admissions of married former Protestant ministers as Priests will lead to the abolition of mandatory celibacy in the Latin Rite of the Church. Most of these guys are staunch supporters of Clerical Celibacy as a rule, and are more grateful than words can express to be allowed to carry their vocation into the Catholic Church. Those laymen complaining about it sound much like the older brother from the parable of the prodigal son. It's a knee-jerk reaction spoken from ignorance and unworthy of loyal sons of Holy Mother Church.

-Chris M.

Lori said...

And interestingly, it's often laymen/clergy who dissent from much else in Church teaching who complain the loudest about this. I know there is great support for the ordination of our soon-to-be priest within the diocesan clergy.

Anonymous said...


Elizabeth said...

I'm not a great supporter of married priests for a slightly different reason than anyone has brought up. That is that a husband's job is to sacrifice and provide for their wife and children, this is very difficult to do when you have all of the responsibilities that go along with being a Priest. It has absolutely nothing to do with being celibate or not. It is difficult to raise children in today's society without being pulled in so many other directions. I know many Protestant preachers think that not being married is the best way to go because their congregations are so demanding, and preachers have less demands on their time than Priests do. I have no issue with older married men becoming priests because they have finished fulfilling their primary responsibility of fatherhood.

Here is another tid-bit for thought. Married men wouldn't have to become priests if more non-married men in America would. We have a priest shortage in America and other so called civilized countries yet 3rd world countries such as many African countries have an abundance. Why is this? Maybe our priorities are just to screwed up.

Lee Gilbert said...

Fr. Slider Steurnol, a convert and a married priest had the wedding for my son 2008 and last year baptized my grandaughter. He was a wonderful, wonderful priest, simply soaked in the scriptures, a holy and gracious man.

He became a Christian while at the University of Michigan. He married his wife Jackie while he was doing ministry in England and later became a Presbyterian minister. While a minister in the Portland area, he heard of the Trappists in Lafayette, OR and through contact with them was exposed to the contemplative tradition in the Church. As a result of this he and his family converted to Catholicism.

As I recall the story, people from the Archdiocese approached him about pursuing the priesthood. Then Archbishop Levada visited his home about three times to get a sense of the family. He studied at Mt. Angel Seminary for four years and was ordained in 1996.

On Tuesday morning June 8th I happened to be at Mt. Angel Abbey and happened to see him in the guest house corridor, an image of holiness I shall never forget. He was on on retreat with the other priests of the Archdiocese of Portland at Mt. Angel Seminary.

Five hours later at 2:30PM PST Father Slider died of a heart attack while playing racquette ball. What a death, a well-provided death, on retreat at his old seminary in the midst of hundreds of other priests.

Everyone feels it to be a great loss to the Archdiocese, especially since he was heavily involved in the continuing education of priests.

Requiescat in pace...

Anonymous said...

If those of you who complain about how God (and the bishops) fill vacant pulpits
try having MORE children of your own and ACTIVELY supporting their acceptance of a call to Priesthood or religous life.
We have prevented the birth of many Priests by contracepting and murdered too many by abortion.

So, if God provides by conversion (of married men)
and by the Graces draws them to serve US as Priests,

we ought to just get down on our knees and praise God!

ArtND76 said...

I look upon mandatory celibacy as a temporary (albeit long term temporary) discipline of the church for a reason similar to the way Jesus viewed divorce as a temporary accommodation for the Jews: In the beginning it was not so...

In the beginning the church was built on Peter, a married man. See 1 Cor 9:5 for St. Paul's take on the right of an apostle to be married. Our Lord, the 2nd Person of the Trinity, could have easily chosen a celibate man to found His church on (after all, John was celibate and he didn't desert Jesus at the cross) - but He did not. That act of God sends a message.

That said, I happily submit to the keeper of the keys and the bishops ordained in succession. They have the responsibility before God, and I trust that God guides them. From the little I know of the difficulties of changing to a married priesthood I have no envy of them.

I also think that simple obedience and faithfulness to the way our Lord founded the New Testament priesthood will pull us all back to the way the priesthood (and hierarchy) started. I don't know if that will happen in my lifetime.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if David Alexander's interpretation of history would be shared by Eastern Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, but that's all right.

They might suggest that the reason you have daily Mass in Roman Catholicism and not in Orthodoxy is because of the way the theology of Purgatory and satisfaction developed. The daily private Mass did not develop out of a desire to "go to Mass" every day, but out of the perceived need to offer the sacrifice for the salvation of souls in Purgatory (a Western notion) since, of course, daily,. non-festal Masses were private Masses in their origin.

