Remembrance of the Life of Jim Schumacher CoL
Co-member Jim Schumacher, husband of co-member Mary Roberts, died the morning of Nov. 2 after a long illness. Jim was born in St Louis, the fourth of five children of George J. and Louise Bender Schumacher. He and his wife, Mary Ann Roberts, the former Loretto Sister Marian Jeanne, became Co-members in 2004.
The remembrance of Jim read at his funeral Nov. 12, said in part: “Jim was kind, passionate, dedicated and strong. He knew he had a special calling in life at a very early age. At the age of 14, he experienced his first taste of racism. He was working at a soda fountain in a drug store when an African American woman walked in to ask for a glass of water. Thinking nothing of it, he gave her one. The owner of the store came over, took the glass of water and smashed it on the floor. From that day forward, Jim realized that there was injustice in life, and his lifelong purpose was to help heal those who needed it most.
“Shortly after this, he entered the seminary and was ordained as a Catholic priest in 1956 for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He was at St. Mark’s and St. Henry’s, both black parishes, where he learned from his parishioners what effect racism had on them. He began the first adult basic education classes in 1963, and formed the Junior Catholic Interracial Council to further educate whites. Jim remained active in civil rights throughout the ’60s both locally and nationally, working with high school and college students to promote racial equality.”
Jim participated in civil rights marches in Selma, Montgomery and Birmingham, Ala. He organized and participated in numerous sit-ins and demonstrations in St. Louis and regularly spoke to various parish groups in the St. Louis Archdiocese about racial justice from a Christian perspective.
When Jim applied for Loretto Co-membership in 2004, he wrote about his first contact with the Sisters of Loretto:
“It was in 1948 at Visitation Parish (in St. Louis). As a high school seminary student, I volunteered at the parish, taking census and providing religious education for adults. My most memorable and long-lasting relationship with the Community was in Louisiana, Mo., during the summer of 1949. At that time three Sisters of Loretto were teaching religion classes. I was there as part of the street preaching unit of motor missions sponsored by the St. Louis Archdiocese — I was the technical advisor for all the outdoor preaching equipment. Sister Clare Grennan and I became friends and that friendship lasted until her death in 1978. I was privileged to be with her during her last hours.”
At St. Henry’s Parish in St Louis, Jim formed other Loretto friendships, particularly with Sister Francie Ann O’Bryan. Their friendship continued for many years; it was Francie Ann who invited Jim to consider Co-membership. He also served as an unofficial chaplain to a group of young Sisters of Loretto who lived at Magdala House. One of those, Sister Mary Catherine Rabbitt, likes to recall that Jim received her renewal of vows on behalf of the Community.
In 1974, Jim left the priesthood and worked for 23 years as a social worker in the Foster Care Unit of the Missouri Division of Family Services. In 1975, he met and married the love of his life, Mary Roberts. They spent almost 40 years together sharing their love for travel, animals, gardening and volunteer work.
Nearly 10 years ago, Jim and Mary joined St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church in Creve Coeur, Mo. At St. Timothy’s Jim was again able to share his passion for social justice and restore his faith in and need for group worship.
During the past five years, Jim waged a courageous battle with cancer. Just as everything else he had done in life, he never gave up. He was the consummate “Stubborn German.” Sister Lee Connelly, who knew Jim as a pastor at St. Henry’s, said of him:
“He was the first priest I knew who fought for justice against great odds. Jim was a very warm, sincere person who put his heart and soul into what he felt was right.”
The Loretto Community is grateful for Jim’s companionship in our work for peace and justice.
Composed by Loretto Archivist Eleanor Craig, SL
From Jim’s writings and from the remembrance of Jim at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church