Cincinnati native heeds call to priesthood in Erie diocese

.- By Carmen M. Hubbard

Sometimes hearing God’s call to minister can be difficult to understand. Although Father Johnathan Schmolt’s family knew he had the makings of a priest, it wasn’t always clear to him, he said.

"My family said ‘it was about time.’ Everybody who knows me wasn’t surprised, so I’m the last to figure this out," Father Schmolt said. "In high school and in college, I looked into the religious path as a Jesuit or Dominican. At that time (becoming) a diocesan priest was not particularly appealing. I believed in what I wanted to do and said, ‘Lord, stop bothering me. I tried it and it didn’t work out.’"

Ultimately, the Anderson Township native heeded God’s command and was ordained on June 6, 2008, at St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in the Diocese of Erie in Pennsylvania.

He now serves as the pastor of St. Jude the Apostle Church, ministering to 2,300 families. Father Schmolt is one of three priests in the area who entered the seminary over age 30. Typically, men are in their twenties when they enter the seminary right after college, he said.

As a child, Father Schmolt attended Immaculate Heart of Mary School and is a graduate of Covington Latin High School. Father Schmolt, 36, made his way to Erie seeking volunteer opportunities through the diocese while in college during the early 1990s. He spent summers assisting economically disadvantaged Appalachian residents in the area. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Northern Kentucky University, he moved to northern Pennsylvania to work as a computer programmer and continue volunteering through the Diocese of Erie.

"I thought about the priesthood in the sixth grade," he said. "When I got the calling again, I finally asked God what He wanted me to do. It took six years to re-ask the question. It took two months to answer ‘What am I going to do about it?’" he said.

During the ordination, Father Schmolt’s mother, Jeanine, was presented with her son’s maniturgium — a cloth used to wipe his hands with holy oil. His father, Paul, was given another cloth that Father Schmolt wore when he heard his first confession.

"It’s an honor. God has blessed us. The most powerful thing is when you go to Mass and say, ‘That’s my son,’" Jeanine Schmolt said of her oldest of three children. "He was always interested in the church. I said, ‘God is using you for something.’"

Last summer Father Schmolt returned home to celebrate one of his first Masses at Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was a chance for Father Schmolt’s family members who were unable to attend his ordination in Erie to celebrate with him locally.

"His grandmothers would be so proud," Jeanine Schmolt said.

Father Jan Schmidt, pastor of St. Margaret of York in Loveland, was a longtime pastor at Immaculate Heart of Mary and met Father Schmolt when he returned home for Christmas, Easter and on break from the seminary.

"He’s very likable and very helpful," Father Schmidt said. "He’s been involved in liturgy. He’ll make a fine priest. I’m glad and joyful, but I wish he was a priest for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati."

Father Schmolt said he was never against becoming a priest and enjoys the rewards and challenges it brings. "The priesthood means being full of God and prayer. I get to talk to people who are in trouble. That’s the best part of what you do," he said.

Father Schmolt also leads various staff meetings to "move the organization forward" and "balances the (parish’s) checkbook."

"The whole business component may not have been in the priesthood 50 years ago. I’m very satisfied," he said.

Courtesy of The Catholic Telegraph, January 9, 2009.

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