Inspired by the Blessed Mother under her title, “Our Lady of the Poor,” the late Father Aloysius Schwartz set out to serve the poorest of the poor, ultimately drawing them closer to Christ.
The American priest’s teachings and legacy, which included a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Banneux, and his founding of the Sisters of Mary and the World Villages for Children, will be highlighted at a mission Oct. 16-18 at St. Clement of Rome Church in Des Peres.
The three-day mission will be led by Father Dan Leary, a missionary priest and chaplain for the Sisters of Mary currently ministering in Chalco, Mexico.
Father Schwartz, a native of Washington, D.C., began his ministry serving poor children in South Korea after the Korean War. In 1964, he founded the Sisters of Mary, a religious order dedicated to serving the poor around the world.
He also founded a nonprofit organization, World Villages for Children, which provides financial support to the charity programs of the Sisters of Mary. The sisters educate and care for more than 20,000 children every year who are living in extreme poverty in the Philippines, South Korea, Mexico, Guatemala, Brazil, Honduras and Tanzania.
In 1992, Father Schwartz died from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease). His cause for canonization was opened, and in 2015 Pope Francis declared Father Schwartz venerable, meaning “heroic in virtue.”
Deacon Rich Vehige of St. Clement of Rome Parish noted that Father Schwartz’s legacy offers a message to all followers of Christ, and particularly to those who currently work with the poor. For starters, Father Schwartz prayed to be Christ-like.
“He thought he could best do that by identifying with Christ as a poor man — he chose to be poor,” Deacon Vehige said. Father Schwartz also had an emphasis on the salvation of souls in ministering to the poor and understanding that “Christ is as present in the poor as what Christ is present in the Eucharist.”
Father Schwartz also warned against the dangers of material wealth. After a person’s basic needs are met, it is essential to share any extra with the poor. Deacon Vehige said Matthew 25 comes to mind: “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Our Lady of Banneux
Despite Father Schwartz’s accomplishments and his cause for canonization, the priest prayed that he would not be known. His prayer was for the focus to be on the poor. He wanted the Blessed Mother to receive all of the credit.
Father Schwartz had a special devotion to the Blessed Mother under her title, “Our Lady of the Poor.” In 1933, the Blessed Mother appeared several times to to Mariette Beco, a young girl in Banneux, Belgium.
Clothed in white with a sky blue cincture, Our Lady of Banneux appeared to her several times, and said: “I come to relieve suffering,” and “Believe in me and I will believe in you.” The Church recognized the apparitions as authentic in 1949.
Father Schwartz declared Our Lady of Banneux as patroness of the Sisters of Mary, instructing the community to be a “living book” in which faithful can easily understand and appreciate Our Lady’s message of service to the poor.
“We must try to imitate ‘the Virgin of the Poor’ and model our lives after her,” he said. “By resembling her in every way we show who she is, what she is like, and what are her goals and objectives.“
St. John Paul II, in a letter on the 50th anniversary of the apparitions, said that Our Lady appeared at Banneux as a messenger of peace. “In a certain way she was summoning the leaders of society to become the artisans of peace and educators of peoples, inviting each person to care for his brothers and sisters, the lowliest, the most despised and the suffering, who are all beloved by God. Today it is still up to us to pray that ‘Mary, Mediatrix of grace, ever watchful and concerned for all her children, (may) obtain for all humanity the precious gift of harmony and peace.”
“Blessed are the Poor” mission
WHAT: Father Dan Leary, a missionary priest and chaplain for the Sisters of Mary, will lead a mission on living out the first Beatitude: Blessed are the Poor.
Father Leary also will explain how Our Lady of Banneux, the “Virgin of the Poor,” inspired Venerable Father Aloysius Schwartz, and subsequently the Sisters of Mary, to operate one of the largest Catholic programs in the world in service to the poor.
Topics will include Christ in the Poor, Becoming Poor for Christ and Suffering and Salvation of Souls.
WHEN: 7 p.m. Oct. 16-18
WHERE: St. Clement of Rome Church, 1510 Bopp Road in Des Peres
MORE INFO: See stlreview.com/3SDzxH7