If married Catholic priests affirm the discipline of clerical celibacy...should we be surprised? Would a bishop have agreed to ordain them if they didn't publicly toe the party line?

It is all quite a farce. We have a shortage of celibate priests, so in their place we have the married permanent diaconate - men giving their lives to serve the church while married, able to do everything but hear confessions and say Mass. But I thought pastoral life was too intense for the married? It's absurdities piled on absurdities.

Celibacy is a charism,and of great value and importance. Not a freakish, abnormal thing at all. But at the same time, why not adapt an historically informed system in which religious orders (of course) maintain celibacy, bishops must be celibate, but diocesan clergy may be celibate or married, with full attention given to the pressures and pitfalls of married clergy that have been experienced by Eastern Catholics, the Orthodox and Protestants over the centuries. That is to be *very* selective and honest about those pressures on spouses, families and children as well as other issues related to married clergy (from my observation of Prots - a tendency towards careerism and professionalism, which is certainly present in Catholic clergy, but takes a particular secular, American form with Protestants)

Honestly, could it be any worse than it is now?

If celibacy is so theologically and spiritual vital to the nature of orders in the contemporary RC church ...they shouldn't have started down this road of ordaining married men to either the priesthood or the diaconate in the first place.

Early Riser said...

I'm happy for this man's conversion to Catholicism, as it sounds like his morals are very much in tune with that of the church. However, I am also hesitant to jump for joy at his ordination. Not because of him being married (there are/have been/will most likely always be married priests in the Catholic church). What concerns me is the potential for his Jewish and Fundie baggage to further polute Catholic culture and tradition.

I know it is just a picture, but the first thing that jumped out at me was the Menorah in the background. No saint, crucifix or so much as a cross anywhere to be seen. Will this new priest be encorporating "Seders" or Sabath dinners into his parish as many errant modernist priests have done? Will he preach an "America FIRST!" style fundie Christianity which conveniently dismisses the magesterium when it is at odds with US foreign policy? Will his liturgies be in the Extraordinary form facing Ad Orientem or will their be hand-clapping and babbling- er...speaking in tongues along with "healing masses"?

Yes, unfortunately there is much more to answer than this story provides. The early church fathers warned us about Judaizers (note: NOT Jews-- BIG difference). And there are still plenty out there today. Heresy is heresy.

Dymphna said...

Uh. Something about this makes me uneasy. Let's check back with his kids in 10 years and see how this plays out. Who's going to pay for his children's college education? The parish? The diocese? How are his parishioners going to react on a day to day basis? If his kids act up during Mass why can't everyone elses? If you want to date Father's daughter do you have to leave the parish? I know the Orthodox deal with this but it would be a new experience for Catholics.

Katie said...

God bless him and his family!

Anonymous said...

The whole thing just sickens me. The nature of the priesthood has changed dramatically since VII. If you don't believe me, research it for yourself. Priests are no longer the one who ascends to the altar and offers the sacrifice of praise to God for the remission of sins. No, currently the priests primary role is to preach the Gospel. There is no altar anymore for the priest to ascend to, he simply presides over the meal at the table. Priests now are men, just like all the others. There is nothing special about them. They have professions just like everyone else. It began with the permanent diaconate. Celibacy really is optional these days, for some at least. I don't doubt that this man is holy. But his holiness shouldn't be the only qualifier to the priesthood. Once the priesthood goes, so will the Church. The Church cannot survive without the priesthood and it's already going to the perverts and creeps. Now this. Archbishop Lefevbre was quite prophetic when he addressed this crisis almost 50 years ago.

A. Germain said...

Why is there a menorah in his window? Mmm...

Celibacy is a higher calling, just as the priesthood is. All these exceptions seem like a rather conscious effort to undermine the discipline. I'm not saying that these are not holy men; I am sure many are. Yet, thousands of years of tradition should not be CASUALLY dispensed with, as often seems to be the case in recent times.

bleusmon said...

I am apppalled at the uncharitable speculation about Father Schenck's priesthood expressed by those of you objecting to his ordination.

First, ascending to the priesthood is not a right - it is a privilege. Acceptance by the Church that one has such a vocation is done on a case-by-case basis. Those Episcopal/Anglican priests who convert to Catholicism do not automatically beome priests, but only they among all ministers leaving Protestant denominations for Catholicism receive routine consideration for ordination. There are good historic reasons for this decision (this doesn't contradict earlier decisions that Anglican holy orders are deficient as they must still attend seminary), made by John Paul II in 1980.

Most are unaware of this, but even a good Catholic man like Paul Schenck must submit his request for priesthood to be approved by the reigning pope on an individual basis.

