Four siblings discover their vocation

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cover_photoBy Connie Berry
Sun editor

Maybe it was the family recitation of the rosary every night while they were growing up. It could have been the example of devoted pastors Father Edmund Castronovo and Father Lester Smith. The constant prayers of the parish family at St. Malachy’s in Sherbourne supporting them might be the key. Likely because of all of these reasons and their own private discernment, four of the 13 Schultz children have chosen the religious life or a priestly vocation.

Ellen was first, then came James, followed by Matthew and finally, Timothy. When these Schultz siblings get together the conversation is just as likely to be about spiritual direction as it is to be about the latest movie they have seen. Ellen is now Sister Mary Emmanuel and James will become Father James Schultz, a priest for the Diocese of Syracuse, in June 2011. Matthew and Timothy are both enjoying the seminary this year while they clearly see no problem in following in their sister’s — and brother’s — footsteps. The foursome have nine more siblings and are the offspring of Mike and Jane Schultz of Sherbourne, N.Y. Timothy is youngest so his parents are trying out the empty nest at the moment. Jane easily admits that it is hard to get used to the quiet.

Jane and Mike Schultz say they are very happy for all of their children and despite the fact that four out of 13 have chosen a vocation for the church, if something were to happen and they did not stay or keep the vocation they have chosen as of now, their parents would still be as proud as they are today.  Jane said as long as their children are doing God’s will in their lives, it is fine with her. The strong faith of Jane and Mike is evident and their devotion to the rosary is paramount to that faith.

“My mother used to recite the rosary with us when I was growing up,” Jane said. “So I wanted to do that with my children. At first we said just a decade but Father Castronovo said, ‘No, you must do the whole thing.’ And so we did. You can have each child say a decade and share their intentions.”

Father Castronovo came to the Schultz house and recited it with them. He also stressed the importance of the scapular.

Jane’s belief in the power of prayer is founded in the rosary.

“The rosary is the key to many things, not just vocations,” Jane said. “Whatever it is, put it in Mary’s hands and let her take over. She will always lead them to her Son.”

Sister Mary Emmanuel is a Dominican Sister of St. Cecilia based in Nashville, Tenn. Her order is contemplative but also a congregation of teachers. She can visit home only once a year but her family can visit her as well. Sister Mary Emmanuel is currently in Birmingham, Ala. and took her final vows in July of this year. Her religious community is experiencing an increase in vocations. They were founded in 1860 and have 27 postulents entering this year.

Sister Mary Emmanuel’s vocation really began when she was little, she said.

“I remember when I was about seven or eight I had to go to the ear doctor with my dad and I asked him why I had to go and my twin sister didn’t have to go,” Sister Mary Emmanuel explained. “He told me that when I was little I had spinal meningitis and they prayed to St. Therese and I didn’t die. I am deaf in my left ear [as a result of the illness]. I wondered why was I spared? Maybe He was calling me for something. Maybe I should give my whole life back.”

Sister Mary Emmanuel explored a few orders before chosing the community in Nashville. When she was a child, her family recited the rosary daily, they went to confession every month, they were faithful about attending Mass and they participated in Novenas. Sister Mary Emmanuel said all these things helped make God very real to her at a young age. “I knew I had a friendship with Him,” she said.

Deacon James Schultz is now a transitional deacon finishing up his final year of studies at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. He is scheduled to be ordained this coming June. His mother said she wasn’t surprised at his vocation even though he waited until he was nearly 30 before going to the seminary.

“He’s a peacemaker and, well, we needed at least one in our family,” Jane said. “He is very compassionate, he is very strong and he is an intellectual. He studied and taught in Europe. He was a banker in Boston and he went down to Florida to become a professional baseball player. He’s a left-handed pitcher. He threw 89 miles an hour and they were looking for at least 90 miles an hour.”

His mother said James worked on fishing boats as well and experienced much before deciding to enter the seminary. “When he went he really knew it was what he wanted,” Jane said.

A trip to a monastery in France to visit his brother Matthew really helped James to consider a vocation.

“I saw about 80 or 90 monks and the music and everything and it was beautiful. I thought here are these guys who could have been anything and they chose to live within these four walls,” Deacon Schultz said.

He began going to daily Mass when he was 26 years old and one of his sisters said to him, “You know if you go to daily Mass you might become a priest.”

Now Deacon Schultz has the life of a diocesan priest ahead of him. He said he wants to help build strong families “so they can see the value of praying together.”

He wants to bring back the sacrament of reconciliation. “Some people call it ‘the lost sacrament,’” he said. “but it allows us to be more human – body and soul. If you neglect the soul it doesn’t allow you to shine. It helps you form a conscious. Like a fourth grader who disobeys his mother, reconciliation helps him realize that he needs to be accountable for that. I want to teach what we believe as Catholics so people can live it and come to appreciate it.”

Matthew Schultz, 32,  is in his second year at Theological College in Washington, D.C. and his journey took a few twists and turns before settling now at the seminary. He dated, fell in love, fell out of love, worked in Oregon, spent five months at a monastery in France, taught at St. Gregory’s School in Scranton and finally faced that longing in his heart — a call to serve God. One factor that led to this conclusion was a book on tape, St. Francis de Sales’ Introduction to the Devout Life. Matthew said he listened to eight hours of tape on his way home from Nashville.

“It was almost 100 degrees and I was driving this little car with no air conditioning and black interior and only one speaker worked,” Matthew remembered. “I rolled up the window so I could hear the tape. It was amazing. I was supposed to meet a friend for a party when I got back but I called and said, ‘I think I’m supposed to be a priest.’”

His mother’s insistence on the nightly recitation of the rosary and his father’s insistence on nightly meals taken together are two factors Matthew sees as instrumental for his family.

“My father’s insistence on that family meal was profound really. There is something almost sacramental in eating a meal together, especially today,” Matthew said.

He hopes to continue teaching someday and keeps his memories of growing up in such a large family close to his heart. “There was never a dull moment and you were never without a friend. I look back and I don’t know how my parents did it. It was beautiful chaos.”

Timothy Schultz is 23 and just entered the seminary at St.John Neumann University in New York. He said watching the subtle change in his sister, Sister Mary Emmanuel, and watching his older brothers make the choice to become a priest, has helped him along the way. He also credits his parents’ example and their faith as key to his formation.

“They brought it into our home life,” Timothy said. “Reciting the daily rosary was really powerful and I was youngest and probably the worst about saying it. I was stubborn but looking back, it was the best thing.”

A trip to a monastery in Spain with his sister was instrumental for the youngest sibling.

“I wanted to back out of the trip,” Timothy said. “It was my Christmas vacation and these guys lived in poverty. It ended up being the best vacation I ever had.”

By watching the monks who had given up everything, Timothy began to see the possibility of living his own life in the priesthood.

“We were there for three weeks and it got me into the idea of formation,” Timothy explained. “There was morning prayer, holy hour, reflection and Mass. There was a six-day silent retreat – and this was during my 21st birthday – six days of silence and it was the most beautiful thing. The inner silence was resounding.”

The trip spawned the idea of not necessarily living as a monk but rather living by giving yourself up, Timothy said.

Sister Mary Emmanuel said she thinks her family was more familiar with their religion because of their upbringing so a vocation to consecrated life or the priesthood always seemed possible. “But we still knew it would be a big sacrifice,” she said.

“My brother Jamie, God willing, will be ordained a priest. My two brothers are still discerning. He may call them to something else. God doesn’t want us to do something that will make us unhappy,” Sister Mary Emmanuel said. “I have overwhelming gratitude. I know this is a huge gift.”

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