When Eric Schild was in elementary school, some classmates used to call him Father.
That nickname proved prophetic: Mr. Schild will be ordained today as a priest in the Toledo Catholic Diocese.
I would say it s something that others always saw in me, even since second grade, Mr. Schild said of his decision to be a priest. I remember my classmates in second grade calling me Father once in a while, which was funny. But I would say I probably realized the call in eighth grade.
A native of Norwalk, Mr. Schild will be ordained into the priesthood by Bishop Leonard Blair in an 11 a.m. service at Rosary Cathedral.
He will be the diocese s lone ordinand this year.
Certainly at ordination I ll have to know what I m doing because I can t follow the guy in front of me, he said with a laugh.
But Mr. Schild, 27, who graduated from St. Meinrad School of Theology in Indiana, said it has not been lonely being the diocese s only new priest of 2007.
It s one of those things that you would certainly like to have classmates, but there is a great camaraderie of priests, specifically with the four who were ordained last year, he said. I m very good friends with them. And I m very good friends with a number of priests. It s not like we separate into classes.
It was the friendship and mentoring of other priests that helped Mr. Schild decide to pursue the priesthood, he said.
There was a priest here at Norwalk St. Paul that said, I really think you would be a good priest. At first, I said, I just don t see that. But he certainly watered a seed that had been planted. He nurtured that and helped me to grow spiritually. He got me involved in the church and when I felt so much energy, I felt on fire for the Lord.
Mr. Schild also cited the encouragement and support he received from the Rev. Harvey Keller, a retired priest in Norwalk, and two relatives in the priesthood an uncle, the Rev. Tony Borgia, pastor of St. Peter Parish in Mansfield, Ohio, and a cousin, the Rev. Benedict Ringnolz, retired.
Throughout my life, I have had good examples of priests who very much encouraged me, he said. And I always had examples of happy, joyful priests. I think that is so powerful a thing to realize. You work hard, but you can have fun. Love life, love the ministry.
Mr. Schild, the oldest of three boys born to Dennis and Karen Schild of Norwalk, graduated from St. Paul Elementary and St. Paul High School in Norwalk.
He received a bachelor s in communications and philosophy from John Carroll University in Cleveland; a master s of arts and a master s of divinity from St. Meinrad, and a master s in education from the University of Dayton.
I have been Catholic schooled all of my life and I m grateful for that. I really sets a great foundation for a young man or a young woman, he said.
He entered the seminary in the fall of 2002, the year that the U.S. Catholic Church was rocked by the clerical sexual abuse scandal, but said the crisis did not deter him from his calling.
I would say two things resulted from that, Mr. Schild said. One, the people of God became ever more supportive of priests. ... And the abuse scandal made seminarians realize that a lot of work needs to go into the seminary. We need to do our best so that when we are ordained, we are happy, healthy, and holy priests.
Mr. Schild said he learned a lot during his year of internship at Toledo s Little Flower Parish, during the 2004-05 school year, working under the tutelage of the Rev. Joseph Steinbauer.
Things don t always happen according to the textbook when you re in real-life ministry, he said.
The internship helped him apply the book knowledge he had acquired from years of classroom training to help people in everyday life, Mr. Schild said.
And helping people is really what the calling is all about, he added.
All the advice priest have given me is to love the people love the people, love the people, love the people, Mr. Schild said.
He said he was thrilled by the way Little Flower s parishioners made him feel welcome.
Through that experience, I truly felt what a parish family was like. Because these people at Little Flower brought me into the family. ... It helped make me a better person and it will help make me a better priest.
Mr. Schild will celebrate Masses of thanksgiving at 1:30 p.m. tomorrow at St. Paul Church, Norwalk; 5 p.m. June 9 at St. John Church, Defiance, and 10:30 a.m. June at Little Flower Church, Toledo.
My first Mass will be at Norwalk St. Paul. Norwalk St. Paul has been such a supportive ministry. It s where I recognized my call and where people supported me when I was a little tyke. It will be such an honor to preside... It s a humbling thing.
Bishop Blair appointed Mr. Schild associate pastor of St. Wendelin Parish in Fostoria, Ohio, effective July 2.