The University of St. Thomas

Msgr. Greg Schaffer

Monsignor Greg Schaffer

Monsignor Greg SchafferIt's a long way, finally, from the parish, and the inner city, and a Cathedral, to the site of the influence of the fourth recipient - just about 2,000 miles due south of the New Ulm chancery office.

Our fourth recipient is a tall, energetic, articulate type - blessed from the beginnings of his priesthood with an enormous store of energy, piloted by a sense of generous expenditure of himself in behalf of those who had only little exposure to the Catholic faith that we enjoy. The exposure in this case was largely only a formality (of Baptism), although a fervent one in piety. The setting was usually rural poverty. The climate is a savage tropical one which nourishes parrots and coffee beans and bananas.

Into that setting, and the same ferment we spoke of earlier following the middle 1960's and 70's - came this fourth honored recipient, in the pursuit of what we so blandly call "missionary."

Missionary work indeed. This outstanding then younger man went in 1962 to the area of San Lucas, in Guatemala. It was exactly his dish. With that energy spoken of earlier, in the midst of a people of intense poverty, in a consuming climate, within gentle manners, he began (with the help of his Diocese and its Bishop and the Diocesan priests) an establishment which is mind-boggling. A parish church building - a school - a hospital - a program of agricultural education - a relentless drive for social justice implemented among the rural poor. For example: our recipient saw early in the late 1960's the needs of land ownership - even in small plots - for his people: and that parish gathered funds from our local Bishop, and Bishops, and contributors whom he approached, to actually BUY the plots of land for which blood had been spilt in adjoining countries of Central America.

The parish our recipient began is at some altitude in the mountains - 5,000 feet, like our Denver - but by a huge high-terrain lake - and our recipient then taught his people commercial fish rearing and breeding and marketing!

He undertook the rearing of flowers - for export - to support the workings of the parish! Our honored Recipient, it is reported, even found markets for the coffee beans which his Mayan Indian people picked. And also, we are told, discovered that some of the crooked coffee-beanery refinery there were cheating his parishioners, by giving them burlap product-bags which were subtly diminished into short-changing these already poor people. The indignation of our recipient, was, we are told, awesome - and effective.

This is a talented, selfless man, who has not only given his energies and his life - he's still there - to these Mayan Indians of Guatemala - but he has also been an outstanding mirror of the best that our Seminary can offer in its training formation - this time, in behalf of the farther and wider and indeed poorer Church. Many have done this - look at all of Maryknoll for instance, or our local Propagation of the Faith and our own diocesan missions. But few, we submit, can equal the outstanding generosity and effectiveness of an esteemed New Ulm priest, and graduate of our Seminary in 1960: MONSIGNOR GREG SCHAFFER.

(Text adapted from the St. Paul Seminary, School of Divinity alumni newsletter.)