Fr. John Schuster
Very Rev. John Schuster has announced his retirement from the position of Moderator of the Curia, which will become effective at the time of the pastoral moves in August, 2018. Fr. Schuster will continue to serve the Diocese of Calgary as Vicar General. Fr. Schuster has worked at the Catholic Pastoral Centre as Moderator of the Curia and Vicar General since 1989. Fr. Schuster was born in Cliftonville, Saskatchewan and ordained to the priesthood on May 1, 1965 by Archbishop Jordan. Fr. Schuster has served at the Catholic Pastoral Centre and several parishes of the Calgary Diocese as Pastor and Assistant Pastor. Additionally, his brother priests have elected him to the positions of Dean and Vice Dean. Fr. Schuster is a respected priest in the Diocese whose ministry has supported the growth of the Diocese and its faithfulness.
An Interview with our Moderator, Fr. John Schuster.
Have you ever wondered what it’s like to walk a mile in Calgary’s diocesan moderator and vicar general’s shoes? If you answered no, it would come as no surprise to the man who’s held the job for 29 years.
“In an office like this, most of your work goes unknown. People don’t know what you do. If you asked them what a moderator was, they couldn’t tell you. Even if you asked a priest what a moderator was, they probably couldn’t tell you.”
Fr. Schuster lives a rather private, behind the scenes life; in fact, he describes his job as ‘the shadow of the bishop.’ The vicar general is the highest ranking official in the diocese after the bishop. He is able to act on behalf of the bishop to exercise executive power over the entire diocese. The moderator of the curia oversees diocesan pastoral offices and organizations.
On the rare occasion that a journalist unexpectedly showed up to make plans for a future profile interview Fr. Schuster was caught with his socks off! God has a funny sense of humour, and so does Fr. Schuster. He was having one of those mornings where his socks just weren’t fitting into his boots, but getting to work on time during a snowstorm trumped the conventions of office style. So he ditched the socks. But don’t let appearances fool you, this humorous, hard-working, humble, holy man is comfortable in his own shoes.
The 78-year-old priest has a gentle, lovable, unassuming presence. He loves reading and has a large collection of antique clocks. He has traveled to the Holy Land and met Saint Pope John Paul II twice. He was born a middle child in the same homestead and bed as his father, near Cliftonville, Saskatchewan, to parents of Germanic descent. One year later, he moved to Medicine Hat with his parents and five siblings. It was there that a quiet, unassuming parish priest named Monsignor Edmond James McCoy first inspired Fr. Schuster to a deeper faith.
His call to the priesthood came after attending a high school retreat. A priest named Fr. Joseph Toole challenged the students to consider they may have a religious vocation.
“I went home and I prayed. My prayer was: God, don’t call me. That persisted until I couldn’t get rid of it. Then I said, well if you want me then ‘yes’.”
Fr. Schuster was ordained a priest in 1965. He has served under five Calgary bishops, first as secretary to Bishop Carroll, then as a parish priest in rural communities for several years until he started having trouble with his throat. For unknown reasons, one of his vocal chords stopped functioning properly.
“Because of my throat situation, I could never be in a big parish. It affects all aspects of the priesthood. I think I’ve come to deal with it and to acknowledge I’m not going to be a pastor anymore.”
The self-described soft-spoken priest, said that as a child, he inherited his mother’s quiet voice, a trait that’s characterized much of his life.
Due to his throat, his ability to serve as parish priest had become increasingly difficult, so a new path opened up for him. Bishop Paul O’Byrne sent him to study canon law at St. Paul’s University in Ottawa. Upon return, he assumed the roles of moderator and vicar general, and has since worked under Bishop Paul O’Byrne, Bishop Frederick Henry and Bishop William McGrattan.
Fr. Schuster said all three have completely different leadership styles, bringing their unique gifts and talents to the job, but he was unwilling to make any detailed comparisons.
“In the past we would deal with a situation that Bishop Henry asked us to, but now (Bishop McGrattan) wants us to be more proactive.”
While Fr. Schuster may largely stay out of the public eye, he has played a critical role in guiding the direction of the diocese. Most notably he submitted an influential report in 2001 at the request of Bishop Henry. For three years he headed the Diocesan Planning Commission, studying shifting and growing demographic patterns compared against a declining number of priests.
“For the first year, we were spinning our wheels. We were scared to make any recommendations. So we said, okay, we have the information, now we have to determine what we say about each parish.”
He profiled each parish and its building facilities, financial health and parish vitality and determined some would need to close or amalgamate.
