Prayers were made, a homily was said, songs were sung, a standing ovation was given and heartfelt thanks were returned as a Mass in celebration of Monsignor George Schmidt, who is retiring as pastor of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in Chattanooga, was held March 1.
Some 400 people were in attendance at the basilica to celebrate the priesthood of Monsignor Schmidt, who spent 28 years as pastor of the basilica. The monsignor, who is a native of Chattanooga, appeared to enjoy the Mass, which ended with a long line of well-wishers shaking his hand and giving him hugs.
The Mass was followed by a formal dinner at The Read House in downtown Chattanooga near the basilica that was attended by 350 people.
Bishop Richard F. Stika was principal celebrant of the Mass. Bishop David R. Choby of the Diocese of Nashville concelebrated with Abbot Cletus Meagher, OSB, and Monsignor Xavier Mankel. Cardinal Justin Rigali attended in choir.
Fellow priests concelebrating included basilica parochial administrator Father David Carter, Father Bertin Glennon, ST, who is in residence at the basilica, Father Peter Iorio, Father Gilbert Diaz, Father Mike Nolan, Father Bill Gahagan, and Father Mike Creson.
Bishop Stika thanked Monsignor Schmidt for his service to the Church and told those attending Mass that the basilica’s pastor emeritus is not retiring from the priesthood, just as pastor of the basilica. Bishop Stika said the monsignor now will be entering a new phase of his priesthood.
“Monsignor Schmidt, that means you no longer have to worry about leaky roofs and the other daily issues of a church. That is now up to Father (Charlie) Burton,” Bishop Stika said with a smile.
At the dinner, Monsignor Schmidt was presented with a papal blessing, a framed copy of his monsignor appointment, and news that a scholarship is being established in his name at Notre Dame High School for students exemplifying the characteristics of Monsignor Schmidt. The scholarship already is endowed with more than $28,000, said George Valadie, president of Notre Dame High School, which is where Monsignor Schmidt graduated.
To conclude the dinner for Monsignor Schmidt, a slide show was presented showing him through the years with basilica members, and an Elvis impersonator serenaded the monsignor with several numbers, including Love Me Tender, Teddy Bear, and Don’t Be Cruel.
Father Glennon disclosed that at one time Monsignor Schmidt owned a table-top Elvis doll that sang when a button was pushed. The monsignor now will be in residence at St. Jude Church in Chattanooga.