Father Eugene Schaeffer
Family: Mother, Kathryn Kennelly; daughters, Brittany Hanson and Amanda Schaeffer; grandchildren, Kynareth and Dexter
Home parish: St. Joseph in Cottleville
Education: Bachelor’s degree in computer science from Northeast Missouri State University (now Truman State University); eight years of formation with the permanent diaconate program for the Archdiocese of St. Louis; master’s degree in divinity from St. Pope John XXIII Seminary in Weston, Massachusetts
First Mass as a priest: 12:15 p.m. Sunday, May 29, at St. Joseph Church in Cottleville. Deacon Allen Boedeker, who anticipates being ordained to the priesthood in 2023, will serve as a deacon at Father Schaeffer’s first Mass.
The call: Father Schaeffer often describes his vocation story as something that slowly unfolded over time. “I didn’t have a burning bush moment,” he quipped.
He attended high school seminary at St. Louis Preparatory Seminary-North, but paused his discernment there. He went off to college, eventually starting a career. He was married and had two daughters, who are now in their 20s, both of whom have been supportive of their father’s decision to enter the seminary.
Father Schaeffer was employed in health care IT for nearly 30 years, mostly as a leader of application developers and business analysts. After he and his wife divorced, he became more active in his parish, All Saints in St. Peters. He also served as a teacher with the Parish School of Religion. Someone suggested that he consider the permanent diaconate, and several years after his annulment was finalized, he entered the diaconate program. He was ordained for the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 2007 and has served his entire diaconate at St. Joseph Parish in Cottleville.
The possibility of the priesthood re-emerged during a conversation with his spiritual director, Father Mark Chrismer, who helped him research seminary programs that focus on older vocations. The two came upon Pope St. John XXIII in Weston, which is dedicated to the formation of older seminarians, typically 30 years of age and older.
Father Schaeffer sees his response to God’s call to the priesthood as a “humbling of self and a giving myself up to the people of God and to serve them in a way that the archbishop and the Church feels is best to serve.”
A deacon is ordained to serve, and a priest is ordained to shepherd, he said, adding that service is rooted in everything that an ordained minister does. The diaconate gives a man the heart of a servant that he carries with him into the priesthood.
“There’s wisdom in the fact that you’re ordained a deacon before you’re ordained a priest,” he said. “My period of transition is just longer.”
The journey toward the priesthood has been a pursuit of peace and calm, something that the world so desperately needs today, Father Schaeffer said. One of his favorite sayings is: “where peace is, there Christ is.”
As a priest, he sees his mission as bringing unity and a sense of welcome to others, while holding to the truths of the Church. We also must learn how to seek forgiveness from God, through the sacrament of reconciliation, so that we can forgive others.
“Approaching God who loves us immensely without limit … and asking for His mercy and being forgiven, it gives us a sense of calm when we leave that sacrament, a sense of grace. And that grace helps us be that calming presence in other people’s lives,” he said.