CINCINNATI — In the 1940s, when Dennis Schnurr was growing up in Sheldon, Iowa, there were only a few other Catholic boys in the tiny town — and they were all members of his family.
“During the summer, my brother and I and my cousin would be serving Mass all the time,” remembered Schnurr in an August interview at his office in downtown Cincinnati. “I don’t think I really seriously thought of the priesthood until eighth grade when I went to a Catholic High School in a neighboring town.”
Those early considerations eventually led to a distinguished religious career that reached a high point on Monday, Dec. 21, when The Most Rev. Dennis M. Schnurr, coadjutor archbishop of Cincinnati since October, 2008, succeeded the Most Rev. Daniel E. Pilarczyk as archbishop, becoming the 10th ordinary (presiding bishop) of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
At 61, Schnurr has been a canon lawyer, diocesan administrator and member of the papal nuncio’s staff. (The nuncio is the ambassador to the Holy Father to a particular nation and also his representative to the Catholic hierarchy in that nation.)
He organized the first World Youth Day and was general secretary of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Before his Cincinnati appointment, he served as bishop of Duluth for seven years.
In a video message on YouTube, the new archbishop said he has been “overwhelmed” by the welcome he has received from parishes, schools and institutions during his travels to Southwest Ohio over the past year.
The Rev. David Brinkmoeller, pastor of St. Helen parish in Riverside and Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in Dayton, worked with Schnurr in Washington at the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
“He’s a very prayerful man, who wants the church to do good things for our society,” said Brinkmoeller, who called the new archbishop “a very solid leader” who is “thoughtful, intelligent and he knows how to listen to several points of view.”
Twenty-three-year old Tracie Johnson of Oakwood says having new leadership in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati is exciting for Catholics of all ages.
“As a young adult in the Catholic church, I hope Archbishop Schnurr will use his personal faith experiences to connect with our age group and set a strong example of what we are all called to be,” she says.
Among the important priorities for the church, according to Schnurr, are religious education, recruitment of youth for religious life, service to the growing Hispanic population and the strengthening of marriages.
The Rev. Chris Coleman, pastor of St. Anthony of Padua in Dayton, has watched the new archbishop pursue those goals, making himself available to both priests and the people since the day he arrived.
“He has attended and hosted many events throughout the Archdiocese such as Theology on Tap in Dayton’s Oregon District, and he hosted an “Andrew Dinner” at St. Anthony, which had over 36 men present to talk about priesthood and priestly vocations,” says Coleman.
Schnurr also participated in a series entitled “We Miss You,” that reached out to Catholics separated from the Church over marriage issues.
“I cannot offer you instant solutions or miraculous cures for problems or difficulties arising from previous marriage bonds,” he wrote in an open letter. “I do offer my sincere care for you in an effort to look at ways that may eventually lead to reconciliation for you with the Church.”
Schnurr says adult education is extremely important.
“We want to reach out to all Catholics who for one reason or another are not practicing their faith fully, and also to practicing Catholics who would like to learn more about their faith.”
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2440 or MMoss@DaytonDailyNews.com