Reflection by Edward Schmit
I would like to thank all of you for being here tonight. Especially the Prior General of the World, the Most Reverend Bob Prevost and the Very Reverend Bernie Scianna, Prior Provincial of the Midwest Province. I thank you both and our fellow Augustinians for approving our nomination for affiliation. And of course my dear family and friends, and my fellow affiliate Anne Berschback.
I don’t want to take a lot of your time, but I would like to relay this experience to you since it really happened.
When I was entering my sophomore year, my Dad suffered a serious heart attack, and my parents told me that if I wanted to stay in St. Rita’s [High School], I had to get a job and pay my own tuition. So, I had to tell Father J.J. O’Malley that I had to quit my beloved Mustang Baseball Team and Football also. I went to work right across the street in the junkyard and was able to watch a lot of the games which were played right there at 59th and Damen; I also sold Christmas trees at 77th & Western right across the street from this Chapel.
When I was in my junior year, I went to Father Ed Andrews, who I got to know well since I went to school with his brother. I said to Father Andrews that I wanted to be an Augustinian, and he said, “Why?” I said that I loved kids and I wanted to work with them and a lot of my family members on both sides were hoping I would become a priest; I also felt comfortable with, at least, the initial vocation.
After a few discussions and exchanges, Father suggested that his brother and I were too worldly and might need to experience more of what life had to bring. I said, “What about working with kids? What about service to St. Rita and the Augustinians?” Father Andrews’s answer was, “Ed… Pray, and God will find a way for you to achieve your wishes.”
A few years later, Vietnam broke out and I got drafted in 1965. Partially because of the great education I received at St. Rita’s, I was placed in the United States Army Security Agency, a top-secret group at the army headquarters level. Our company was not deployed. The only company sent to Vietnam was “C Company,” which took many casualties in late Fall of ‘68. I pray for every day and thank God that I am still here to live another day. What a blessing.
Along with the army came marriage and children. Heidi was born in September 1968. Eddie, born February 1972. Heather, August 1974. John, June 1976. Nick, May 1979.
Early in 1972, we started looking for daycare in, and it was terrible in our area. So I thought, “Let’s start our own,” and God provided a sponsor in a developer named Carl Federici, a Rita grad that had an empty building that he built as a daycare center. We signed for the Teddy Bear Day Care Center. That was in 1973, so we started taking care of children and became a big success. We have six centers now, all on the Southwest side of Chicago, serving approximately 450 kids per day; over the last 40 years we have served thousands… so Father Andrews was right! God found a way.
Today, most—or all—of the Schmit family is involved or has been involved or attended our schools. Our ten wonderful grandchildren have been in most or all of our programs.
In 1984, Father Pat Murphy asked if I would like to join the newly formed St. Rita Board of Advisors which I proudly did, along with a great group of other St. Rita men. Father Andrews was right again! God found a way.
In the late 1980’s, we were struggling to upgrade the old campus at 63rd [Street], and the Augustinians were hoping for a miracle. All of a sudden, we were blessed with one. The Quigley South Seminary was closing down and might be made available. Father Danber, Jim Segredo, and the Provincial office formed a task force to put together a plan to sell old St. Rita’s and purchase the Quigley location. Jim and Father Danber asked if I could devote more time to St. Rita along with many other board members and help put this plan together. We agreed, and Fr. Andrews was right again.
We got to serve under Fr. Danber who was the right guy for the job. He dotted the i's and crossed the t’s! He came down to the monastery basement one night and said he crunched the numbers and felt that we could handle the new facility with some luck and donations. With a lot of hard work, the old school was sold to Chicago Public Schools, and both our presentation and plan was accepted by the Cardinal’s staff. Well, here we are in this wonderful campus in this beautiful Chapel where Pope John Paul II said Mass and also blessed thousands of the faithful from the top above the main entrance.
The Augustinians received their new campus and Father Andrews was right again! I got a chance, in a small way, to serve the Augustinians.
In closing, Father Bob, my wife Debbie, and I were enjoying a nice meal in a nice restaurant a few years ago and I told him the story about Father Andrews’s advice and all, and I joking said, “You’re lucky I’m not an Augustinian. Because if I was I would be the World Provincial and I would have made a lot of changes just shortly after being elected I would have declared myself King Provincial for Life!”
Father Bob laughed and said, “Well, we don’t have to worry about any of that since you’re not an Augustinian.”
Again, I would like to thank Father Andrews and all my fellow Augustinians. Believe me, I will not take this honor lightly. To all my family and friends who I love so much, thanks for all your love and support. I pray God grants me many more years so I hopefully, in some small way, continue to serve and watch my grandchild grow up. Saint Rita, pray for us.