Slipping into Winthrop under a cloud of Coronavirus quarantine a month ago, it has been difficult to introduce myself to the parishioners of Saint John the Evangelist Parish and Holy Rosary Parish. Father Chris suggested that a virtual introduction might be in order due to the extraordinary circumstances.
My full name is Rev. William Thomas Schmidt, but everyone has called me “Father Bill” over my forty-four years of priesthood. The first child of William and Rita (Cullen) Schmidt, I was born on April 12, 1950 and baptized on April 30th by Fr. John Mulcahy at Mary Immaculate of Lourdes Church in Newton Upper Falls. My family expanded with the arrival of two brothers and two sisters over the next nine years and we moved from a small ranch house in the Oak Hill section of Newton to a larger house in Hyde Park. My Dad grew up in Saint Augustine Parish, South Boston and my Mom grew up in Saint Joseph Parish, Roxbury so our move to Boston was an easy transition. We were welcomed to Saint Joseph Parish, Hyde Park that had just opened a new church serving a burgeoning community of World War II veterans, and their families.
The Boston Public Schools provided my early education at the Elihu Greenwood School and William Barton Rogers Junior High School. Cathedral High School in Boston provided me with my high school education and I graduated with the Class of 1968. The Sisters of Saint Joseph and lay teachers provided me with a solid education that prepared me well for further studies. During my senior year of high school, I was honored to be elected C.Y.O. president for the Archdiocese of Boston. Following high school, my continued education included two years at Boston College as a commuting student and then a transfer to Saint John’s Seminary College for my final two years of college, graduating in 1972. Graduate studies at Saint John’s Seminary began that fall and I was ordained to priesthood by Cardinal Humberto Medeiros on May 15, 1976. My final year in seminary brought me to Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Beachmont where I served as a deacon. My appointment to Winthrop is thus a return to familiar territory.
My first assignment as a newly-ordained priest was Immaculate Conception Parish, Everett where I served for six years with the blessed responsibility for a large, vibrant C.Y.O. The number of teenagers who were members of the C.Y.O. in Everett during those years numbered more than a thousand and remarkably I knew most of them by name as well as what was happening in their lives. I was forty years younger then, so please do not expect that same facility of remembering names as I come to know the people of Winthrop. Please be patient if I ask for your name a second or third time! Saint John the Evangelist Parish, Swampscott was my second parish assignment and my life was blessed once again by the young people from Swampscott and Nahant who were members of Saint John C.Y.O. I have kept in touch with many of “my kids” from Everett, Swampscott, and Nahant over the years and count my friendship with those “young people” as a precious gift. My Dad was once asked by a friend, “Do your kids have kids?” My Dad responded immediately, “Tommy has two kids and Billy usually has two busloads!”
After six years I left Swampscott to begin a seven year term as Secretary for Pastoral Services for the Archdiocese of Boston. Young Adult Ministry with Catholic men and women in their 20’s and 30’s was a great joy for me during those years. Saint Patrick Parish, Stoneham was the first parish where I served as pastor and it was my longest assignment at eighteen years. The parish built a desperately needed Parish Center and doubled the size of its beautiful church during those years. Saint Patrick School grew significantly during those years as the single classes became two classes at each grade level. Saint Patrick Parish is one of the largest parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston with more than 5,000 families. I am grateful for all that we accomplished there during some of the most challenging and heartbreaking years for the Catholic Church in Boston.
Saint Mary Parish, Wrentham and Saint Martha Parish, Plainville welcomed me as pastor of both parishes in 2012. That brings me here to Saint John the Evangelist Parish and Holy Rosary Parish, Winthrop to what will likely be my final assignment as a parish priest. I am thankful to be here in this beautiful town of Winthrop that has welcomed newcomers since 1630 and now is welcoming me. May we grow together in faith, hope and love during the time Our Lord offers us in this singularly beautiful corner of His Vineyard.