ST. MARYS — After a lifetime of helping others, Jerry Schetter, a life-long resident of St. Marys, has heeded God’s call to become a Catholic priest.
Schetter grew up in a strong, Catholic family. He attended Holy Rosary School and grew up observing his uncle, who is a priest. Schetter said his uncle never told him to become a priest; however, his presence had an influence on Schetter’s life.
“It was the subtle appearance, the presence of being around him, that had an influence on my life,” Schetter said. “Seeing him say mass, knowing he was my uncle. It was just the priestly presence.”
Schetter attended Memorial High School. It was a point in time in his life where he was away from God. While he still attended mass every Sunday, Schetter was in a different environment, he said. He was associating with different people with different backgrounds.
“I was a typical high school boy,” Schetter said. “I chased girls, girls chased me. I was involved in sports. I did what the typical high schooler and man would do. I wasn’t any different.”
After finishing school, Schetter grew back toward his faith.
“Somewhere along the line I learned that I was called to be a servant to others,” Schetter said. “Not necessarily that I was called to be a priest at the time, but I was being called to be a servant to others. I always had this knack of wanting to do for other people.”
Schetter began helping people when a friend of his got him involved in Jaycees.
“It was a very, very active forum — we kept very busy,” Schetter said. “We threw the best concerts around. We started the first community celebration of what now is SummerFest.”
Schetter also got involved in the Chamber of Commerce and Scouting. His friend, a police officer, then introduced him to skiing.
“He was being of service to others on the ski slope by being on the ski patrol,” Schetter said. “Those that got in trouble and hurt themselves or needed help down the hill, he was there for them. And I got to thinking, ‘Hey that’s pretty cool.’ So I got involved in ski patrol.”
Schetter was also a part of the committee that organized the building of Memorial Bridge. The committee was able to build the bridge solely through private donations.
“The citizens of the community donated their time, material and talents to build the bridge,” Schetter said. “It was amazing watching how something can start and how something can develop by the love of one another and for the betterment of somebody else and how people would come back and respond.”
The theme of helping others carried through to the building of the roof of the bridge.
“There was this hurricane in the Carolinas, and it knocked down all these trees and the farmers around here got together and sent hay and money down to them to help them out,” Schetter said. “Their response was to turn about and help one another, too. So they returned and sent material back here and sent the shingles back here for the roof of the bridge. It was amazing.”
Schetter also helped coach track and cross country. He said the athletes he coached learned from him, not because he was a good coach, but because he was someone they could trust.
“It wasn’t because of us and our coaching ability,” Schetter said. “They learned what it was to work hard and they learned how to respond to what others were saying.”
Schetter said he had received subtle nudges about becoming a priest throughout his life. He was asked to teach religion at Holy Rosary, and, at the time, Schetter said he did not think he was right for the job.
“I didn’t have a teaching background,” he said. “I hadn’t gone to school for teaching. I probably thought my faith at the time was only mediocre to be able to teach somebody else. Well how can I be a teacher? So I said yes.”
Schetter taught young teenagers, a group he said that was challenging to begin with. After his first class, Schetter thought he needed to quit, when he ran into the director, who complimented him on a job well done and told Schetter that God was calling him to this.
“I got to realize that there probably was something there and maybe I was touching somebody,” Schetter said. “I continued and then I turned to love teaching.”
Schetter knew it was time after he and his sister, Julia sold their business, Unique Awards and Signs.
“We were at work and Julia looked over at me and said, ‘Well now what’s your excuse for why you’re not going to become a priest?’” Schetter said.
Schetter entered the seminary in 2005. Last weekend, he was ordained to the Catholic priesthood by the Rev. Leonard P. Blair at the Cathedral of Our Lady, Queen of the Holy Rosary in Toledo.
“It was a glorious experience,” Schetter said. “It was probably the most heavenly experience I’ve ever experienced. The joy that’s come on to me now is kind of overwhelming. The whole weekend was overwhelming.”
Schetter said he appreciated of all of the people who came out to congratulate and support him.
“Beyond my maternal family — it’s the family of the community itself and the people that I grew up with from high school, to business associates, to people that I had met and skied with years ago and that I hadn’t seen in forever,” Schetter said. “All of a sudden these people just came for me. It was just an awesome experience. God’s calling is kind of unbelievable sometimes.”
Schetter will begin his ministry as an associate pastor in Perrysburg at St. Rose Parish.
Schetter said he is looking forward to working with the kids at the school. He is also hoping to stay involved with ministry to those in nursing homes.
“I hope to be there present for those that are in need of Christ in their time of ill and their time of dying,” Schetter said.
Schetter said he knows his route to priesthood was unorthodox, but he said people often never know when they will hear God’s call.
“We don’t know when we will receive God’s call and when we will accept what he wants from us until we get to that point,” Schetter said. “Where someone goes in their life, we don’t know, but it develops in us, where God is leading us in our life.”