The life of the Rev. George J. Schroeder, a Chicago native who skied the Swiss Alps after fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria while he was in seminary and then came to the Quad-Cities to serve as pastor of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Rock Island, for 41 years, will be celebrated at a funeral Mass today at the church.
Schroeder, 95, died Thursday. Bishop Daniel Jenky of the Peoria Diocese will be the celebrant at the 11 a.m. funeral Mass.
Schroeder devoted his life to St. Mary’s, according to those who have remained close to him for years.
When the oldest Catholic church in Rock Island County needed a handyman, Schroeder would get up on scaffolding to paint the sanctuary or on his hands and knees to keep up with the church’s plumbing problems himself, Carol Danek of Rock Island said.
Schroeder updated and improved the church multiple times, she said.
Danek received most of her sacraments from Schroeder. For someone who was a priest for 70 years, Schroeder touched many lives, she said.
“He used to say he was just doing his job,” Danek said. “He was such an important part of everyone’s family.”
She described him as “no-nonsense” and “strict,” adding he stressed attending Mass every Sunday and going to confession.
Pete Dasso of Milan credits Schroeder with helping him become more devoted to his faith.
“He’s the reason I’m a practicing Catholic,” Dasso said.
When Dasso was having his first son baptized, Schroeder handed him a pack of envelops and asked him to attend Sunday Mass for the next six weeks, whether or not he filled the envelopes with money for the offering, he said.
When Mary Anderson was a junior in high school in 1955, she went to work for Schroeder as his secretary. She’s kept working for him ever since, most recently as his primary caretaker.
“He stayed, so I stayed,” Anderson said.