ALLOUEZ —Msgr. Mark Schommer, a priest of the Diocese of Green Bay for 54 years, former football standout and military veteran, died July 12 at age 85.
Msgr. Schommer, a Kaukauna native, first considered the priesthood while attending St. Mary School. In high school, he was an outstanding athlete, lettering in football, basketball, baseball, track and boxing before moving on to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. In college, he was a four-year starter in football, twice earning all-conference honors. He also competed in track and basketball at the collegiate level. He was inducted into the athletic hall of fames at both Kaukauna High School and UW-Stevens Point.
Following college, Msgr. Schommer spurned an offer from the Chicago Cardinals to join the Green Bay Packers.
“I took the opportunity with the Packers because they were really bad in 1954,” said Msgr. Schommer in a 2002 interview with The Compass. “I thought it was my best chance to make it. It was a good experience.”
He played in three exhibition games with the Packers before his military draft notice ended his NFL aspirations. While in the U.S. Army, his thoughts turned to the priesthood. Following 17 months of military service, he entered St. Francis Minor Seminary, Milwaukee, to study Latin, and then transferred to St. Francis Major Seminary to study philosophy and theology. Msgr. Schommer was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Stanislaus Bona on June 13, 1963, at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Green Bay.
Msgr. Schommer served as an assistant at St. Joseph Parish, Wautoma, and St. Francis Xavier Cathedral Parish, Green Bay, before 25 years in administration. Among his appointments were superintendent of education and director of education for the diocese. Msgr. Schommer earned his doctorate in education from Marquette University, Milwaukee, in 1970.
“Msgr. Mark Schommer cared deeply for the diocese, both in the area of education and pastoral ministry,” said Auxiliary Bishop Emeritus Robert Morneau. “He was a lifelong learner and treasured the ministry of preaching. We are indebted to him for his work in the field of education.”
Msgr. Schommer returned to the Packers to serve as team chaplain in the 1970s when Bart Starr was head coach. He returned to parish ministry in 1988 when he was appointed pastor of St. John Parish, Gillett, and St. Martin Parish, Cecil. He also served as pastor of St. Rose Parish, Clintonville, and St. Mary Parish, Bear Creek, and priest moderator of St. Patrick Parish, Stiles, and St. Anthony Parish, Oconto Falls.
“As a pastor, you have difficult funerals. You have joyous weddings. You’ve been with people during their ups and their downs, at their most trying times and most joyous,” he told The Compass. “I’ve really appreciated and enjoyed that opportunity.”
Msgr. Schommer received retired priest status in 2002. In retirement, he helped out on weekend at various parishes in the diocese, while residing at his home on Bughs Lake in Wautoma.
Msgr. Schommer is survived by his dear friend and housekeeper, Pat McGrath; a brother, Dan Schommer of Kaukauna; a sister, Franciscan Sr. Mary Lee of Holy Family Convent in Manitowoc. His parents, Raymond and Rosalia (Wydevan) Schommer, and brother, Ray Schommer, preceded him in death.
The funeral Mass was held on July 18, at the St. Mary of the Annunciation site of St. Katharine Drexel Parish, Kaukauna. Bishop Morneau was the celebrant and homilist. Burial followed in St. Mary Cemetery, Kaukauna.