As for the cost of his having a family (he is actually the father of nine - NOT eight), his oldest child is 32, and I believe his youngest is in high school. However, he's been the Respect Life Director of the Diocese of Harrisburg PA for several years, and will continue to do so. Presumably his current salary arrangement will continue to cover his family obligations. He will also now accept pastoral duties at a local church, mostly on weekends, so he'll probably receive a small stipend as do other priests.

I know this man but not well, I attended his ordination this past Saturday. He is the picture of humility.

You should also know he has done more than most to put himself on the line for life (and therefore placing his family at risk, also). He was arrested for demonstating in front of an abortion mill years ago, after being warned local authorities would charge under RICO those demonstrating outside abortion mills subsequent to the warning.

The decision was made to make Paul an example and he was convicted and sentenced to a number of years in prison (can't be sure but I think it was 8). However, the Supreme Court destroyed that favored tactic of the pro-aborts by overturning that sentence and nullifying any future use of RICO against pro-lifers.

Finally, to the complaint that Father Schenck's ordination makes it especialy unfair not to routinely ordain other married men, I say "bunk!" Ordination is not an equal opportunity employer, and never will be. I could care less about how cheated others may feel about this. True vocation is not an expression of one's own desires. To want to be a priest is no qualification at all, and certainly does not constitute a "calling by God."

Anonymous said...

Raised in a Jewish home - will become the Roman Catholic priest! Uau! Which commandment's he will obey is my q.?

The God's commandment's from the Bible or invented from political Christianity during the century's?

Anonymous said...

Unrehearsed, early morning thought here. But...

If they opened priesthood to married men, I would join today. While I believe the celibate priesthood is the norm and the standard, we have a severe shortage of priests in the United States. In the current atmosphere, it wouldn't be wise to have a married man with a family living in the rectory (avoid the near-occasion of divorce and scandal). But even the married priests ONLY said 1 Mass per week or took care of the funerals, or weddings, or hospital visits and heard Confessions, it would fill a huge gap. Or if they worked at the diocese, like the Respect Life office (as the example from this story) that could work too. Just focus on the Sacraments and lift burden off the single, celibate priests. Just food for thought.

Anonymous said...

It seems most are uncomfortable with this situation. I'd rather him be married to the church only------- not a wife. It would make most people uneasy to know this "couple" and confess one's sins to the husband of your good friend.. Yikes.

ArtND76 said...

I read a number of the preceding comments and see viewpoints that seem to miss what I (and Pope Benedict, although in perhaps a different way) see as a fundamental cause in both the pedophilia problem and shortage of priests problem: a lack of fidelity.

Fidelity to what? To the teachings of Jesus Christ. Celibacy is a gift to be freely entered into, and so is the ministerial priesthood. Here is what I confess I do not understand after much study and research: What must be carefully explained and justified is the requirement that the two must be tied together in one case that happens to represent over 99% of the priesthood versus not being required in some other cases. Now I am sure there have been very good reasons to tie the two together over the past 900 years or so, but in the beginning, as instituted by our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the two were separate. In fact, one could soundly argue from the scriptural account of Jesus' choice of apostles and choice of Peter that while it is okay for celibate men to be priests and bishops, it is a preference that bishops and the pope be married!

So I am happy when I hear of married converts being considered and ordained, as I am when I hear of widowers being considered and ordained. The priesthood is enriched by those who have struggled and been proven faithful - and as Benedict has said himself, lack of fidelity was and is a root cause of problems in the priesthood. To have struggled and been proven is an obviously much better criteria (2 Tim 3) than being unmarried before even being considered.

ArtND76 said...

I had a typo in the last line, the reference should be 1 Tim 3.

Anonymous said...

Whatever.. it was only Christ that asked for celibacy..

ArtND76 said...

Anonymous @5:13PM
If Christ required or even preferred celibacy, then he would not have named Peter (a married man) to be the first Pope (keeper of the keys). So I hold that Christ does ask some for celibacy, but originally He did not as a condition for priesthood. John was celibate, Jesus could have named him. John didn't deny Jesus 3 times, either. Could it be that Peter was chosen because he had struggled and been proven humble, rather than his marital state?

Wine in the Water said...

I'm truly saddened by the responses to this post.

I can understand being apprehensive about ordaining married convert clergy. I disagree, but there is room for questioning the wisdom of this (although not for denying the Church dogma that makes it possible).

But the widespread turning of this apprehension into criticisms and aspersions of a man that almost no one on this board knows - to the point of accusing him of the Judaizing heresies! - is utterly astounding .. and utterly un-Catholic.

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