“Some parishioners were very upset, saying ‘my grandfather built this church,’ ‘this is where I got married,’ ‘this is where my kids got married.’ It’s understandable,” said Fr. Schuster. But “it was about the needs of the diocese as a whole to better serve the whole people of God and not just a few.”
Today, the Commission is still active with current purchases of land to build churches in the burgeoning areas of Chestermere and Strathmore.
After 30 years serving as moderator and vicar general, Fr. Schuster isn’t phased about splitting his job in half and passing on the role of moderator to Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon on August 1. Fr. Schuster will continue as vicar general. What exactly these roles look like going forward is currently being discerned and worked out.
Written by Sara Francis
Fr. Wilbert Chin Jon
Rev. Wilbert Chin Jon will be appointed as Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Calgary effective August 1, 2018. Fr. Chin Jon was born in the Philippines and ordained to the priesthood at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Calgary in 2004. He has an undergraduate degree in Mass Communication from the Ateneo de Davao University, a Jesuit university in the Philippines, and a Master of Divinity degree from St. Peter’s Seminary in London, Ontario.
Fr. Chin Jon has fourteen years of experience in parish ministry as Associate, Administrator and Pastor. Fr. Chin Jon was Pastor of Our Lady of the Rockies in Canmore from 2015 until the present. As of April 13, 2018, Fr. Chin Jon will reside at St. Bernard’s/Our Lady of the Assumption in Calgary and administer the parish until the time of the pastoral moves when he will assume the full-time role of Moderator of the Curia for the Diocese of Calgary.
He will also begin a period of orientation at the Diocesan Pastoral Centre under the direction of Bishop William McGrattan and Fr. John Schuster.
A Conversation with the Future Moderator of the Curia on the Catholic Pastoral Centre
What is a Moderator of the Curia?
The Moderator’s job is to coordinate the administrative responsibilities within a diocese and to make sure the Curia’s work is done.
What is the Curia?
The Curia consists of those institutions and persons which assist the bishop in the governance of the whole diocese, especially in guiding pastoral action, in caring for the administration of the diocese, and in exercising judicial power. Canon 469
What is the Catholic Pastoral Centre?
The Catholic Pastoral Centre houses all those offices and ministries which assist the Bishop with his work in the diocese, in teaching, governing and sanctifying (or making holy), the people under his care.
What is new in the Pastoral Centre?
In October of 2017, Bishop William McGrattan struck a Pastoral Centre Planning Committee to embark on a new pastoral plan for the curial offices. The Bishop believes that the Pastoral Centre of the Diocese must first be positioned to meet the new challenges of our times before we can undertake a pastoral planning process for the entire Diocese.
How is it going?
In focusing on the core functions of the Pastoral Centre, we realized that the ultimate goal of the Centre is to assist Bishop McGrattan in forming Missionary Disciples by supporting the work of the pastors, parishes and the various communities. Everything that we do as the Pastoral Centre must contribute to the formation of Missionary Disciples in our Diocese. To be a Missionary Disciple means that we live with a keen sense of purpose that God has given for each one.
How will the Pastoral Centre do this?
The Pastoral Centre has to model a collaborative approach to ministry. It has to have a good sense of the true needs of the parishes by having processes in place for consultation and input so that it can provide pastoral services that truly matter. After all, the work of the Pastoral Centre is to be at the service of the Pastors and Parishes, assisting them in the fulfilment of their mission. However, the Pastoral Centre must first have a new internal organizational structure that would be able to take on the work efficiently and effectively. This is why Bishop McGrattan formed an Organizational Review Committee separate from the work of the Pastoral Planning Team.
How is the work of the Organizational Review Committee going?
Since its inception in January, the committee has conducted a study on the current organizational structure and interviewed staff members to understand the functions and the interaction of the different curial offices. We also asked the staff for their suggestions for improvement. Then we deliberated on a new organizational structure that not only fulfills the requirement of Canon Law but also shows clearly the lines of interaction among offices and the various positions as they relate to the Office of the Bishop and to the evangelizing mission of Christ.
When will the review of the Pastoral Centre be completed?
While the work of the Pastoral Centre Planning Committee is completed and the recommendations of the Organizational Review Committee are being drafted, it will take up to the end of this year to implement the recommended changes. We anticipate that it will take another year for it to run seamlessly. However, I can assure you that there will be no interruption in the services being offered from the Pastoral Centre.
The Pastoral Centre Planning Committee
The Organization Review Committee