Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of June 11, 2007
This shepherd-to-be looks for good souls
Andrew Schoenberger wants to repay God for all of his blessings
By RAMON GONZALEZ
"I think he will be a great priest, very devoted to service of people without boundaries."
- Msgr. Robert Poulin
"He was a good influence in the parish and people loved him," he said. "He was very kind and devoted to his work and I think he will be a great priest, very devoted to service of people without boundaries."
Schoenberger is also a skilled guitar player and a good musician and those skills will serve him well in his ministry, Poulin said.
At St. Jean Baptiste, Schoenberger worked with the altar servers and youth and helped out with the Christian initiation of adults. He also served as diocesan coordinator of the World Youth Day trip to Germany, sending about 22 young people to the event.
Born in Edmonton, Schoenberger spent the first four years of his life just 11 km west of Morinville and was baptized in Mearns.
In 1984, the family moved to Iron River, near Bonnyville, where Schoenberger attended public schools until Grade 6. He later attended Catholic schools in Bonnyville from Grades 7 to 12.
Following his high school graduation in 1999, Schoenberger entered St. Peter's Seminary in London, Ont., where he completed his bachelor of arts in philosophy in 2002. Since then, he has been studying at Newman College and St. Joseph Seminary.
Schoenberger, who was ordained a deacon July 4, 2006, made the decision to become a priest in Grade 11, but his call started to take shape in his childhood. He attended church regularly with his parents Martin and Susan and by age seven, he was already an altar boy.
One time, the pastor seeing his dedication, went up to the lad and asked him to give the priesthood some consideration.
"I remember just lighting up," recalled Schoenberger. "I remember praying at that time in my life: Lord, let me know what you want me to do with my life."
Later on, at his Confirmation, the late Bishop Raymond Roy asked a similar question. "As he was confirming me, he looked at my name tag and he said, 'Oh, your are Andrew. Have you ever thought about being a priest or maybe even a bishop?'"
At the time Schoenberger took the bishop's remark as a joke, but it never left his mind.
Following his Confirmation, however, Schoenberger developed doubts about his faith and it took until Grade 11 for God to rekindle the fire.
"This is a small way to say 'thank you' to the Lord for everything he's done."
- Andrew Schoenberger
In the middle of Grade 11, he attended a SEARCH retreat in Taber and found it "enlightening."
"I really felt that weekend that I loved Jesus," he recalled. "This is why I go to church on Sunday; this is why faith is important."
Inspired, he volunteered as a counsellor at Camp St. Louis, a Catholic summer camp.
"That sparked my journey toward the priesthood because they had a talk on vocations," he recalled.
"It prompted me to pray about what vocation God would be calling me to and I thought maybe God is calling me to be a priest."
As he moved closer to the end of high school, Schoenberger felt a greater sense of peace with his decision. On the recommendation of St. Paul Bishop Thomas Collins, Schoenberger entered St. Peter's Seminary in London.
"Bishop Collins (a former rector at St. Peter's Seminary) was one of the first ones I talked to when I thought about the priesthood and he took the time out of his schedule to meet with me and that meant a lot to me," Schoenberger said.
"Then he journeyed with me as much as he could throughout my Grade 12 year, which was very much appreciated. It certainly was a great help, a great affirmation."
What kind of priest will Schoenberger be?
"I see the Church's teaching and I understand it and I try to live it the best I can. I also realize that the Church is always looking for the good of souls and I am not going to stand by the letter of the law if the spirit of the law is saying something different. I'm not inflexible."
He believes his role "is to empower and to strengthen the lay people in the Church so they can bring the message of Christ into the world."
Schoenberger, one of the youngest seminarians from St. Joseph Seminary in recent memory, is aware that in most cases his parishioners will be old enough to be his parents.
That's a bonus, he said, "because they have a wealth of experience that I can learn from. I may have more theology training than them. But in terms of life experience, they are much richer than I am.
"If I am to do my ministry in a wise fashion, I'm going to take advantage of that and dialogue with my parishioners."
One of Schoenberger's first acts as a priest will be to officiate at the wedding of his younger sister, Jacquie, 24, who will get married in Bonnyville July 7.
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