WCR PHOTO | RAMON GONZALEZ
Deacon Kris Schmidt will be ordained a priest June 27 at St. Joseph's Basilica.
May 26, 2014
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
The call to priesthood came almost as a surprise to Kris Schmidt, who as a young man was carving a different niche for himself. He had a girlfriend, played hockey and dreamed of becoming a medical doctor when God came knocking.
He fought the call, but God proved stronger. Now, after six years of seminary studies, Schmidt will be ordained a priest June 27 at St. Joseph's Basilica. Archbishop Richard Smith will preside at his ordination ceremony.
Schmidt feels both excitement and apprehension at his upcoming ordination. "I'll be 28 years old shortly after my ordination and, at 28, I still feel a bit like a kid sometimes and I am being given this very adult responsibility."
Schmidt won't say where he will be assigned after ordination, but wherever he goes he expects to continue doing what he loves most. "I love sports. Throw any sport at me and I'll gobble it up," he says.
"You can ask any seminarian here, I'm a huge hockey guy. I was probably born with a hockey stick in my hand. I still play men's rec hockey, and I also love the outdoors so I make a point of going out and camping and hiking. I love the mountains. A group of us are going to go hiking the West Coast Trail after my ordination this summer."
Born in Slave Lake in 1986, the oldest of four children, Schmidt and family moved to St. Albert in 1996. Practising Catholics, his family was always at Sunday Mass. In St. Albert, Schmidt attended Catholic schools and started serving Mass as soon as he was able.
In junior high he wanted to be a doctor, and he worked toward that end throughout high school. He also nurtured himself spiritually by participating in the non-denominational youth group Young Life. "It was a way for me to take my faith outside of Mass on Sunday and to start making it my own."
Early in his second year of university, still on track to becoming a doctor, Schmidt was asked by Mike Landry, then the youth minister at Holy Family Parish, to help organize the parish youth ministry.
"He twisted my rubber arm and I decided to help because I can't say 'no' to Mike and I still can't say 'no' to Mike," Schmidt smiled.
"That year (2006) was a year of very rapid growth in my faith because I realized very quickly that these high school-age kids had a much deeper faith than I ever did when I was in high school."
Soon, Schmidt heard God nudging him towards priesthood. It came in a moment of prayer before the Blessed Sacrament.
"I wanted nothing to do with it at the time," he said. "I told God, 'Thanks, but no thanks. If this is what you want from me, you make it happen because I don't want it. I'm happy with my life right now and everything is going according to the plan that I'd set out.'"
He left it at that. At that point Schmidt was two-and-half years into a relationship with a girl and things were going well. "Life was going dandy," he recalled.
Over the next year God created a space in Schmidt's life as he and his girlfriend grew apart. "My faith was growing and she wasn't growing with me, and we started to look at life a little bit differently."
His grades at university were on the borderline for getting into medical school so it was a time for re-evaluation. He dropped the idea of becoming a doctor. It would be too time-consuming if he ever had a family.
With his life plans crumbling, Schmidt was approached by Father Marc Cramer, who asked him during a night of prayer and adoration whether he had ever considered the priesthood.
Schmidt laughed at Cramer and admitted that "yes," he had thought of the priesthood. The priest told him that if he wanted to talk about it, he would be available.
"So it took me a few more months of stubbornness, and I eventually called him up and we started spiritual direction together."
Schmidt's initial reaction was to leave everything and go to the seminary. He wanted to give God one year and get it over with, so he could move on with his life.
Cramer told him to be patient. "'If this is a true vocation,' he said, 'finish your undergraduate degree first and if you still feel you are called to the priesthood at the end of that, we can move in that direction.'"
The following February Schmidt attended a Come and See weekend at St. Joseph Seminary. That was the last hurdle and he entered the seminary in the fall of 2008.
Despite his doubts, Schmidt returned every fall. "I decided that if I wanted to be a true man of God, I had to keep moving in that direction and keep discerning."
Schmidt was ordained a transitional deacon almost a year ago and is currently serving at St. John the Evangelist Parish under the direction of Father Paul Kavanagh. He also serves as assistant master of ceremonies for the archbishop.
As a priest, Schmidt would love to work in youth ministry, which played a big role in his own discernment. "But honestly I have been working very hard to open myself to whatever God wants to make my priesthood about."
Mike Landry, the former youth minister at Holy Family who is now chaplain at Evergreen Catholic Schools in Spruce Grove, recalled that Schmidt wanted nothing to do with his youth ministry at first.
"When he was at university, I finally convinced him to give us a hand. He was one of the most conscientious and generous leaders that I ever worked with."
However, Landry was surprised that Schmidt wanted to become a priest. "He had been in a long-term relationship at that point in time so I really didn't think the priesthood was a thought for him."
Landry said he's excited to see Schmidt becoming a priest. "I think he is one who is going to very devoted to his parishioners, one who will preach from the heart, one who will love people who come to him in their moments of joy and their moments of brokenness."